Watching crappie pros practice their passion is like watching a good bird dog on the scent of a quail. Nothing is so focused. Everything from lure size to water temperature plays a role in their strategy to catch the heaviest stringer of 7 fish.
One-pole crappie fishing is just what it sounds like, but it is known by several names depending on who you ask. The most commons references are to dipping, jigging, dabbling or simply one-poling.
One pro angler that is well versed and experienced in one-poling is Whitey Outlaw. He has been tournament fishing for 35 years. “I fished as a young man with my grandfather and my daddy on Lake Santee,” said Whitey. “There was a contest on the lake that I entered with my best childhood friend, Rickie. We won that tournament at age 15, and I was hooked!”
When Whitey describes jigging he says it is the act of using one pole to drop lures vertically where a crappie might be hiding. He jokingly says, “It has to be a B’n’M pole, nothing else will work.” He is referring to B’n’M Fishing, one of his sponsors. B’n’M Fishing has specialized in crappie and bluegill gear for over 60 years. One of their signature poles carries Whitey’s name.
Whitey prefers 10 to 12 foot long poles, equipped with a small spinning reel when dipping. The reel is spooled with 10 pound test Vicious Fishing Line. “Vicious makes all kinds of line,” says Whitey, “and they are the best lines on the market. I like fluorocarbon because it seems to be a little tougher than regular mono, but that's just my opinion.”
He ties on a single Rockport Rattler jighead and pins on a Midsouth Tackle Jig for color and action. Even though tournament rules allow two, Whitey prefers one jighead. As the name implies, the Rockport Rattler has a rattle chamber. The chamber is flush with the hook creating an amplified sound that attracts fish. It also has diamond cut reflective eyes and comes in a wide range of colors. The Midsouth Jigs add the wiggle of plastic and the attraction of bright colors. “Colors are very important,” says Whitey. “Different times of the year and different water clarity require different colors.”
He even has his own favorite colors for black or white crappie, but selection is a function of trial and error. “I start out using some of my basic baits that have worked in the past.” If the old favorites don’t work on a particular day it is time to experiment. “By trying different colors anglers can find a ‘hot’ color of the day. Some days they will bite the oddest colors you have in your tackle box.” Whitey advises angers, “I am a firm believer in keeping it basic and you will catch fish.”
The reel is not used much while one-pole fishing. It is mostly a convenient way to store the line. Depending on the water depth and the time of year, only a small amount of line is needed. In the spring only about 2 feet of dangling line is required to find the crappie. In the winter anglers need up to 8 feet and in the summer up to 10 feet to reach most crappie at their preferred depth. Once the proper amount of line is set it is not reeled back on the spool until fishing is completed.
After the rigging is complete, anglers find a potential fishing hole, like lily pads, willow trees, floating grass, or other cover. Whitey describes the technique like this. “Drop the jig in and around the structure and bounce it up and down real slow 3 or 4 times before holding it steady for a couple seconds. If nothing hits it, do it again in a slightly different location. If the fish is there, he will stab it!”
The bite feels like a thump. “It will feel like a thump or a peck. Sometimes when you stick it in the grass he'll just smoke it wide open and hit it with everything he's got.”
This dabbling technique is repeated in different locations until a concentration of fish are found. Sometimes as many as 10 or more crappie can be caught in the same general location. Whitey revealed his best day ever on a trip with his dad. “It was on Santee Cooper, me and my father were jigging floating gator grass beds. I caught 72 out of one hole. That's the most I have ever caught in one hole.”
One of the great things about dippin’ for everyday recreational anglers is that you don’t really need any fancy equipment. In fact, a cane pole, a little fishing line, a few jigs and a jon boat will catch plenty of crappie while dippin’ in the lily pads and willows. Reels are convenient for storing line, but not absolutely needed. “It is a simple way of catching fish,” says Whitey. “Once the technique is learned it can be real lethal on fish and it is very inexpensive to get started with.”
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