In less than 30 seconds, my quill sank. I brought a 1-1/2 pound crappie over the gunwales of my boat. For the next 20 minutes, I continued to take crappie. Although the minnows-in-a-glass-jar idea of my uncle’s was strange, I realized that renegade tactics could produce crappie when no other methods of fishing would. From that early boyhood experience, I started looking for renegades in the sport of crappie fishing – both men and women who broke with traditional tactics and utilized off-the-wall strategies to consistently catch crappie. I wanted to find those unusual individuals who used creative alternatives to take crappie.

I thought no cane pole fisherman using live minnows could catch more crappie than an angler fishing jigs on an ultralight rod and reel in the hot weather of August when the fish were deep. However, being a journalist, I’d also learned the only way to make these kinds of broad, sweeping statements was to test my theory. A few years ago, I pitted the best jig fisherman I could find against the best pole fisherman I knew in my state and set the competition for August 15 when the thermometer hovered around the 100 degree mark. At the end of the day, we tallied up the number of crappie each man had caught. The pole fisherman won by 10 crappie. Not only did he catch more fish than the jig fisherman, but his crappie were bigger. He didn’t use a reel on his pole. I couldn’t understand how he had found crappie so shallow.

The next day I became a student of this angler with the unique method. I discovered he was fishing 10 to 12 feet deep with the cork almost at the tip of his pole in the cool morning hours. But at 11:00 a.m. each day when the temperature had heated up, and the sun was high in the sky, he changed tactics. Utilizing his depth finder, he located a treetop in 25 feet of water and told me, “This is where we’ll fish.” Once he had anchored the boat, he swung his line out to the side of the boat. When the cork stood up, he took the tip of his pole and forced it under water. He continued to push the pole down until he was holding the butt of the pole straight down beside the boat. “To get those deep crappie in the summer, I can double the length of my line by submerging my pole,” he reported.

“This system keeps my minnow in the strike zone of the crappie. Then when the crappie bite, I can feel them on the end of the pole, pull the pole out of the water and bring the crappie up with it. But a jig fisherman must cast to an underwater target. When he retrieves his jig, the bait comes away from the fish.” When I asked him why he didn’t fish with a rod, his answer was, “I’ve fished with a pole all my life. I catch crappie year-round. I generally can take more crappie than the people who fish with a rod and reel. So why do I need to change?”

To read more renegade crappie fishing tactics, check out part one of this series on catching crappie with chewing gum and thread. To read the third part of this series on the tactics the other angler used in my competition, click here.

To learn more about successful crappie fishing year-round, buy John E. Phillips’ book, “The Masters’ Secret of Crappie Fishing,” by going to

Images copyright John Phillips

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