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Summer Crappie Fishing Tips from the Tournament Trail


Tim Huffman


There is no better way to learn than to spend time fishing. Experience teaches us what works and what doesn’t. The following tips are from our tournament fishermen who have put many hours on the lake.


Ron Griffin usually fishes a straight jig, no scent and no minnow. His favorite colors are red/chartreuse and black/green with flake. “Reelfoot’s my home lake so shallow water lily pads are key summer spots. We usually fish three feet deep, straight off bottom and don’t bounce the jig.”

In a sea of lily pads, where does Griffin put the jig? “I put the jig into the spots where I don’t’ think the jig will go. The thicker the pads the better. Nine out of ten times the best spot will be where it’s difficult to get the jig in. When it looks like the jig can’t be put through the pads, that’s where I want to get it in.”


Brent Work says I pull more jigs in the summer than I do other times. Because they get sluggish and I think they will hit the colors of the jigs. When fish go shallow in the summer here at Reelfoot we switch to 16-foot poles because the fish get spooky. I don’t like using the long poles but they make a big difference.

(An interesting note on Brent Work is that he has been taking wounded veterans and military home on leave out on the lake fishing. “Two of the young men had no legs but they got around on their artificial legs better than I get around. The men were positive; no feeling sorry for themselves despite listening to three days of their stories. We all had a good time.” )


Roger Gant says summer tactics depend upon the lake you’re fishing. “For example, Pickwick has plenty of oxygen because of the river and it has a lot of traffic and barges. You can catch fish deep all summer. In other lakes fish will suspend up in the water because of the thermocline.

“I fish the thermocline just like I will the bottom. You can look on the depth finder to see where the fish are suspended.” He says a trick he uses is to go after the ones suspended over structure like a hump or breakline. These fish will be the most active. Fish all over the place so being able to target the most active ones over structure is a huge advantage.

Two baits combinations are good according to Gant. Jigs tipped with minnows will catch fish grouped in an area. He likes to troll crankbaits with his favorite being Storm Wiggle Warts.


Steve McElroy says he likes to fast troll but in the summer he goes to tightlining. “I try to find structure that’s holding fish. They can be cantankerous on the bite and that’s when good baits make a difference. Of course I use FoodSource meal worms like I do a minnow to tip a jig. Or, I’ll add a piece after I put the minnow on a plain hook. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll catch fish but it can help when the fish are not cooperative.”


John Woods says that variables determine where, how and the depth you fish during the summer, but in general, he says to go deep. "The clearer the water the deeper you need to fish. We may be slow trolling but prefer to hand-hold jigging poles. By holding the poles we get a better feel of cover and the bites."


Elwood Shepherd fishes the trail and has a tip for keeping fish alive. "I use a Keep Alive system especially in the summer. The unit uses small bubbles that contain oxygen in them. I even put it in my new boat livewell because I know it works.  I also cool the water down. I don't have to use bottled oxygen but the system works fine."


Tony Sheridan calls Kentucky Lake his home water. "Drop-offs are a key in the summer. It's not uncommon to catch crappie at a variety of depths. We typically use jigs in the summer and when fishing for fun always use Crappie Nibbles. Sometimes I'll tip with minnows during a tournament. Concerning colors, I'll always have on chartreuse and usually orange."


Chris Fowler says to keep the thermocline in mind during the summer but always keep deep ledge brush in mind, too. "A jig fished on top of the brush is good. Sometimes the summer crappie also wants the jig tipped with a minnow. I like to use a 1/8 or 1/4-ounce weight about 16 inches above the jig to get it down fast and keep it there."


Summer fishing is often an early morning or late afternoon event because of heat and pleasure boater. Phil Rambo says his sponsor's HydroGlow light can be used for more than just night fishing. "The light can be used to extend your fishing. You can go earlier and use the light. Or, you can stay later in the evening by putting it out when the sun goes down. It's easy to extend your fishing by a half-hour or more and catch more fish."