Editor’s Note: This past week I fished with the Phillips’ family of Wetumpka, Alabama, Jonathan, Alicia, and Wyatt, who have the same last name, but aren’t kin to me. I wanted to learn more about hot-weather river fishing and how to crappie fish with a youngster from Jonathan and Alicia – both top crappie-tournament pros.
When fishing slowed down, and the weather heated up, Jonathan Philips pulled out what looked like a chunk of lead painted chartreuse and orange molded on a hook. He then attached a live minnow onto the shank of the hook, quickly dropped it overboard beside an underwater stump and caught a 1-1/2 pound crappie. After unhooking the crappie and putting it in the live well, I asked Phillips what kind of lure he was using. Phillips replied, “It’s an ice jig.” Realizing this lure was meant for fishing for crappie under the ice, I knew I’d seen a lot of things and used numbers of lures during my crappie-fishing history. But I’d never seen or known anyone to use an ice jig to catch crappie. So, I asked him, “Why and how did you start fishing ice jigs for warm-weather crappie?”
Jonathan then told me, “I went to Florida to fish a crappie tournament, and to be honest, I was having a really hard time catching fish. So, I did what most crappie fishermen would and went to the local tackle shop to look for some type of lure that would improve my crappie fishing and put more big fish in my live well. Somebody suggested I try a couple of Moon Jigs. They’re really ice-fishing jigs. I bought some 1/16-ounce Moon Jigs with No. 2 hooks in them. Then I bought the smallest crappie minnows that the bait shop had.
“The next day I reluctantly started fishing those ice jigs but began catching 2-pound crappie. I even caught a couple of crappie that weighed more than 2-1/2 pounds each. I was fishing on Florida’s St. John’s River and told myself, ‘If these goofy-looking ice jigs will catch big crappie on the St. John’s River in Florida, surely they’ll catch crappie on the Alabama River near Montgomery and my home in Wetumpka.’ So, I came back home and ordered some bigger Moon Jigs to fish on the Alabama River. Most of the crappie I caught in Florida were black crappie, and I knew from experience that white crappie would take a bigger jig than black crappie would.
“Today I’m fishing a 1/8-ounce Moon Jig with a No. 1 hook in the jig. Although I use several different colors of Moon Jigs, the one I fish most often has a chartreuse back and an orange belly. I feel that this color combination is best when fishing stained water, like we often have on the Alabama River. For some reason, at least for me, I’ve found that white crappie tend to like that color better than some of the other colors that I fish. When I’m thinking about fishing in muddy water, I think about the Alabama River and Mississippi’s Grenada Lake, because these two lakes tend to have a bit more stained water than other lakes do. I tend to like to fish these jigs on isolated, underwater stumps. I’ve noticed that on these kinds of stumps, I may not catch more than one to three crappie, however, usually those crappie are the bigger crappie. I also have learned generally that bigger stumps tend to produce bigger crappie. But today, that 1-1/2 pound crappie I just caught was on a smaller stump. I don’t know why big crappie tend to pick larger stumps to hold on, I just know they generally do. Often, I’ll find 20 stumps in a row, and I’ll mark each stump as a waypoint. Most of the time when I fish a row of stumps, there always will be the same stump that has the biggest crappie on it each time I fish.”
To learn more about Jonathan Phillips and his guiding, email email@example.com, and contact him on Facebook at https://bit.ly/2xexIJ6. For more information on more-productive crappie fishing, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “Crappie – How to Catch Them Spring and Summer,” available in Kindle, print and Audible versions at http://amzn.to/WGaJLT.
Tomorrow: How to Catch Summertime Crappie When the River’s Muddy