Hugh Krutz – An Old Dog Can Learn New Tricks
By Phillip Gentry
Hugh Krutz has been speaking at fishing seminars and giving interviews to outdoor writers for much of his adult life. Krutz is a veteran crappie tournament angler and B’n’M pro staffer and he used to feel like he knew a thing or two about crappie fishing, particularly on his home lake at Mississippi’s famous Ross Barnett Reservoir and several other crappie venues.
Then Krutz installed a real-time, forward-facing sonar unit manufactured by Garmin Electronics on his boat.
“I’ve told people 1000 times that crappie won’t go down to take a bait,” he said. “I believed it myself. That unit made me out to be a liar because they will. I’ve dropped a jig on a crappie’s nose, and he turned and followed it down and ate it while I watched him on sonar.”
Training his brain to think in three dimensions when looking left to right has been one challenge for Hugh Krutz.
The other thing Krutz has learned from watching real time sonar is that crappie don’t always stick to the thermocline in the summer, a fact he has taken advantage of several times.
“I’ve done all kinds of stories about looking for crappie at 12 feet during the summer because that’s where they’re most comfortable and won’t leave that zone,” he said. “Sonar made a liar of of me again because those fish up in the water column at 4 – 6 feet, the ones I ignored before as random blips, turned out to be crappie.
Another of Krutz favorite patterns in the summer is crappie that feed on mayflies and mosquito larvae around standing timber. At least on this one he gets half credit.
“I’ve dropped a jig on a tree and while I have caught plenty of fish on this pattern, I’ve also skipped over a lot of trees that held good fish because in the old days I just wasn’t good enough to catch them,” he said.
B’n’M Diamond Series poles go hand-in-hand with new technology to help crappie anglers catch fish.
Did he learn anything from his mistakes? You bet he did.
“I’m very hesitant to say crappie will or won’t do something now,” said Krutz. “Yeah, they’ll leave the thermocline and move up to feed and sometimes they’ll be below the thermocline and hold tight to structure.”
With real time sonar, Krutz said he’s found that some of those random blips are really good crappie as well as very willing crappie. Those are the type of crappie he can pitch a Crappie Magnet split tail grub to, and they will eat it first thing in the morning.
“I set my range out to just 20 feet and I use a 14 foot B’n’M Diamond series pole and an 1/8 ounce jighead,” he said. “A lot of times those fish are not orienting to anything. I think they’re eating insect larvae that are rising to the surface but for whatever reason they love that split tail.”
Krutz says he does have his limits with this pattern. Usually in the morning the wind is calm, but more than about 8 miles per hour and he has trouble holding the boat steady and keeping the fish in the transducer cone.
Krutz said sometimes he thinks real time sonar is cheating when it comes to crappie fishing.
“I’m pretty surprised how close they’ll let you get, especially if there is something in the water they can relate to,” he said. “It’s really helpful to see the fish and know what it’s reaction is to the bait. If for some reason they don’t take it when I’ve put the jig on them, then I’ll swap over to a Slab Magnet. That bigger profile usually changes their minds if they pass on the split tail.”
He admits to a learning curve in training his brain to understand that closer to further translates left to right on the real time, forward-facing sonar screen.
“It really helps fishing stumps because I can look for fish first rather than fishing to find fish,” he said.
That’s a bit of a concern for him though when it comes to teaching newcomers how to catch crappie.
“The Livescope almost feels like it’s cheating,” he said. “A lot of young kids are catching a lot of fish, but I’m afraid they’re just looking for fish and not learning and understanding their patterns.”
He laughed when asked if that knowledge gives him an edge on catching fish compared to the younger guys.
“These kids are so used to watching a video screen, I don’t think I’ll ever catch up,” he said. “I’m also set in my ways; I still like using a lot of the old tactics – trolling crankbaits and power trolling. I think the new technology just helps you understand what we used to guess at.”
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