April 4, 2002
by Chris Feeney
It's still three weeks until turkey season starts and I'm already getting back into the swing of the outdoors. Sure this is the outdoor corner but all of us cabin fever sufferers realize it should be renamed the indoor corner during January and February (especially now that I have an ice fishing tent and I even technically pursue that sport indoors as well). And in Missouri that often carries over into March and April as we never know when to head out as temperatures roller coaster from 30 to 60 degrees from one day to the next.
It was one of those hump days when the mercury climbed into the bearable range that I ventured out to the fishing hole. Apparently I'm a warm-weather fisherman because I had been hearing tales for a few weeks of the big crappie bites. I can tell I'm getting old too (some would say wiser) as I ignored my initial knee-jerk reaction to journey to the fishing holes too soon, or at least when it was too cold and too windy.
When I finally did make it out to try for some of the spotted panfish (frying panfish) I was stumped early on. I tried the old jig and slow retrieve to no success. I tried the slip bobber and the rise and fall. Still no luck. Then I remembered my training. A guy hears so many different tricks and techniques it's often hard to sort them all out. Of course one must consider the source. There are some fishing experts that do actually know what they are talking about. I won't name the local crappie gurus, let's just call them the Ice Team. Anyway these guys told me the secret early this spring has been a bobber. That's right, just drop a little jig about two to three feet down from the surface. Top that off with the ever important "Crappie Nib" power bait from Berkley and whalla, you have fish.
I caught a load of crappie, well at least until I wanted them. The first day I put them all back. Then the next day, when I really wanted some for the grill, I could not find them. That at least gave me opportunity for page two of the fishing report. The bass are biting too.
Two techniques seem to be working. I stuck with my favorite spring tactic, the double-bladed spinnerbait. I've heard that a medium diving "jerk-bait" has been doing the job as well. No that's not a Bill Clinton lure, but it's one of those long minnow type crankbaits with a shallow lip. You fish them relatively slow, with a regular jerk of the line to give it a wounded bait fish retrieve. For those who see this as too much work, stick with the spinnerbait with a slow retrieve. Off course you have to pay attention because that big bass will slip in right behind the lure and pick it up, not pulling the line but actually creating a little slack feel, as if nothing is there. Better set the hook quick or that lunker will spit the rubber bait back out before you know he's there. Then you'll convince yourself that it wasn't really a bite, probably just some moss or some other debris.
Sure I set the hook on lots of tree limbs and other bottom grabbers but I also set the hook on eight or nine nice fighters on Saturday afternoon to go along with the three stick bass and the one wad of moss that nearly ended up on my head like a toupee.