Stretching and Pitching with Steve Danna
By Phillip Gentry
Fishing for crappie on Lake D’Arbonne in the northern section of Louisiana is different than in a lot of places in the country. One of the most notable differences is the acres and acres of standing timber both in and along the banks of the popular crappie fishing reservoir.
Having fished each and every one of the trees (at least 5 times over if you ask him about it) over his 50 something year career, crappie fishing guide Steve Danna from Bernice, LA has become an expert on fishing timber.
Danna said that lakes like D’Arbonne and Claiborne as well as other crappie destinations around the country that feature cypress trees offer the ultimate habitat for crappie relate to for much of the year. To understand how this works, he explained that you must understand the seasonal movements of both black and white crappie in lakes that have cypress trees.
The Tree Thumper rod by B’n’M was designed by Danna and has proven its worth for over 5 years now.
“By the time May rolls around, you have two things going on at the same time,” he said. “You’ve got males guarding fry around the knees of these trees, those are fish that have already spawned, and the males are left to attend to the nest. On the other hand, you’ve got some fish, the late spawners, that are still moving in looking for places to do their thing.”
The result for nearly four months out of the year is a spawning procession where cypress trees that are in just inches of water all the way out to some as deep as 6 – 8 feet of water are swarming with crappie.
He claims that as a result, it doesn’t take much know-how to grab a jig pole and a tiny hair jig and dip it in the water around a cypress tree and catch a crappie. Regardless of this, he also claims there are a lot of fish that crappie anglers are missing because of too narrow focus.
Hand tied hair jigs are often the best way to match the hatch in timber-studded waters.
“Crappie spawn a lot deeper than most people think they do,” he said. “So those guys that are only fishing the bank are missing half of them as they motor past. But even the ones fishing the bank are only focused on about half of the water column before they move to the next tree.”
By being on the water nearly every day of the spawning season, Danna figured out an alternate approach to working the entirety of a single tree and leaves it knowing he’s covered all of the fish holding areas around it. He calls the technique stretching and pitching.
“Instead of getting right up on the tree, I like to stay back a little way where I can swing the jig out using a jig pole that I designed for B’n’M and let the jig fall naturally from the surface all the way to the bottom,” he said. “I keep a little tension on the line but there’s enough slack that I can see the line twitch if and when a fish takes the jig on the fall.”
Hence the name Stretching and Pitching.
Danna uses a 10-foot B’n’M Tree Thumper rod paired with a Bano reel spooled with high visibility 6 pound test line. His bait of choice is a 1/32 oz hair jig that he ties himself using Craft fur on a round head jig head complete with #4 sickle hook. His favorite colors are pumpkin/chartreuse, blue/chartreuse, and pink and blue. He also never wets a hook unless there’s a crappie nibble impaled on it.
At the end of the day, Danna said his stretching and pitching technique allows him to go right behind other anglers and catch fish that they’ve missed.
“It’s a pretty simple technique. Pitch the jig under the tree, let it fall as the line swings back to you and if you feel the thump or see the line jump, set the hook,” he said.
If he doesn’t get a hit on the first pitch, he’ll pick the jig up, pitch to a new angle on the tree and do it again.
“I know with the Live Scope generation, this might seem like a lot of blind effort,” said Dana. “But you can’t leave out that this is a whole lot more fun than having your neck craned over a computer screen all day.”
Check out B’n’M’s new products for 2023, including the Tree Thumper by Steve Danna, by visiting our website at bnmpoles.com.
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