Guide and crappie pro angler Todd Huckabee shows a crankbait used to catch large crappie.
When most anglers think of attracting crappie to a hook, they think minnows or jigs, or maybe a combination of both. They don’t think crankbaits.
This old writer is in that group. Crankbaits never crossed my mind. I never heard of using a sizable bait like a crankbait to troll for crappie until a couple years ago while fishing with several outdoor writer friends prior to a crappie tournament at Kentucky Lake.
On the particular trip, very few crappie were being caught. However, an angler from Missouri who fishes the crappie tournament trail, caught his limit both days we fished. He was using crankbaits, and not little ones either.
Todd Huckabee, a pro angler, guide, and crappie tournament trail angler, raised more than a few eyebrows later when he spoke to a meeting of the Association of Great Lakes Outdoors writers last October in Alexandria, Minn.
Huckabee debunked some of the popular myths angles have held for years about crappie when he explained some of the techniques used by tournament anglers.
He said trends and techniques used by tournament anglers are making their way to recreational fishermen who now are catching more and bigger fish.
“For so long, a crappie fisherman would go out and drop a minnow or jig into a brush pile or a weed line. If they didn’t catch a fish, they would say the crappie weren’t biting, and they would go home. What they are starting to find out is when the tournaments come to town, these guys, including myself, can catch a lot of fish on any lake no matter what the conditions,” said the 28-year-old pro.
Huckabee, who guides Oklahoma lakes for crappie, saugeye and bass, says successful anglers experiment. “We are constantly trying to find new ways to catch crappie to give us the edge over the other guy (competitor)” he explained.
Among the techniques he listed were: pulling crankbaits, casting crankbaits, spider rigging with multiple rods, and using bigger jigs and lures.
Many of the veteran outdoor writers were surprised when Huckabee started talking about trolling crankbaits for crappie.
“People think these crankbaits are really too big for crappie. I’ve caught crappie just a little bigger than the lure on crankbaits
“Crappie are part of a weird myth that they have a small mouth, and that they feed on small insects. However, most of the crappie feed on the same forage as walleye and bass. They are really aggressive feeders,” according to Huckabee. “A lot of times if you really need to catch a bigger fish or a lot of fish, the crankbaits will get a really good reaction.”
He uses crankbaits where there are clean breaks and “not a lot of stuff to get hungup in.” He trolls the lures 70 to 100 feet behind the rod and from one to two miles per hour on eight-pound test line.
“It’s amazing how many fish you will catch,” he said with a big smile.
Another trend in crappie fishing he discussed is the move toward larger plastics like the two-inch Yum Beavertail, which is one of his favorites. It is a 3/16-ounce bait.
“It is a huge bait for crappie. I catch four and five-inch crappie on this bait, and I also catch bigger fish...With bigger baits, you still are going to catch some smaller fish, but you’ll catch more of the larger fish than you would have caught using a smaller jig,” he added.According to Huckabee, much has been learned by watching crappie underwater. “They will move up and suck in a bait and spit it out before you know it. With the larger baits and hooks, the fish can’t spit it out as quick. They will thump something and let you set the hook a lot quicker.”