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Fish with Light Tackle and Learn to Use Your Depth Finder for Summer Crappie

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Editor’s Note: My late friend, bass-fishing phenom Ken Cook of Meers, Oklahoma, won both a Bassmasters Classic Mega Bucks tournament. But before his bass-fishing fame, Cook was a fisheries biologist and loved to crappie fish. Cook gave me some great tips for catching crappie some years ago that produce summertime crappie today. I’ve also interviewed numbers of professional crappie anglers about their summertime tactics.

“One of the biggest differences in finding and catching crappie and locating and taking bass during the summer months is the crappie fisherman uses smaller baits and lighter tackle,” Cook reported. “An advantage to finding crappie in the summer months is that they tend to school-up tighter than bass do. When you catch one crappie, you usually can assume there are more crappie in the area. Generally I fish around the spot where I’ve taken that first fish and anticipate catching a lot more crappie.”

Learn to Use Your Depth Finder:

Probably the number one-tool of the summertime crappie angler is the depth finder, which shows an angler the bottom breaks that he can follow until he sees the cover and locates schools of crappie holding over the cover. However, depth finders cause as many people not to catch crappie as they enable fishermen to take crappie. Some anglers won’t fish a piece of cover if the depth finder doesn’t show crappie concentrating on that cover. But during the summer months, crappie may be holding in and under cover and not show up on a depth finder. The angler who doesn’t stop to fish that cover may be missing an opportunity to take papermouths home to the skillet.

That’s why many anglers like Ken Cook fished cover whether they could see fish or not – because as Cook commented, “Crappie tend to school at a particular depth, according to water temperature and dissolved oxygen content. Many times if the crappie aren’t in the cover, they’ll be schooled up above or under the cover or off to the side of it.”

According to Dr. Tom Forsyth, who had a PhD in fisheries, “When you discover a school of crappie like this in the summer, you can assume several things about them.

* “Vertical jigging or fishing deep with minnows right on top of the school will be the best method to catch these crappie. They won’t come away from the cover to take the bait.

* “You can return to that same school for several days without the school’s having moved. What actually happens in the summertime is the amount of water the crappie can survive in shrinks drastically. Therefore the crappie have to be concentrated in larger schools to survive. To locate crappie, an angler must utilize a depth finder. However, he’ll have to look in much less water for the fish than he did during the post-spawn time of the year when the water conditions were better for the crappie.

“The advantage to summertime fishing for crappie is that if an angler can fish consecutively for 3-4 days, he can go to the same places where he’s located the schools and continue to catch fish out of those schools all three days. If an angler learns how to take crappie in the summer, he consistently can catch more fish than he will during the spring when the crappie go to the banks, because the crappie are more concentrated in the summer than they are in springtime.”

To learn much more about crappie fishing, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks, and print and Audible books by going to or to for Nook books. To receive and download for free “The Crappie Catchers’ Cookbook,” by John and Denise Phillips, go to

Tomorrow: Talk to Bass Fishermen, Find the Best Bait and Set the Hook Properly to Catch Summer Crappie

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