When crappies move into thick cover, one of the best ways to get them out is with a jig-and-bobber rig. Whether they’re deep or shallow, sometimes a jig produces better results than live bait.
The jig-and-bobber rig has been around for a long time, but I still get funny looks from folks who haven’t heard of it before. It’s deadly for sluggish crappies that tend to bury themselves into thick brush and don’t seem to want to eat. This technique can actually trigger a reaction strike, and it can help you catch some crappies even when live bait just doesn’t interest them.
HOW TO RUN IT
The jig-and-bobber rig is just as it sounds: a jig placed on your line beneath the bobber. The jighead can be equipped with just about any artificial complement such as a plastic grub, tube or bucktail. This rig allows you to drop your presentation deep into visible thick cover. In shallow water, you can easily drop the jig into small holes in the cover and allow it to get in there where the crappies are hiding. Once it’s in the right position, a slight twitch of the bobber will really give that jig a lot of action and drive crappies crazy. I think the erratic action and color of jigs plays a big role in getting a reaction bite. If the cover isn’t visible (common when fishing in deeper water), use your electronics and a slip bobber to position your jig just above the tangled mess of cover. Again, twitch the bobber, but watch your electronics and sometimes you’ll see the crappies come up to bite.
Shallow-water slabs find it difficult to resist a dangling jig under a bobber. (Photo credit: Ken McBroom)
The jig-and-bobber rig is best tied on spinning tackle. While crappies aren’t normally too line shy, I believe lighter line helps you get more bites. I like a 7-foot spinning rod and a spinning reel spooled with 6-pound-test line when I’m dropping my jig into the brush. I’ll jump up to 8-pound line if I’m hooking some really good crappies, but never any heavier than that. I’ll go down to a 6-foot rod if I’m hovering over brush piles so I can keep my jig and bobber close to the boat, which allows me to see the jig better on my electronics.
The cane pole is another option, and one that I really like to use when fishing shallow, clear water where the fish are spread out. A 10- or 12-foot cane pole allows you to drop your jig into small pockets and holes in the brush very efficiently. With some practice, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can move through one brush pile and onto the next. The length also allows you to stay back a bit and silently lay your presentation where it needs to be.
It doesn’t take a lot of gear to catch crappies in heavy cover, but it can be a lot of fun when it all comes together.
A great way to enjoy exciting fishing on a budget is from shore, and catfish are the best target species for both fun and food.
Not everyone has access to a boat or extra funds for outfitted fishing trips, but most of us are blessed with shore-fishing opportunities in close proximity to home. Many of these local waters are loaded with catfish, which can offer an exciting bite with tasty rewards.
While locating bass or crappie habitat from shore is possible, catfish tend to roam in search of food and rely heavily on their sense of smell to locate it from great distances, so it’s possible to attract them to your location. This sense of smell is why catfish are the most sought-after species for die-hard bank anglers. Catfish are easy to catch, and with the right baits you can greatly improve the numbers you’re able to hook from your bank position.
Here are some inexpensive bait options to consider next time you hit the bank for cats …
Chicken liver has been the classic catfish bait for many years because it works. The only problem is keeping it on your hook. There are several tricks to help keep liver on your hook longer, and even make it more difficult for small “bait robber” catfish to take it off your hook.
Some anglers put the liver in pantyhose or use a spring on a treble hook. I believe sewing thread is the most efficient solution for eliminating all your liver-losing woes. The one thing that makes this trick work better is using fresh livers. Some grocery stores sell fresh chicken livers, so call around. Previously frozen livers will work, but fresh livers are much more solid in composition, and I think they’re more effective for attracting catfish. Some say to let the liver sit in the sun until it turns green or just plain rots, but this is a turn-off for young anglers, and I feel that fresh livers actually work better.
Simply wrapping thread around the livers is a great way to efficiently keep them on the hook. The container for the livers shown here is two coffee canisters, with ice stacked around the smaller center canister containing the livers. When fishing is done, put on the lid and store it in a cooler or the fridge for the next day’s bank-fishing fun. (Photo credit: Ken McBroom)
The sewing thread trick is nothing fancy and requires no knots. Just set the tag end of a spool of thread on the liver and wrap. The thread sticks to the liver and allows you to wrap the thread around the liver and hook. Make sure you’re careful with the first couple of wraps so the thread stays put, then make about eight or 10 wraps and break the thread. That’s it: The liver will be secured to your hook.
Another popular and proven bait for catfishing is cut-bait. Fresh bluegill makes great bait for all species of catfish, and while shad are usually the catfish’s primary prey, a bluegill is a delicacy and seems to do really well.
When folks think of cut-bait, they often think of the whole fish cut into chunks. This is the easiest way to prepare cut-bait, but it’s messy. I like to keep everything as clean as possible, so I do a little extra work in preparing my bluegill cut-bait. First, I scale my bluegills with a spoon. Then, I fillet the bluegills and discard the messy stuff, leaving a tender fillet for bait. Leave the skin on the fillets so they stay on the hook, and store them in a plastic bag on ice to keep them fresh. The skin also gives off a scent, which is the reason I scale mine—so the scent and oils can easily release into the water. You can get a couple of pieces of bait per side from larger bluegills. Cut the fillets in half lengthwise; this keeps the bait long enough to get the hook into it twice for more security.
Fishing from the bank can be fun and effective for catching catfish. (Photo credit: Ken McBroom)
There’s more to cut-bait than meets the eye. Get youths in the mix and its benefits are twofold: They get to catch more fish, you get an endless supply of bait. If they catch too many fish, it’s the perfect time to start teaching them catch and release. The kids might be tuckered out from catching bait by the time the evening catfish bite rolls around. However, if anyone is awake when the action ensues, hand them a rod and they’ll be hooked forever.