Set the Hook!!!
As I guided I can tell you one of the most frustrating things to happen is to watch 14″ Crappie swim away at the surface of the water due to poor hook sets. This may not seem like a big deal and in the grand scheme of things I guess it’s not but I believe it is worthy of a discussion. We have always heard that Crappie have “Paper mouths” and on the sides of the mouth this is true. However, most of the time a proper hookset will land the point of the hook in the roof of the mouth which is very hard indeed.
When fishing for Crappie in the Buck Brush as the cork goes under you may only have a couple of seconds before you are completely hung up and snagged. A lot of people like to do a gentle lift and bring the fish up as slowly as possible. This generally doesn’t work. You can tell an experienced Crappie fisherman when you see them make a hard and fast snap as they sweep the rod tip several feet straight towards the sky. Also, a great way to lose big fish is to try to grab the reel and try to bring in line. Usually what happens with that is you will drop the rod tip and give the Crappie slack as he swims off back into the bush in which you tried to pull him from. An experienced Crappie fisherman will set the hook hard, keep momentum going as they swing the fish in the boat all in one fast motion. I have found it is almost impossible to set the hook too hard. Also, from time to time you will tie into a 2lb plus Crappie and a weak hookset will only cause you heartache. You absolutely have to bury that hook every single time like the fish of a lifetime is on the other end of your line. I have myself lost good fish due to a long string of small catches and weakhooksets. You will get used to small fish biting and will start to ease up on the hookset. Try not to get into that bad habit.
I also have a couple of other tricks to help myself get a better set. I start with 20lb Power Pro Hi Vis braided line. I read articles or hear anglers talk about ultra light rods and 6lb test. I don’t get it. I guess if you’re in ultra clear water and dealing with finicky fish this may be the way to go. However, most of the time we have slightly stained to muddy water and those Crappie absolutely do not care about your fishing line. Also, I love to use a 3/16 ounce jig head so I always know what is happening on the end of my line. I want to be able to make a mental picture of what exactly my jig is doing. Is it on top of that stump or is it sliding down the side? Am I stuck in the mud or between 2 rocks? How far from the bottom am I? These are very important details to consider. Try using braid for several fishing trips with a heavy jig head then switch back to 8 lb mono with a 1/16th ounce head. You will quickly realize what you have been missing. The mono feels like a rubber band and the light jig head doesn’t convey all that useful information you need to become a better than average angler. Braided line simply conveys more information back to your hand. As does a quality rod with sufficient back bone and the right amount of guides.
I don’t think there is anything more satisfying as a Crappie fisherman than picking apart a brush pile, stake bed or stump row with a Crappie jig. It is a game of finesse and power fishing. You are trying to find every nook and bump and bang around while getting hung up as few times as possible. That brings me to another reason for the heavy duty line. Using a lightwire hook (most crappie hooks will bend) allows you to simply point the rod straight towards the water and pull back till the hook bends and you are free to fish again. It takes time to re tie jigs and when you do it 20 times a day it also gets expensive. Especially when lots of you are buying hand tied jigs. I think we have about covered the simple fix of losing good fish from poor hooksets. Thanks for reading and tell your friends we’re here trying to deliver some slightly useful content. Remember to take those crazy kids fishing! Your friend Andy Lehman.