Crappie anglers love live minnows. Historically minnows have been known as the bait of choice for catching crappie. Minnows have wiggle, they have taste and they have smell. Crappies always have and always will be attracted to those natural senses. Many a slab has come to the dinner table because it could not refuse a minnow.
So, what do you do when there are no minnows available? It may be a rare occasion, but it happens. As crappie-fishing techniques improve and as artificial baits become better, more and more anglers are tying on the imitation versions, which also have wiggle, taste and smell. More and more anglers are discovering that they work!
Crappie fishing pro Dan Dannenmueller pulls out all the stops when it comes to crappie fishing and the fact that he doesn’t have minnows is not going to stop him from catching a mess of slabs. “I love catching crappie on Bobby Garland baits,” says Dannenmueller. “Don’t get me wrong, I use minnows too, but you sure can catch crappie without them.”
Dannenmueller was in Florida for an outdoor writers camp presented by another crappie pro, Whitey Outlaw. The West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority hosted the event in April of 2015. Base camp for the St. Johns River Writers Camp was the outstanding facilities at Hontoon Landing near Deland. The purpose of the camp was to bring product manufacturers, outdoor writers, TV hosts, Internet bloggers and professional anglers together in support of recreational fishing.
Outlaw wanted local angers to know that they can catch crappie on the St. Johns River and accompanying lakes anytime of the year by using a little fishing knowledge and the right equipment. “There is no reason to stop fishing for crappie anytime,” stated Outlaw. “They are definitely here, all you gotta’ do is find em’.”
Dannenmueller set out to do just that, “find em.” He uses a Garmin 7612 Touch Screen with Panoptyx on the bow and a Garmin 1099XPS at the drivers console to help him locate fish.To complement his Garmin sonar unit Dannenmueller uses a device called a Color-C-Lector. “My Garmin will help me find fish, but the Color-C-Lector helps me choose a color for my presentation. When I drop my probe in the water it measures the light rays that the fish can see and suggest the most likely color to use. I choose jigheads and bodies in the colors the instrument suggests.”
Dannenmueller dropped the probe into the tannin stained waters of the St. Johns River to take a reading. “I do this several times a day, because conditions change,” stated Dannenmueller. When the reading was complete the Color-C-Lector indicated orange, gold, white and pink as the most likely colors the fish could see.
Based on these results Dannenmueller chose an orange Bobby Garland Jig Head with a plastic body called a Glitter Critter. The plastic was a gold glitter body with a white tail.
Dannenmueller wasn’t through yet. “Because we don’t have live minnows we are going to go to a scent,” explained Dannenmueller. He reached into his tackle hatch and pulled out a bag of Stubby Steve’s Chubby Pellets Fish Food Lure.
An animal doctor makes Stubby Steve’s in Virginia. “There are 5 major ingredients,” explained Dannenmueller. “One is shad and one is shrimp, and the other three he won’t talk about. He’s got secrets in there. It is generally a rubbery stuff. If you feel it you can tell it is tough. After it dissolves the leftover is kinda’ like a sponge. You just pull it off and put a new piece on.”
Dannenmueller took out a dark pink pellet and placed it on the hook to complete the colors selected earlier while adding some scent to the bait. “The jighead is orange, the plastic is glitter gold and white and the Stubby Steve’s is pink.” He was almost ready to fish, but he had one more thing up his sleeve.
“There is one other thing we are going to do because we don’t have live bait,” informed Dannenmueller. “This is Bobby Garland Slab Jam. It is a glow color. It is a gel, not a liquid. We are going to load up the plastic and everything on this jig so there is no human scent remaining. Now we are ready to fish with a substitute bait that will work great when live bait is not available. We are going to do the best thing we can without having minnows.”
He uses an 11-foot B’n’M Sam Heaton Super Sensitive (SHSS) rod with the rear reel seat. “They come in all different lengths,” advised Dannenmueller. “I like it long because you can get out there to the fish without spooking them. Just a couple of feet can make a difference. Just being that much further away from the boat can be the difference in catching or not.”
“Crappie eyes are big, so they can see more of their surroundings. They can see you. The noise from a trolling motor is a negative too. Use the trolling motor as little as possible to avoid vibrations in the water. These are all reasons to use longer poles when dipping around the pads.”
Dannenmueller likes to fish the edges of the lily pads. “If I catch a fish outside the pads, I use the Sam Heaton Super Sensitive to swing them out and away from the pads. A lot of times those fish will jump off it you give them a chance. If I can move them away from the pads I have a better chance of landing them. The flexibility of the SHSS keeps constant pressure and insures the hook remains in the fish.”
“A fish can really smell this setup,” commented Dannenmueller, as he dipped the carefully constructed bait around the lily pads. “The mixture of Stubby Steve’s and the Bobby Garland Scent has proven to be an ideal combination for scent and the Color-C-Lector puts us in the right color range. There is no reason to let the lack of minnows be a cause for not taking some specks home for dinner.”