December 26, 2023
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As the recent exclusive In-Fisherman tale of Eric Allee's record-caliber black crappie from Colorado—an apparent new statewide benchmark for the catch-and-release category maintained by Colorado Parks & Wildlife and a potential CP&W weight record as well. It all seems to prove that Thanksgiving and into the New Year isn't all about holiday shopping, deer or duck seasons or even watching college football bowl games.
If you're willing to leave the fireplace warmth behind and brave the elements, there's a good chance to be rewarded with mind-boggling slab crappies.
Especially if you've got the right gear in your boat, or in Allee's case, a kayak. Factor in a little know-how, fish the right waters and the job will be accomplished complimented with some tasty fillets, or even a trophy-caliber fish that’ll top the year’s memories.
It all starts with the right hook according Allee, the Content and Marketing Coordinator for the Denver, Colo. based Eagle Claw Fishing Tackle Co.
"For me, it all starts with a Trokar TK570VP, which is a light-wire jig hook with a 90-degree leg featuring the Pro-V Bend."
Why? He believes the hook is simply a “better mousetrap” than other options are.
"At the risk of sounding like the Shamwow guy, the Pro-V Bend is like putting a supercharger on your hook-up ratio," he said. "If you can penetrate past the barb on your hookset, the design immediately funnels the fish to the lowest point of the bend, effectively locking them in throughout the fight."
He came to this conclusion through an extensive education at the school of hard knocks—and a little trial and error.
"I played with a few different hooks but opted for the lighter wire Jig Hook (during his recent record-catching crappie trip) knowing I was using light line and spinning gear," he said. "I could get lost in the weeds real quick diving into hook selection, but I’ll say this: to fish the rig effectively it has to hover slightly above fish no matter where they are positioned in the water column.
"The weight needs to get the bait down to the desired depth, but it can’t hinder its ability to hover. The rig’s weight comes both with the diameter of the hook you use and the weight you add to the rig."
In addition to the right hook, he believes that there is a right keeper too.
"I prepare all my hover rigs before I get to the lake," he said. "The process starts with getting out my fly-tying kit and tying on a keeper that extends past the bend of the hook. I’ve had a few different variations but ended up going with a thicker wire—cut from a steal leader—that allows the head of the MaxScent baits to stay streamlined.
"Traditional plastisol baits do a much better job keeping form without adding a keeper that extends from the bend of the jig hook, but they don’t have the drawing power that MaxScent does, such as with the Berkley Flat Worm," he added.
"It’s a simple process: I tie on the initial thread, lay down the wire, wrap around it covering up the wire connected to the shank, a few whip finish knots and I’m done."
On this particular record-setting, fish-catching adventure from a kayak, Allee found that the right bait was indeed a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm.
"I’ve mentioned MaxScent a few times already, but for the sake of redundancy, let’s do it again," he quipped. "I love the colors available in the Flat Worm and the Flatnose Minnow."
But there’s also another key consideration to note here.
"I’ll fish the hover rig in any water clarity situation," he said, along with the reminder that he was fishing in unexpected water clarity that had the same color as a cup of weak coffee on the day he caught his potential state record crappie.
"I know the hover rig is typically talked about in finesse-type situations with clear water, but with the colors available and knowing if I get MaxScent baits near fish, they’ll commit, I use the hover rig in any water clarity situation," he said. "The water clarity dictates my color choices, but there are a few universal colors like black that seem to work in most situations."
He has an ideal weight for his hover rig set-up, as well.
"I use Lazer Sharp Tungsten Pagoda Nail Weights in my hover rigs," he said. "MaxScent creates an extra step to adding nail weights, but the extra bites make it worth it.
"I’ve found that if you don’t glue in the nail weight, you might get a few casts, but eventually they fall out," he added. "By adding a little dab of super glue gel, it keeps the nail weight in for the long haul."
He is also a believer in using Spike-It for this hover rig set-up.
"I love adding little details to my presentations to separate them from what fish have already seen,” he said. “My mainstay is a chartreuse garlic Spike-It, I always keep a variety of colors and scents with me."
As for the rod-and-reel combo used to capture the record-setting crappie, he is pretty specific here too.
"Outside of a drop shot rod, I’ve rarely used medium light rods," he indicated. "After fishing with In-Fisherman’s Thomas Allen—a finesse guru in his own right—this past summer and having a few discussions about rods, I started leaning heavily on medium light rods for more applications than I did previously.
"As soon as I started fishing my hover rigs on the 7-foot Eagle Claw EC3.5 Medium Light/fast, I fell in love. I realize at this point I’m getting really brand deep and adding more depth to my Shamwowness, but it’s the truth. I very rarely lose fish and attribute a large part of that to that rod."
Allee then pairs the rod with an Eagle Claw Inshore Spinning Reel to complete the rig.
"It has a smooth retrieve and the type of drag system that doesn’t take days off," he said. "I can’t use reels that are buttery smooth in warm weather but end up having a hitch in their giddy-up when it gets cold. I’m in a kayak too, so reels that can’t survive taking a couple trips into the drink from time to time won’t cut the mustard."
As with other angling gear in his record-setting piscatorial arsenal, he admits that "I’m picky about the lines I use, too."
"I have so many rigs that it’s impossible to go too expensive when it comes to braid or fluoro," he said. “I for lines that combine performance and value. Thankfully, as anglers, we can get some great lines today without breaking the bank.
"I run 15-pound Seaguar TactX tied to an 8-pound Seaguar BasiX leader attached via a FG knot. I typically run leaders anywhere from 10 to 12 feet long."
The bottom line here for Allee is whether he’s of Shamwow guru status or not, he's got a monster slab-size crappie record application pending in the CP&W system, and he's obviously quite skilled when it comes to how to get all of this done.
Consider adding some of his gear suggestions to your arsenal and implement a few of his hover-rig tricks and you may bump into some big crappies and bass in short order.
Don't hit the snooze button too often because the fishing isn’t too bad right now, especially if you’ve got the right equipment and commitment, it's only going to get better as we flip the calendar from 2023 to 2024.
After all, there's never really a bad time to go fishing, right?