For this fishing guide one technique has proven to be effective year after year. “This technique is what we call perch jerking. The rod goes down and you snatch it out of the holder then you get it in the boat quick,” said crappie fishing guide Tim Howell.
Howell noted that long poles utilizing the perch jerking technique was what he does 90 percent of the time with guide clients. “It’s a tried and true method for the lake I guide on. I’m just putting as many baits out that I can and put it in front of the fish covering as much water as you can,” said Howell with Long Branch Guide Service that usually guides on Granada, Enid, Sardis or Arkabutla in Mississippi.
This technique has been around long before “live sonar” fishing was invented. Howell noted it’s hard to teach anglers that have never lived-scoped crappie how to catch fish using a single pole sniping for them in one day compared to long poling. He believes that clients have a better time and catch more fish long poling using the perch jerking technique to catch them, however, if a client wants to live scope he will live scope for them. He will also cast a jig, long-line, power troll and troll a crankbait to catch crappie with clients.
Every 16-foot rod is rigged with a drop-shot setup with one or two 1/32 tube head hook above the weight. “The long rods look intimidating to someone who has never done it, but after a couple fish most clients figure it out,” said Howell.
“This technique is not sporting. You’re not going to fight the fish. You’re just going to get him into the boat as quick as possible. It’s perch jerking. A rod goes down and you snatch the rod up quickly while setting the hook,” said Howell. Setting the hook quickly and getting the crappie in keeps the hooked fish from getting tangled with the other rods.
He is looking for schools of fish when trolling with his rods out in front of the trolling motor. The point is to run the baits through schools of shad where the crappie are hanging out.
This time of year crappie are pre-spawn and should be staging outside spawning areas getting ready to go up in the trees or cover to spawn. “Typically in Mississippi on Lake Washington the crappie start spawning there before Granada, Enid, Sardis or Arkabutla; lakes that are often referred to as the big 4. Over at the big 4, crappie are more likely to spawn mid-March to the second week of April. Before the spawn crappie will be in transitional areas like the mouth of creeks, ledges from deep to shallow and other areas where females stage and males move up to make a nest,” said Howell.
Male crappie may sit up on a nest for up to a month at a time noted Howell. He will follow them long poling in the staging areas and up to shallow spawning areas.
Speed and depth play a major part with long poling. “You kind of let the fish tell you what they want. It’s good to change your speed to incite strikes or slow down to get a bite; the fish will let you know. If you get a bite on a turn on an outside rod that lets you know to speed up or go slower on an inside turn on those poles” said Howell. Paying attention to speed and depth of bait will increase your odds of success during this time long poling.
PICO Lures Pro Greg Robinson likes to fish super shallow during the pre-spawn. “On a recent trip to Mississippi the crappie were shallow, but a cool front had moved through a couple days before so I started out on the flats before ending up back in the cypress trees. I rigged up a single PICO jighead with a 1 ½-inch PICO tube (www.picolures.com) in Red/Chartreuse or Chartreuse/Black tipping it with a minnow. Since it was a tight space between the cypress trees I only long poled a single lure/minnow rig with two rods on each side. When a crappie would bite with only a short amount of line out we would give a rod a short jerk like you were perch jerking and get them in the boat as quick as possible,” said Robinson.