Feeling the Thump
By Phillip Gentry
It’s no secret that there are a lot of different ways to fish for crappie. Most tactics fall into one of two categories – single pole tactics and multiple pole tactics. Both methods catch a lot of crappie. As a well-known crappie guide in North Alabama, B’n’M pro-staffer Brad Whitehead is skilled in both single and multiple pole strategies and uses his vast knowledge to tailor each of his guide trips into memorable occasions for his clients.
Angler skill level, weather conditions, and the mood of the crappie also play into the equation but Whitehead aptly sums it up when both trolling and single poling tactics are catching fish.
“You know, some days you just want to feel the thump,” said Whitehead. “There’s nothing like holding that pole in your hand and easing a jig around in the water and all the sudden you get that thump.”
Whitehead said some days the feel of a crappie inhaling a jig might be enough to jerk the rod out of your hand and other days it might be just a suggestion, a “something don’t feel right” that lets you know you have a fish on the line. Either way he said you feel that thump deep down in your soul.
“Hey, fishing is about having fun. I can tell you - that thump - it’s fun,” he said.
Whitehead was also quick to point out that some days it might be a requirement that he and his clients to hold a fishing rod in hand rather than leave it propped up in a rod holder. It’s a definite advantage when the weather turns the fish off and the bite softens up.
“I’ve been trolling and fishing with rod holders so long, I’ve learned to see bites that most week-end anglers wouldn’t recognize as a bite,” he said. “You take that rod and put it in somebody’s hand where they can feel the bite and they end up catching a lot more fish.”
Although most widely used for trolling, the BGJP was designed as a jig pole, and works well when vertical fishing brush tops by hand. Whitehead prefers a 10 foot pole when fishing brush tops to keep the bait a good distance away from the boat.
Whitehead compares his single pole strategy to tight line trolling, except without rod holders. He gives each of his clients one rod, his preference is a 10 foot Buck’s Graphite Jig Pole. The rod is paired with a spinning reel spooled with 6 pound Vicious line and a 1/8 ounce jig head with a spongy plastic body.
Whitehead will position his War Eagle Boat right over the top of a brush pile, one of the hundreds he has planted in one of the North Alabama reservoirs he guides on. Over the years, he has learned the wider he can make his tree tops, the better. He then positions himself and his clients around the boat so that the tree top is covered from all sides.
“You learn a lot about how crappie relate to tree tops when you fish this way,” said Whitehead. “Somedays they’ll be right on top. Other days they’ll be down in it and other days they’ll be way off to the side where you never expected them to be.”
When holding a rod while fishing brush tops, it’s often easier to feel bites over seeing them.
When single pole jigging over brush tops, Whitehead instructs his clients to just hold the rod still, letting him impart the action to the jig by bumping the boat around the structure with his hand controlled trolling motor. He offered that it’s nearly impossible to hold a long rod still and the slight movements of the tip compounded with wave action and current will impart a very natural presentation to the fish. This can be useful on slow days.
“Before the water temperature gets above 60 degrees, this is a great subtle presentation,” he said. “Again, the light bite you may never have seen if the rod was in a holder is both seen and felt by the angler holding the pole.”
When asked about his rod choice, Whitehead said B’n’M makes a lot of good poles that will work, but still gives the nod to the 10 foot BGJP.
“It’s long enough to hold the bait away from the boat, which is important here where we have a lot of clear water,” he said. “It’s also light enough to hold all day without wearing yourself out and it’s plenty strong enough to land any crappie.”
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