Joel Nelson spends a tremendous amount of time fishing for a variety of species, but this respected angler is highly regarded as a crappie angler. Joel spends a majority of his time targeting crappies on lakes in southern Minnesota that tend to be more stained and turbid but also travels across Minnesota and beyond to specifically target crappies. Joel commented that with the hot weather all week, surface temperatures on the lakes he is fishing right now are over eighty degrees and many lakes are also suffering from massive algae blooms. Come midsummer however, Joel states that crappie can often be easy to find and catch with the right tactics.
Cast Less and Troll More
Jig trolling is deadly for suspended crappie, especially as these fish wander out over the abyss of open water. Crappie can be scattered and moving. Joels favorite locations to target is the adjacent open water next to cabbage or coontail. Look for prominent points or flats that have a lot of weed growth and fish outside of this vegetation over the basin. Big schools of crappie will often show up on side imaging and look like specks of salt and pepper. Joel finds that when fish are suspended deeper than fifteen feet, they will also show up on 2D sonar. Joel stresses that trolling is often the key however with these suspended crappie because trolling allows the presentation to be more consistent and even where these fish can follow and overtake the jig. “I cast at these same fish and catch some casting, but it almost seems like the reeling puts too much up and down motion on the jig. Crappies seem to like the jig slow and steady where they can simply overtake the jig,” explains Joel.
Joel stresses that these fish will often reposition in the water column throughout the day. These fish can sometimes be found nearly at the surface early in the morning and late in the evening while traditionally positioning deeper during the middle of the day. Joel advises trolling at about a mile per hour and experimenting with different jig weights. Deeper fish might require a 1/8th ounce or 1/16th ounce jig while high fish can be reached with a 1/32nd or 1/64th ounce jig. Joel uses longer seven-foot spinning rods to get the jig back with what he refers to as a cast plus a pull. Make a good cast behind the boat and pull off an additional rod length of line. With the consistent speed of the trolling motor, the jigs will basically run at a consistent depth and this consistency seems to be the key for catching more crappie midsummer.
Joel almost exclusively uses soft plastics with the jig. Clear water seems to favor a small curly tail grub while jigs with a spinner blade and small thumper tail get favored in turbid water. “I often find that the traditional curl tail or twister tail gets bit more in clear water. If there are a lot of bluegills however, I find that they nip the tails off the curly tails so I might have to rely on a small thumper tail or paddle tail. I also like to use a thumper tail or paddle in dirtier or more turbid water like we have around home here in southern Minnesota. Right now, many of our lakes are like pea soup so the paddle tails seem to get bit more,” Joel explains.
One of Joel’s favorite crappie jigs is a Northland Thumper Crappie King which features a small underspin blade below the jig.
Joel stresses that at this time of year, crappies can be really scattered with no real concentrations of fish. Fish are often moving a lot when suspended. Jig trolling is a deadly way to target crappies through the dog days of summer.