John Godwin on Summer Long Line Trolling for Crappie
By Phillip Gentry
B’n’M pro-staffer John Godwin might be more famous for his quips and outdoor advice from a duck blind, but put him in his Sea Ark boat on a good crappie lake somewhere in his home state of Louisiana and he’s just as happy.
One of Godwin’s favorite, if not his most favorite, way to fish for crappie is by long line trolling. While many crappie anglers share his passion for the technique, most will abandon long lining during the summer once the water temperatures heat up.
Godwin says this is a mistake.
“I love long lining,” he said, “To me it’s the most fun way of fishing for crappie but it’s also real productive in the summer too.”
On his home waters in Louisiana, Godwin describes two types of waterways that hold the majority of crappie, reservoirs and oxbow lakes, especially those still tied into the Mississippi River.
Godwin’s choice of rods are the B’n’M Duck Commander trolling rods. He said the further out to the side of the boat you can get, the better the big fish like it.
“On the reservoir lakes in the summer, the white crappie will roam around and chase bait,” he said. “If you want to catch a black crappie, you gotta troll across the tops of the brushpiles, but these white crappie stay more out in the open.”
Godwin theorized that by this time of year the thermoclines have set up which holds baitfish higher in the water column. He said it is not unusual to go out first thing in the morning or late in the evening and see schools of baitfish dimpling the surface of the water.
He said that crappie will often suspend below these baitfish and long lining lets him put his baits between the baitfish and the crappie.
Fin Spin jigheads really shine during the summer because of the extra flash created by the blade.
“The fish are shallow so I’m not going to use anything heavier than a 1/16-ounce jighead and a lot of times I’ll even use a 1/32 ounce jighead,” said Godwin, “I like the Fin Spins for long lining in the summer, that extra flash from the blade really helps the bite.”
Godwin sets up his Sea Ark aluminum fishing boat with eight poles. On each side of the boat he will start with the shortest rods toward the back and the longest rods closer to the front of the boat. He uses a 10-foot B’n’M Duck Commander Trolling rod closest to the stern, followed by a 12-foot Duck Commander next in line and a 14-foot Duck Commander trolling rod after that.
“It seems like with the fish so shallow, you tend to push them out to the sides of the boat. That is why I like the longer trolling rods,” said Godwin. “I even started using a 16-footer all the way up. It is a B’n’M ProStaff Trolling rod. It seems like those outer rods end up catching all the better fish.”
Godwin said he looks for places that are showing bait on the surface but also has some historical spots that he fishes because it seems like they always hold baitfish in the summer. He said there’s no real rhyme or reason to it, but he likes to know the bait is there or he won’t catch many crappie.
“It’s hard to see the bait on the graph, they’re so high up in the water,” he said. “The 1/32-ounce jigs will get down to about 3 feet when you pull them at one mile per hour and the 1/16 ounce jigs will get to about 6 feet at one mile an hour. That’s with using 6-pound test line.”
Godwin said look for crappie to suspend just below bait on the surface in many thermocline reservoirs and oxbow lakes and be careful not to troll under the fish.
Godwin said his top pick of baits are the Slab Curlies made by Crappie Magnet and that bait colors are typically based on water clarity. His favorites in clear water are purple and chartreuse and a color called Sho Nuff which he describes as the color “Monkey Milk” with a chartreuse tail.
Godwin said the river lakes are still high this year and as those lakes heat up, he said the shad will also come to the top.
“I don’t understand why. They don’t form thermoclines like the reservoirs, but the bait will be right on the surface so I fish those lakes the same way I do the reservoirs,” he said.
He generally targets deep water flats which may be 14 feet on some lakes and deeper on others.
In closing, Godwin admitted there might be one thing he does like better than long lining for crappie in the summer.
“I like eatin’ em,” he grinned.
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