Midwest Finesse: Cold-water crappie times in Kansas, an update

 In the December 10 midwest finesse blog that examined cold-water crappie fishing in the flatland reservoirs of  northeastern Kansas, we featured some of Dave Schmidtlein's insights.

Since then, some readers have asked for more details about his equipment and presentations.

Therefore, today we will provide some more information about his rods, reels and lines. We will also focus on some of his tactics and perspectives about alluring white crappie that abide in man-made brush piles.

Here's a short description of his rods, reels, line and lures:

When he employs his pendulum-flip presentation, he is currently using a Pflueger Trion  six-weight, nine-foot fly rod that sports a Pflueger President 6920 spinning reel. The reel is spooled with either four- or six-pound-test monofilament. His selection of line size revolves around the water clarity, depth of the crappie, size of the jig, disposition of the crappie, weather conditions or other factors that might affect Schmidtlein's ability to properly show the jig to the crappie with his pendulum-flip presentation.  He employs this outfit when the crappie are suspended in, around and on top of a brush pile. But during the spawning period, when the white crappie inhabit shallow-water lairs, he uses it to flip a variety of tiny jigs, including a 1 13/16-inch ZinkerZ affixed to a jig, around spawning beds.  (Details about how he retrieves the jig with the pendulum flip can be found in the December 10 blog.)

For his vertical presentations that penetrate into the heart and bottom of a brush pile, Schmidtlein has found that long rods are superior to short ones. A long rod allows him to lift and maneuver his jig up, over and around a labyrinth of limbs more easily than he can accomplish with a short rod.  In addition, when a crappie engulfs the jig at the top of a brush pile, a long rod has what Schmidtlein calls "a much longer hook setting arc than a short rod has, which he has found to be an important function.  Schmidtlein works with 7 ½-foot Bass Pro Shops' Micro Lite Graphite Spinning Rods, and he occasionally wields an 8 ½-foot Bass Pro Shops' Micro Lite Graphite Spinning Rod in the Float 'n' Fly model.

All of these long vertical-presentation rods are affixed to a Pfleuger President 6925 spinning reel.

As for line, Schmidtlein says that he has always followed the maxim that a light bite requires light tackle.   Thus he always keeps his light-line and small-baits outfits at the ready. If the crappie are not finicky and biting vigorously, he prefers to use 10-pound-test braid, heavier jigs and bigger baits. To be ready for every scenario that the crappie can provide, his reels are spooled four- and six-pound-test Bass Pro Shops' Mr. Crappie Super Vis monofilament and high-visibility eight- and 10-pound-test braided line. He uses a variety of braided lines, such as SpiderWire, TUF-Line and Power Pro.

Schmidtlein doesn't use a leader with his high-visibility braided line. He ties the jig direct to the braid, and about ninety percent of the time his jigs are dressed with a soft-plastic bait that exhibits some variation of chartreuse.  For decades, his jigs were adorned with a tube, but during the winter of 2010-11, he became enchanted with the effectiveness of  Z-Man Fishing Products' 2 ½-inch ZinkerZ. The ZinkerZ is a five-inch Senko-style lure that Schmidtlein cuts in half or into thirds. He also fabricates four tentacles on one end of the ZinkerZ, making it similar to a tube. His favorite ZinkerZ hue is a laminated pumpkin-chartreuse one. Throughout every outing, however, he experiments with various color combinations — especially when the sun disappears behind a cloud or drops behind the trees that grace the hillsides around some of the areas he fishes.

A description of his presentation styles:

When the crappie are situated on or near the bottom within a brush pile, he drops the jig through the limbs to the bottom. Then he lifts it one to three feet off the bottom, lifting at the rate one foot per second. Once it reaches the top of the lift, he holds it steady for a several seconds; then he delicately shakes his rod once or twice, causing the jig to subtly wiggle. (It is important to point out that Schmidtlein has determined that constantly twitching and shaking the jig seems to repel cold-water crappie) After he executes the faint wiggle, he allows the jig to plummet to the bottom at a slightly faster pace than he lifted off the bottom.

Upon extracting several crappie from the brush pile, the remaining inhabitants usually settle to the bottom and become wary. When that occurs, he attempts to allure a few of them by holding the jig dead still and a few inches off the bottom.

At times, he elicits strikes by dropping the jig very slowly.  When a crappie engulfs the jig during the slow descent, it's difficult to detect it. He detects a strike by constantly looking for slack line and noticing that the jig feels a touch lighter.

Schmidtlein says "on-the-dime" boat control is a critical element in properly presenting a jig vertically in brush piles. He says boat control becomes problematic for every angler when the wind is gusty and exceeds 12 mph — especially for anglers who fish in aluminum boats.  For years on end, Schmidtlein's fellow anglers have marveled at his ability to control his 1995 481VS Ranger while he plies a brush pile that is being buffeted by some wind and waves. Some call him an artist; others call him a maestro at boat control

On windy outings, he opts for a quarter-ounce jig, explaining that it is necessary to get the jig to the bottom quickly before a wave moves the boat a foot or two the wrong way. In fact, the entire pace of his presentation of the jig is accelerated when the wind blows.

Schmidtlein says that state-of-the-art sonar equipment facilitates his abilities to pinpoint the whereabouts of the crappie that inhabit a brush pile. It also helps him work his jig within the maze of limbs.

Schmidtlein notes that the location of the crappie in brush piles and how they can be caught on a jig often vary from day to day. Even on the same outing, their location and the best jig presentation can vary from brush pile to brush pile. Therefore, he is always watching for these changes to occur.

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