The key to summertime crappie limits

Shade, deep tops not needed to catch piles of perch, guide says

If you think the only way to catch summertime crappie is to sink minnows and jigs in the shade under docks or fish around brush piles in deep water, Jerry Neeley has a surprise for you.

Neeley, a veteran guide who stalks slabs on North Carolina’s Lake Norman and on Lake Wylie along the North Carolina-South Carolina border, said a limit of big crappie in August is as easy as a technique he calls “power trolling.”

“You get out at daylight, go to the back of the creek and fish all the way out to the mouth of the creek,” Neeley said. “I’ll use 6-pound test and 1/16-ounce jigs, and I’ll put a live minnow on the hook and just troll along about 1 ½ to 2 mph. That keeps the jigs almost right up on top.

“I put out as many rods as I can handle — usually 10 or 12 — off the back of my boat. I’ll have two 14-foot rods on either side, and the rest will be 12-foot rods that you spread out in the rod holders. Some people can’t believe you can catch big crappie like that, but about a month ago, I had this fella on a trip, and we got on some big crappie, and in an hour and 20 minutes, we had a limit of fish  from 1 ¼ to 2 ½ pounds.”

What to look for

Neeley said the key is locating a creek that’s got plenty of baitfish and a good channel that is deep at the mouth and still holds 5 or 6 feet of water toward the back.

“I like to go back in about 8 feet of water and work my way out to 20 (feet),” he said. “If you can find a creek where you can go from 8 to 12 to 15 to 20 feet in the channel, that kind of creek will work.

“But you need to really use your electronics, and know the bait and crappie are in there.”

Early morning bite

Neeley starts out fishing jigs in a handful of different colors, tying them using loop knots because they’ll swim better.

He’ll change over if he starts consistently getting bites on a certain color.

But he’s got to figure that out quickly, because this isn’t a day-long bite.

“If you start at daylight, by 8 or 9 (a.m.), you’re pretty much done. As soon as the sun gets up on the water, this bite is over,” he said. “I troll with my trolling motor pretty much wide open, and you can’t go that hard for more than a few hours, anyway.”

Neeley said summertime crappie almost always will feed in schools, and they’ll almost always be shadowing movements of baitfish schools. If he runs through a school of bait and fish but doesn’t get any strikes, he’ll cut off the trolling motor and let the jigs drop through the water column before starting to troll again.

“I’ll stop and let those jigs fall through that wall of fish and bait (and) then start it back up, and they’ll bite when it goes back through them,” Neeley said. “I think that little jerk when (the lures) start moving again will set the fish to biting.”

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