Sweat was already dripping from my forehead at sunrise. Crappie fishing during the peak of summer when the heat index is 105 degrees seems illogical. But it quickly begins to make sense when you boat three slabs in the first 10 minutes.
Surprisingly, the heat of summer can produce some incredible crappie fishing days.
Kevin Jones and Jon Gillotte compete as a team on the Crappie Masters tournament trail. They complement each other well. Kevin’s specialty is big, open water crappie fishing. Jon excels at fishing brush, which is what we were doing on Truman Lake.
When it comes to crappie fishing, I feel like I know a fair amount. I’ve been chasing them for over 30 years. But every time I get around professionals, I feel like a novice. These guys know so much more than average anglers like me. I was expecting some elaborate crappie tactics to be unveiled, so I must admit I was quite relieved when Jones handed me a long B’n’M “dipping” pole with nothing more to it than a sinker, hook and minnow.
“Fish this minnow down about 8 feet next to that tree on the shady side,” he said. “If you don’t get one, drop it to about 12 feet. That’ll put you below the thermocline.”
He went on to explain that the thermocline is the transition line between warm surface and cold deep water. I asked if it really matters to fish in the shady side of the tree.
“Oh yeah,” Gillotte said. “You’ll catch way more fish in the shady side of the tree than you will on the bright side.”
Just then, his theory proved true. A nice 11-inch crappie slammed my minnow. I couldn’t believe how aggressive the bite was. I dropped the fish in the livewell and put on another minnow. A minute later, I was dropping another keeper in the box.
Gillotte maneuvered the boat through the standing timber. Over the course of a few hours, we had a real nice mess of fish.
“These timber-filled flats are productive all summer long,” Gillotte said. “But the fish aren’t real aggressive on jigs. You really need to use minnows.”
Keeping minnows alive during the hottest part of summer can be a challenge. Another good lesson I received during this trip is how well the Engel Live Bait Cooler with an aerator works for keeping minnows alive. You need to keep minnow
water cold and oxygenated. This contraption does both.
Another tip for keeping water cold is to fill empty bottles with water and freeze them at home. Drop one in your bait box each morning. Between that block of ice and the insulated cooler walls, your minnow water will stay nice and cold.
Understanding how weather patterns affect crappie fishing is a skill that takes a lot of time on the water to develop. Kevin and Jon spend countless hours fishing each year, so they’re bound to face just about every set of conditions an angler can imagine — including the hottest days of the year.
It makes perfect sense to try to mimic their tactics. Understanding how to fish for crappie under various weather conditions is the difference in success whether you’re fishing for fun or money. Pay attention to what the professionals do, and your next fish fry may be a little more filling.
See you down the trail…