Tips from a pro to help catch more crappie


By Michael Pearce - The Wichita Eagle



WICHITA, Kan. — Professional crappie fisherman Joe Bragg has plenty of knowledge to share with Kansas anglers, especially those without boats. That said, this has good information for fishermen in all areas.

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Spend your time wisely

Bragg, of Council Grove, said too many shore-bound anglers waste time fishing the wrong time of the day or season. Currently, he said most reservoir fish are still out in 10 to 12 feet of water, waiting for the right conditions to come shallow to spawn. That could change within a few days, though, if the water continues to warm and settles after last week’s rains.

Speaking of days, he suggests anglers on limited time save their fishing efforts until the afternoon and evening.

“Don’t waste your time in the mornings this time of the year. The fish are almost always out deep,” said Bragg, a crappie guide and tournament director. “The afternoon bite is gold, and there’s that last hour of daylight when the fish are as shallow as they’re going to get, and active. Fish that were in 10 feet of water all morning may move up to water that’s four feet or shallower. The same piles you fished in the morning, and maybe didn’t catch any or very few, that last hour may be as fast as you can drop a (bait) down to them.”

Bragg also likes to crappie fish at night, when he says most of the crappie spawn occurs. He also pays attention to moon phases.

“The first full moon in May, this year is May 11 so May 9-15 will be the best night fishing of the year,” Bragg said. “That’s when the big females come in to spawn.”

He normally sets two propane lanterns near the water’s edge, and fishes those nights from shore. Many times he’s caught his limit of 50.

“I’ve got a bank that I fish out at Milford where I can almost guarantee it’s going to be great,” he said. “I’ll try to be there all five nights.”

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Cover the water

Bragg said bank anglers need to cover as much water as possible, then focus on a few key areas.

“When the crappie are in the shallows, bank anglers need to be casting something like a beetle-spin or roadrunner to cover as much open water as they can,” Bragg said. “Once you’ve worked all of the open water, it’s time to concentrate on particular structures, like stumps and brush, and you want to fish them tight.”

Though his Patriot Jigworks, makes custom crappie lures, Bragg recommends shoreline fishermen use minnows under a bobber when fishing around brush. He rigs things a bit differently, though. Rather than the traditional rig, that has the hook on the bottom of the line, he uses a drop-shot rig that has the weight anywhere from a few inches to a foot below the hook. One advantage is the weight, like a split-shot, slides off the line when it gets into brush, rather than losing a hook.

Bragg recommends fishing so the hook and minnow are 12 to 18 inches above the bottom or whatever structure is being fished, like submerged brush.

“It’s easier to detect a bite when they have to come up and get the minnow,” Bragg said. “As soon as they grab it they’ll head right back down and they’re easier to hook.” Too large of a bobber can make it tougher for fish to take the bait, and for anglers to detect strikes.

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Wade on in, the fishing’s fine

Even though Bragg has a boat loaded with high-dollar crappie gear, he’ll often leave it at home when the spawn is on.

“I’ll always do some wading if the fish are in shallow. I’ll put on some old clothes, wade in and start working some brushy spots,” said Bragg, who likes to dip a jig at the end of one of his 10-foot crappie rods around any structure he can find. “When they’re in you can slowly walk right in those places and they won’t even know you’re there. My goodness, it’s a blast and you don’t need a boat, that’s for sure.”

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By Michael Pearce

The Wichita Eagle