Matthew Outlaw on Fishing Unfamiliar Waters for Crappie
By Phillip Gentry
Matthew Outlaw grew up crappie fishing under the guidance of his father, legendary crappie guru Whitey Outlaw. When he joined the national crappie circuit, Matthew had to learn to adapt from the comfort zone of his home Santee-Cooper waters and learn to fish waters all across the country. The young gun of the crappie circuit shared some tips that can be used by both tournament anglers and recreational anglers who are just looking to try a new location.
Tip # 1 Get A Report
The first thing Outlaw does when he knows he is going somewhere he’s never been before is to find out all he can about the lake well ahead of time. This includes talking with local guides, anglers, bait shops or anyone else who may have useful knowledge about the lake.
“You can’t be shy,” he said. “Call ahead on the phone and try to get people to open up about what the lake is like and what’s been going on. When you get somebody top start talking—shut up and listen to what they say.”
Tip #2 Make Use of Maps
“Get a good contour map of the lake and start looking for locations that will be favorable to crappie at whatever stage they are in,” he said. “Most people don’t know how to read a contour map but it’s really pretty simple. Where the lines are closer together indicates a steep drop-off while lines further apart indicate a flat area with little change in depth. By recognizing these two locations, drop-offs and flats, you’ve just discovered the majority of places crappie like to hang out.”
These days there are a number of map companies that offer lake maps especially for fishermen. The maps clearly detail useful features like contours lines, water depths, boat ramps, bridges and a wealth of other information.
Drop-offs and flats are two key areas you’ll most likely find crappie and a good topo map will show you these areas.
Tip # 3 Know Your Quarry
White crappie are more predominant in southern and western lakes and prefer murkier waters than black crappie. White crappie are generally considered to be a more open water fish that prefer standing timber, stumps and ledges as primary cover. Black crappie are more abundant in the northern and southern extremes of their range and prefer clearer water while holding tighter to natural cover such as aquatic vegetation, brush piles, and manmade structure like docks and bridges.
“There’s a lot of difference between these two fish that most people don’t recognize,” he said. “Find out which one you’re most likely to catch where ever you’re going because where and how you fish for them is often completely different.”
Tip # 4 Come Prepared
Over the last decade or so, crappie fishing has become a more sophisticated pursuit. Owing to innovations in tackle and increased awareness of how to catch crappie year round, a number of tactics have evolved. Crappie anglers tend to identify with only one or two of these tactics and that limits their success.
“Too many people come to a new lake expecting fish to bite a certain way in a certain place,” he said. “Have rods you can cast with, rods you can troll with and rods you can vertically jig with. If your preferred fishing tactic isn’t working, switch to something different.”
You’re allotted days to fish may not always be the best weather. Come prepared to deal with whatever the weather has in store.
Tip # 5 Deal with the Weather
When crappie fishing over an extended period - even just a week-long trip - anglers should expect the weather to change from day to day.
“Part of your planning should include finding a safe haven to fish if the weather turns bad,” said Outlaw. “Find a steep bank or some other structure like a rip rapped bank near a bridge crossing that will block the wind and let you keep fishing. Sometimes that means wearing heavier clothes or raingear but 9 times out of 10 the weather is more trouble for the fisherman than it is for the fish.”
Learn to catch crappie using different methods and be prepared to fish different patterns.
Tip # 6 Never Give Up
The last tip could be the most important to your success.
“Keep working at it,” he said. “It’s always a tough trip right up to the point you figure them out and start catching fish. Never give up. Keep trying different stuff until you find what does work.”
Keep up to date on all the latest fishing tips. Visit the B’n’M Poles website at bnmpoles.com
Join the B'n'M Fishing Club to earn points for every purchase, plus stay informed about the latest deals and specials.