John Harrison on Single Poling Falling Water Crappie
By Phillip Gentry
Over the years, crappie fishermen have become spoiled with catching crappie by the numbers. Although trolling for the feisty panfish has been around in one form or another for years, it’s only in the last 10 years or so that crappie anglers have really upped their game and dialed in to specific patterns, depths, speeds, and baits that really target crappie and target a lot of crappie.
With the revolution of crappie fishing, a lot of anglers still prefer to use just one pole. Call it single pole, jig fishing, jigging, or whatever suits your taste, fishing for crappie with one pole in hand is a lot of fun and especially during fall and winter conditions can also produce a lot of quality fish.
John Harrison of JH Guide Service on Grenada Lake, Mississippi and a long time B’n’M pro staffer, said the differences between trolling for crappie and single pole or jigging for crappie goes way beyond just the fishing rod.
John Harrison’s War Eagle 1548 aluminum boat gives him the maneuverability to thoroughly work each piece of structure he comes to.
“I’ve got my boat that I use for trolling jigs and crankbaits and tight lining, all of the patterns and tactics that you need rod holders and special seating and minnow storage tanks and all that with, then I’ve got another boat that I only use for jigging for crappie. That boat is probably what most fishermen would identify with as a fishing boat, and I just upgraded it to a brand new War Eagle 1548 with a 40 horsepower Yamaha on the back,” said Harrison. “It’s not what you’d consider a performance boat, except for the number of fish it catches.”
With a fishing seat set on the front deck and another on the rear deck, Harrison’s crappie boat is smaller and more maneuverable than his crappie trolling boat. The idea is to fish in tighter places.
Another big difference is the trolling motor, not used for trolling at all, but to position the boat around structure. He prefers a Minn Kota electric hand controlled motor with a variable speed control tiller.
While he’s not knocking the high tech electronics he uses on his other boat, he relies more on a bottom reading graph and his eyes than anything else. He will motor into an area of the lake that has vertical structure, and it doesn’t particularly matter what lake he is fishing.
Winter time crappie target smaller baits in cooler water so a 1/16 - 1/8 oz. jighead paired with a swim body make great lure choices.
“Any lake that holds crappie will hold crappie on vertical structure, whether that’s boat docks, brush piles, stake beds, or just natural stuff sticking up out of the water,” he said. “I have found that the clearer the lake, generally the deeper the water the fish will hold in, but on muddy water lakes, it’s not unusual to catch crappie in 8 – 10 feet of water all through the winter.”
Harrison said the key to catching crappie in cooling and in many cases falling water lakes through the winter is to keep that jig in the water next to vertical structure at all times. He opts for a 1/16 oz jighead on 6 pound Gamma monofilament line. He uses an 11 foot B’n’M Buck’s Best Ultra Lite jig pole to fish the jig. In water that gets deeper than the length of the jig pole, or in windy conditions, he’ll up the jig head to a 1/8 oz version. He pairs the jig head with a Bobby Garland Baby Shad and will switch colors until he find what color he’s catching the most fish on, but it seems each lake has it’s favorite “go-to” color and he may ask around at a local bait shop if he isn’t familiar with the starting color.
“Don’t overlook anything,” he said. “You may not see that little stick that no bigger round than your thumb and only sticks up 5 or 6 inches, but it’s usually the tip of the iceberg, especially if it’s in 8 – 15 feet of water and off by itself.”
Single poling may not be a crappie numbers game, but at the end of the day, the numbers still bear out.
Harrison said the cooler the water, the slower the presentation. He said the term jigging is not the proper word for it because he’s simply lowering the jig in the water to the bottom and lifting the jig and holding it still. Then he’ll lift it a little higher and hold again.
“You’ll figure out pretty quick where they’re oriented to,” he said. “Most times it’s right off the bottom. Then it’s just a matter of waiting on that little thump.”
Don’t put your poles away just because the weather is getting cooler. Check out our complete lineup of crappie fishing tackle on our website at bnmpoles.com and catch fish year round.
Join the B'n'M Fishing Club to earn points for every purchase, plus stay informed about the latest deals and specials.