Wally “Mr. Crappie” Marshall is known for catching perch all over the country, and his starting point has nothing to do with the baits, rods or reels he designs.
“I tell everyone, if you’re going to start crappie fishing, you need to go fishing without your gear and learn how to use your electronics,” Marshall said.
The angler, who designed a signature line of Lew’s crappie rods and Strike King perch lures, said modern electronics offering such advanced features as down- and side-scan imaging combined with 2-D depth-finders and contouring mapping to reveal standing timber, laydowns and brush piles filled with crappie — in stunning detail.
“It’s amazing what you can see,” Marshall said.
He begins by launching his boat and heading to the nearest point, and then he idles through the area with his eyes glued to his Hummingbird Helix with side imaging turned on.
“Start looking at all the structure, looking for what is throwing the biggest shadows,” Marshall explained.
The longer the shadow of on the display the taller the piece of structure, he explained.
To get the most of his 12-inch display, Marshall sets his to read 80 feet on either side of the boat.
“It has better clarity than 160 feet (on each side),” he said. “And I’m covering 160 feet. I can go into a cove and mark everything in it.
“It’s a game changer. You know everything that’s there — there’s no guessing.”
To watch a video of Marshall locating standing timber with his electronics, click here.
Once he finds some likely standing timber or brush piles, he can switch to down-scan imaging and idle over the structure to determine exactly what’s below the boat to further narrow down his search.
“You can see the crappie,” Marshall said. “See those little white dots? You’re actually seeing their air bladders.”
Fish appear as white dots. Differentiating between balls of bait and crappie or bass isn’t very difficult once you figure out the nuances. Bait will be thick, small dots, while crappie will be larger dots stacked up. Bass are even larger white smudges, and they normally are lined up instead of stacked, Marshall said.
When he sees a school of fish around a particular piece of structure, Marshall quickly freezes his display, moves the cursor over the school of fish and marks the spot on his Humminbird so he can come back to it after marking up the entire cove.
Once he’s ready to fish, Marshall simply switches his Humminbird to a split screen showing the lake’s contour map on the right and 2-D depth finder on the left and returns to one of his marked spots.
He uses the map to follow his track back to the spot, while the 2-D depth finder allows him to further home in on the best structure by looking for telltale signs of crappie.
Once he’s zeroed in, Marshall tosses out a marker buoy so he knows the exact location of the likely hotspot.
All that’s left is to figure out how to get the fish to bite, and he moves around the school, working lures through and over the structure from different angles.
“There will be a sweet spot,” he said. “When you find that sweet spot, it’s over. Crappie might as well get under a rock.”