Dave Schmidtlein of Topeka, Kansas, is a consummate crappie angler. And for several years, he has been catching untold numbers of crappie by using one of the favorite baits that scores of Midwest finesse anglers use to catch largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass. That bait is a Z-Man’s Fishing Products’ 2 1/2-inch ZinkerZ affixed to a jig. At times, Schmidtlein uses a 1 5/8-inch ZinkerZ, and he also uses a pair of Fiskar Scissors to whittle a group of tentacles on the tail of his ZinkerZ, and he utilizes one of the tentacles as a hook guard, which allows him to probe the interior sections of a brushpile without getting snagged.
Steve Desch of Topeka, Kansas, says that several of his crappie fishing cohorts have been cutting a two-inch segment off of the tail of a seven-inch Z-Man’s pearl Floating WormZ, and they affix that two-inch tail to a 1/16-ounce jig. Customized Z-Man’s worms, of course, have played an integral role in the tactics that Midwest finesse anglers use to catch largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass in the flatland reservoirs of northeastern Kansas.
Recently, we have heard stories about crappie anglers at the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, who use a tiny jig-worm rig — similar to the one that Desch described above — to catch crappie around the thousands of boat docks that clutter its 1,150 miles of shoreline. What’s more, these crappie anglers inadvertently catch an array of largemouth and spotted bass.
The bait that the Ozark crappie anglers are using is a 2 1/2-inch Eagle Claw Nitro Crappie Trailer, which looks like a tiny soft-plastic worm. And these anglers affix this 2 ½-inch Nitro Crappie Trailer to either a 1/32- or 1/16-ounce jig. The size of the jig that they employ is determined by the disposition of the crappie. In general, these anglers prefer to work with a 1/16-ounce jig during the fall and early winter, when the crappie are often aggressively foraging. Then as the water temperature plummets to its wintertime low temperatures, these anglers have found the slow pace of a 1/32-ounce jig to be more alluring than the 1/16-ounce jig. These anglers suspect that the cold-water conditions make the crappie more tentative than they are when the water temperatures are warmer in the fall.
The Ozark dock anglers present the jig-worm to the crappie by pitching it into the boat slips and along the sides and around the corners of the boat docks. After they execute the pitch, they allow the jig-worm to slowly glide back to the boat at a prescribed depth, which is determined by the length of the pitch. In sum, a short pitch translates into a shallow presentation, and a long pitch results in a deeper glide. In the vernacular of crappie anglers, this retrieve is described as a pendulum presentation. The depth that the crappie abide in can vary from dock to dock, hour to hour, day to day, and area to area. Therefore, these anglers consistently test different depths through out an outing.
When this jig-worm glides through the best depth, the angler will occasionally flex the hand that holds the rod, and this will cause the jig-worm to subtly undulate and shake, which at times seems to provoke the crappie to engulf the bait. But there will be spells a plenty when the crappie will be attracted by a pure glide or a do-nothing glide.
According to the anglers at the Lake of the Ozarks, four-pound-test fluorocarbon line in a clear hue is the best line to use for probing boat docks for crappie with this jig-worm rig.
The Nitro Crappie Trailer is available in five colors: natural, orange, chartreuse, white, and pink. Some anglers customized the colors by using permanent-ink markers and Spike-It Dip-N-Glo. These baits are also impregnated with a scent called Nitro’s Factor X2. A package of 10 retails for $1.99.
(1) For another perspective on this on phenomenon, please see this report by Phil Lilley at http://www.ozarkanglers.com/lake-of-the-ozarks/2013/12/10/shaky-head-fishing-for-lake-of-the-ozarks-crappie/#more-3556.