John’s Note: A couple of weeks ago at the Prattville, Alabama, Bass Pro Shops’ (www.basspro.com) Crappie Masters’ (www.crappiemasters.net) Alabama Championship, a father-and-son team, Billy and Scott Williams, from Cochran, Georgia, claimed the title. The weather was warm, and the crappie were moving into their summertime pattern. Although many of us may believe that springtime is the best time to catch crappie, these two men showed us how to catch crappie all summer long.
John E. Phillips: Billy, you said that sometimes you and your son Scott spider rig (fishing eight poles out the front of the boat) and push a wide variety of baits into deep brush during the summer months. You also said that sometimes you fish a single pole with either a jig or minnow tied on your line. When the crappie are deep, when do you fish the single pole?
Billy Williams: When the crappie are holding tight in the brush, you may have to work that minnow or jig down through the limbs or the logs on the bottom. When crappie are tight in the brush, this may be the only way you can catch them. You can let that minnow or jig down in the center of the brush and shake it a little bit. Often, you can catch more crappie this way than you can catch spider-rigging.
Phillips: When you’re fishing a single pole or pushing multiple baits into a deep brush pile using the spider-rigging technique, why do you not get hung a lot?
Billy Williams: You will get hung-up a lot, but we use a light wire hook, so we can to pull it out of the brush, since the hook will bend. When we’re fishing deep brush, instead of using 4-pound-test line, we’ll use 8-pound-test line. Then we can straighten the hooks without breaking them off our lines.
Phillips: Billy, you said earlier that you liked to fish a 16-foot B’n’M (www.bnmpoles.com) Why do you like that pole?
Billy Williams: I like the longer poles because they keep my baits farther away from the boat. Then I’m not as likely to spook the crappie I’m trying to catch. That pole is also real sensitive, yet it’s strong enough to pull a 1-1/2 – 2-pound-plus crappie into the boat.
Question: On an average day during the summer months when you’re fishing deep, how many crappie can you and Scott catch?
Williams: We usually will limit out with 1-pound-plus crappie by 12:00 noon, when we have a 30-crappie limit per person.
Phillips: Billy, how long have you and Scott been crappie fishing?
Billy Williams: I’ve been crappie fishing for about 50 years, and Scott has been seriously crappie fishing for about 15 years.
Billy Williams: I had another partner I fished tournaments with, but after Scott got married, he decided to fish with me. I really enjoy fishing with him. He’s been a tremendous help with the technical aspects of catching crappie like using the electronics. Scott is really-good about being able to see what’s on the bottom and marking those fish with his Humminbird (www.humminbird.com) depth finder. Scott is the technical side of our team, and I’m the experience side. Once Scott finds the crappie, I often can determine how to catch them. Scott has taught me a lot about how to better use the side-scanning depth finder, and I’ve tried to teach him what I know about how to catch the crappie. I have many more years of crappie fishing experience than Scott does, but Scott knows more about electronics and how to read them to find crappie than I do. So, we’re constantly teaching each other and learning from each other.
Phillips: Why did you decide to start fishing crappie tournaments?
Billy Williams: I love to compete. I’ve always enjoyed trying to be the best I can be in any type of competition. I’d much rather go tournament crappie fishing than to just go out and catch a mess of crappie to eat. Over the years I’ve been crappie fishing, my partners and I probably have won 30 or 40 tournaments. At the Alabama State Championship, Scott and I won $4,500. Last year we were the Angler Team of the Year on the Crappie Masters circuit. For that win, we won about $12,000 worth of merchandise and cash.
Phillips: Why do you encourage anyone who wants to learn how to catch more crappie more often to fish crappie tournaments?
Billy Williams: Regardless of the time of year you’re fishing, one of the best ways I know to learn how to catch more crappie every time you go is to enter crappie tournaments. Because after the tournament is over, almost any of the competitors in the tournament will tell you how they’ve fished the way they have to place high in a tournament or win a tournament. They’ll tell you all the equipment they’ve used, and how they’ve used it. They’ll tell you how they’ve dealt with the water and weather conditions on the river they’ve fished, and how they’ve caught crappie. The education that crappie fishermen can gain from going to a tournament is worth far more than the entry fee.
Before I started fishing crappie tournaments, I’d go out and crappie fish. If I was unsuccessful, I’d say, “Well, the crappie weren’t biting today. No one was catching any fish.” But, I’ve learned that’s not a true statement, since crappie bite all the time. Regardless of weather or water conditions, they have to eat. All you have to do to catch them is find the crappie and present your bait in a way that they’ll eat it. Crappie are just like humans in that they have to eat every day, whether the weather’s raining, sleeting or snowing, if they’re in muddy water or clear water, when the water’s rising or falling, and/or when there’s current or no current.
Phillips: Anyone always can get an argument started on whether crappie like minnow or jigs best. Which do you prefer?
Billy Williams: I prefer to fish with the baits that crappie are biting the best on the day I’m fishing. I don’t really care whether it’s minnow or jigs. I let the fish tell me what bait they want to eat. I don’t try to force them to eat a bait they don’t want that day.
Also, if you’d like to fish Cooter’s Pond https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cooters-Pond-Park/146063642088959 near Prattville, Alabama, be sure to stay at the Hampton Inn and Suites, http://hamptoninn3.hilton.com/en/hotels/alabama/hampton-inn-and-suites-prattville-MGMCFHX/index.html, phone: 1-334-285-6167.
To learn much more about crappie fishing, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks and print books, “Crappie: How to Catch Them Fall & Winter,” “Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and Summer,” “Catch Cold Water Crappie Now” and “Catch Crappie All Year: Fishing a Single Pole, Using No Boat and Farming Crappie” by clicking on each, and you also can go to www.barnesandnoble.com.
To receive and download for free “The Crappie Catchers’ Cookbook” by John and Denise Phillips that offers free recipes, go to http://johninthewild.com/free-books.