Clay Blair’s Fall Scoping and Trolling Tactics
By Phillip Gentry
In the last couple of years, it seems the crappie fishing world has been divided into two distinct segments – The Scopers and The Trollers. Without a doubt, tight line trolling has produced tons of fish and won lots of money for crappie anglers over the years. Then, seemingly overnight, when forward facing sonar hit the market, everyone was back to single pole stalking crappie, watching the action unfold right there on the sonar screen.
Mississippi crappie guide and B’n’M pro-staffer Clay Blair admits he jumped on the live imagining bandwagon, and for good reason, he’s learned to use it and he’s caught lots of fish with it. However, Blair didn’t see the advent of Livescope as a reason to put away his trolling poles.
“There are days that I do both, meaning put out the trolling poles and run the Livescope, at the same time,” said Blair. “It’s a very good tactic almost any time but it really shines in the Fall when crappie are in transition.”
While many trollers prefer lighter weight rods, Blair prefers B’n’M’s Prostaff trolling rod for slow vertical trolling, especially when using 16-foot rods.
In describing how to Scope and Troll, Blair set the stage for how he outfits his War Eagle 2170 Blackhawk when fishing with clients in the boat. He seats his guests in the front seats, side by side in classic slow trolling fashion, and outfits three rods apiece in rod holders for them to watch.
The rods are 16-foot B’n’M Pro Staff Trolling rods. These are paired with B’n’M Pro 100 spinning reels spooled with 8-pound clear Gamma monofilament line. In the fall, each line is Carolina rigged with a ¾ oz. egg sinker to compensate for faster trolling speeds. His favorite fall bait is a 1/16 oz. Crappie Magnet tipped with a live minnow.
“I know a lot of folks like the Graphite Jig Pole, but I prefer the Pro Staff Trolling rods,” said Blair. “Especially for beginners, I like the backbone for the longer rod.”
Scoping while trolling allows crappie anglers to determine the exact depth and verify the presence of crappie in the area being fished.
Each rod is placed in an individual Driftmaster rod holder spaced around the front of the boat.
Blair will position himself behind his anglers, sitting on the oversized livewell, designed by fellow B’n’M pro-staffer John Harrison specifically for War Eagle. From here he can view the Livescope screen and steer the trolling motor, where the transducer for the Livescope is mounted.
“I set the Livescope out to 50 feet and use the trolling motor to look for schools of crappie,” said Blair. “Schools of fish tend to be smaller fish, the larger ones hang off to the side, so if we mark 3 or 4 better fish, we’ll push towards them.”
Blair said obviously he wants his clients to adjust the trolling rods to the depth of the fish and will push the trolling poles in that direction. He said in the fall on most all of Mississippi’s Big 4 lakes, crappie tend to hang around 6 – 7 feet deep over 15 – 20 feet of water gorging on shad, getting ready for the winter.
He also reminded anglers that these Corps lakes are flood control, so expect water levels to start dropping as the fall season progresses. By paying attention to water levels, you can stay on the fish as they move with the water.
“I start the fall concentrating off the ends of main lake points,” he said, “around the mouths of creeks. I don’t pay a lot of attention to wood or other cover because they crappie are moving with the baitfish.”
Expect lake levels to drop throughout the fall, but you can key on falling water levels to follow the fish through the winter transition.
As the water levels drop, crappie will move down the lake, but the pattern is not as easy as it sounds.
“Another benefit of Livescope is it doesn’t lie,” he said. “If you don’t see fish, you need to move. We may move 3 – 4 times a day. If we troll 100 yards without seeing fish, I might move, but I’m scanning left and right and zooming in and out to make sure I’m looking in the right places.”
Blair’s final advice for fishing through the fall and into the winter pattern is just follow the fish, but slow down as the weather cools off, my average trolling speed drops to around .4 mph when it gets cooler.”
“By fishing just once a week, it’s not hard to keep track with the movements,” he said. “Move down and out towards the middle of the lake and it might be necessary to change baits to straight live bait.”
To book a trip with Clay Blair on one of Mississippi’s premier crappie lakes, contact him at JH Guide Service at (662) 501-0302.
Seasons may change, but wherever fishing takes you, B’n’M has been there. Look us up online at bnmpoles.com.
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