A fish in the water

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How to Catch Crappie and Bass Year-Round Day 1: Catching Crappie with Lowrance’s Active Target

Crappie in the water
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Editor’s Note: On a fishing trip with Scott Jernigan and Phillip Criss on Lake Guntersville in north Alabama, we caught plenty of fish. Scott has been a crappie/bass fishing guide for 15 years and has fished for crappie on Guntersville for all his life. Phillip Criss has been a bass-fishing guide for 43 years, and we’ve fished together for the last 30 years. I’ve learned a new technique from them for fishing for crappie and bass. An interesting part of my education while at Lake Guntersville is that I saw and had an opportunity to fish with a Lowrance ActiveTarget Live Sonar (https://www.lowrance.com/activetarget/). Much of what I learned on this trip can be applied throughout the U.S. to catch crappie and bass. Also many of these same patterns will work on other lakes throughout the country, year-round.

A crappie being reeled in on a hookScott Jernigan: Lake Guntersville is known primarily as one of the nation’s best bass-fishing lakes. The anglers who fish for crappie/bass at Guntersville aren’t telling anyone how good the crappie fishing is and can be there. I fish for both crappie and bass primarily during the fall, winter and up to the middle of June. June through September are the prime months for crappie fishing here at Lake Guntersville. In October, we start catching crappie around the bridges, primarily with hair jigs, minnows and soft-plastic jigs. In the spring of the year, I’ll fish brush piles, grass lines and underwater stumps. The biggest innovation that has helped me find and catch crappie is the Lowrance ActiveTarget Live Sonar. With ActiveTarget, I can see how many crappie are in a brush pile. It also shows me the distance I am from the crappie and the direction I need to cast. All I must do is look at my trolling motor. Then when I spot the fish on the screen of my ActiveTarget, I’ll cast in the direction the trolling motor is pointing, because the transducer for the ActiveTarget is mounted to my trolling motor. Just because I can see the crappie on there and pretty much determine the size of them, doesn’t mean those fish always will bite. If my clients and I spend 10-15 minutes trying to catch that school of crappie and don’t catch a fish, then we’ll move to another spot. If the crappie aren’t biting on one of my brush piles when we fish them, that doesn’t mean the crappie won’t bite all day. Sometimes we can return to a brush pile we’ve found on LiveScope, and the crappie will be actively feeding. Then we can catch them.

image from a depth finderJohn E. Phillips: What’s the difference between an ActiveTarget Live Sonar and a conventional depth finder with down-scanning, forward-scanning and side-scanning?

Jernigan: ActiveTarget is a forward-facing sonar that you also can use to scan around the boat. ActiveTarget allows you to see the structure you want to fish and the fish that are holding on that structure in real time. If the wind’s not blowing, you can watch your jig hit the water, start to sink and see the crappie react to it. You can mount your ActiveTarget in two ways. You can set it to face forward. Or, in whatever direction you turn your trolling motor, ActiveTarget will show you what’s in front of you. You also can mount it in down-scanning to show you what’s right under your trolling motor. I keep my ActiveTarget forward-facing because if the crappie/bass are below me, I can use the down-scanning feature on my other Lowrance depth finder.

An angler shows off his catch You can reach Phillip Criss at [email protected]; 205-461-5549. To contact Jernigan, you can call Waterfront Bay Grocery and Tackle (http://waterfrontbaygrocery.com/, 256-582-6060); or at: 706-575-7239. You also can email him at [email protected] or go to his Facebook page: Scott Jernigan (https://www.facebook.com/scott.jernigan.31).

Cover for Crappie: The Year-Round River Fisherman's BibleTo learn more about crappie fishing, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “Crappie: The Year-Round River Fisherman’s Bible” at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07YDXB4G9/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p2_i5
and available in Kindle, print and Audible. You may have to copy and paste this link into your browser. (When you click on the books, notice on the left where Amazon says you can read and hear 10% of the book for free). On the right side of the page and below the offer for a free Audible trial, you can click on Buy the Audible book.

Tomorrow: Learning to Install and Use ActiveTarget to Catch Crappie

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