People can say that I’m quite lucky when it comes to fishing. It’s not that I can catch big fish and lots of them at the drop of a hook. No, that really isn’t the case. There are many times when I’ve been skunked. In that respect, I don’t think I am any different than anyone else.
Where luck comes in is where I get to fish with some very good anglers. I get to fish with guides and with people who, believe it or not, spend a lot more time on the water than I am able to do.
Yes I get out a lot more than the average angler. But I also get to spend some quality time with guys like Todd Gessner (www.ToddGessnerOutdoors.com). Gessner guides on Rend Lake, other southern Illinois lakes, and several bodies of what in Vilas County, Wisconsin. Actually, on the day that I wrote this article, Gessner was guiding some clients on a crappie trip in Arkansas.
So it’s easy to say that Gessner has a well rounded education in fishing for crappies. Because his home is in southern Illinois, he actually fishes for them there year round. Being a guide for about 30 years probably helps too.
A couple weeks ago I was able to fish with Gessner on Lake of Egypt. While on the water, it seemed like the education on crappie fishing just kept on coming. Call it Crappie 101.
Gessner has a personal preference of fishing with ten foot poles. His favorite is Tony Edgars signature series. Gessner fishes structure often and in the case of our trip on Egypt, he fished the edges of emergent weeds. The long rod allows him to not crowd the spots he wants to fish. The long rod also allows him to accurately dip baits in likely locations. As odd as it may seem, from above the water you can see the weed edge and pockets where there is an opening in a line of weeds. Those little pockets are good starting points for dipping a bait.
It’s often a good point to understand that the weed edges that follow a shoreline have an edge for a purpose. Again, going back to the case of fishing Egypt, the weeds stop at the first break into deep water. I learned that the weeds were only in about two feet of water. But a foot or so off the weedline the water began to get deeper quickly. From fifteen feet or so off the weeds our boat was in seven or eight feet of water.
My first thought was to set my slip bobber at about a four foot depth. Gessner explained that it had to run much shallower.
“Set your slip bobber at about two feet Don.” Gessner said. “When you cast the minnow in, get it as close to the weeds as you can, but don’t get on top of them.”
There was good reason for that.
The water was clear and the skies were blue. This meant that there was a lot of light penetration in the water. Gessner explained that the crappies tucked themselves into the weeds and would take a minnow or artificial bait if it was close enough for them to dart out and grab it. Bait that was four feet away was too far away from the safety of the cover.
Another reason why one should not want to fish in the weeds is because of the hydrilla plants there. Hydrilla is a long stemmed, well rooted, not-budging-for-anything, woody feeling plant. It’s good cover for the fish, but get hung up in the hydrilla and you have no choice but to go in to recover your lure or rig. The end result when doing that is scattering any crappies that were nearby.
Casting into the weeds with a bait like a Road Runner and a twister tail will catch a fish if the bait drops from the surface right in front of the fish. To make a twister tail or Road Runner work, you have to retrieve it. Give the bait three or four cranks and you’re out of the zone. This is why fishing a float works so well under these conditions. A minnow under a bobber can eventually coax a crappie to come out for lunch.
Whenever you get to fish with someone with a lot of experience, listen and learn. People who guide for a living, like Gessner, know how to fish for various species on a variety of lakes and under so many different conditions.
Getting the knowledge from others are lessons well learned and the tips and techniques that you pick up can be taken to other lakes, rivers and streams. With a good education that comes on the water, you’ll quickly learn that great fishing is not that far away.
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