John's Journal...

How to Find and Catch March and April Crappie

Day 3: Taking South Carolina and North Carolina March and April Crappie with Stokes McClellan

Editor’s Note: Stokes McClellan from Huntersville, North Carolina, is a tournament crappie fisherman and a crappie-fishing enthusiast.

Click for Larger ViewQuestion: Stokes, where do you fish for March and April crappie, and how are you catching them?

McClellan: I fish Clarks Hill, Lake Wylie and Lake Jordan.

Question: How will you catch crappie during March?

McClellan: Right now, the crappie are staging for the spawn in the mouths of the creeks and the bays. I’m finding crappie from the mouths of the creeks and the bays to about 1/4 the length of that creek or bay. The crappie seem to be holding 14- to 16-feet deep, suspended above deeper water. If we have a couple of consecutively warm days, the crappie will move-up in the water column about 6 feet below the surface. Even though the crappie are bunched-up, there are still quite a few scattered fish. So, I’ll long -line troll for them. Our water temperature is 49 to 50 degrees in March. When the water temperature rises a few degrees, the crappie will move-up onto the banks to start spawning.

Question: Which poles are you using for longlining?

McClellan: I like the B ‘n’ M Pro Staff poles and the Sam Heaton Super-Sensitive poles. I’ll use the B ‘n’ M Pro Staff poles in lengths ranging from 10 to 16 feet. In the Sam Heaton Super-Sensitive pole, I like the 9-foot poles.

Question: How are you long-line trolling?

McClellan: I have my poles in pole holders on the back of my boat. I’ll put my 16-foot poles straight off the side of the boat, so they can reach out further on either side of the boat than my other poles.

Click for Larger ViewQuestion: Why are you putting your poles out of the back of your boat instead of the front like most crappie fishermen who long-line troll?

McClellan: The back of my boat is 7-feet wide, and by having two 16-foot B ‘n’ M poles on either side of my boat, I can troll about 39 feet of water when I make a pass with my boat. By trolling from the back of the boat, when I do get a crappie on one of my lines, the crappie I’m catching doesn’t tangle-up the other lines quite as much as the fish will when I’m trolling out of the front of the boat. I’m sitting down in the boat while I’m trolling.

Question: How are you running your trolling motor on the front of the boat when you’re sitting on the back of the boat?

McClellan: I use a Minn Kota AutoPilot trolling motor. I’ve got a controller that plugs into the trolling motor with 18 feet of cable that allows me to sit in the back of the boat and direct the trolling motor, which is on the front of the boat.

Click for Larger ViewQuestion: What size jigs are you using?

McClellan: I’m trolling 1/8-ounce jigs. But if we have those warming days, and the crappie move up to 6 feet of water I’ll start pulling 1/16-ounce jigs. In late March when the crappie move higher in the water column, I’ll pull 1/32-ounce jigs. When the water temperature hits 52 or 53 degrees, the crappie will move up to 3- and 4-foot water depths, so I’ll need a lighter jig to pull through more-shallow water.

Question: How far behind the boat are you trolling?

McClellan: I usually troll 75- to 90-feet behind the boat.

Question: How did you decide to troll that far behind the boat?

McClellan: I let the lines in the center of the boat out to about 90-feet behind the boat because the boat may spook some of the crappie holding in 6 feet of water. So I want the center lines to be further behind the boat. Then if the boat does spook the fish as I pass over them, my jigs will run a little deeper and be in front of those the fish than the lines on the sides of my boat. The lines on the 16-foot poles will run about 75-feet behind the boat, since the crappie that are further away won’t be as spooked as much by the boat’s movement as the crappie directly under the boat. When the crappie move up shallow, and I start fishing 1/32-ounce jigs, most of the crappie I catch will be on the rods furthest away from the boat.

Question: What pound-test line are you using?

McClellan: I fish exclusively with 4-pound-test line, because I’ve found it’s much-less visible to the fish than 6-pound-test line is. Because I’ve fished 4-pound test line for many years, I can better determine what depth my jigs are running at when I’m fishing 4-pound test. If I change to 6-pound-test line, the depths at which my jigs are running may change by as much as 2 feet.

Click for Larger ViewQuestion: What color jigs do you like at this time of year?

McClellan: In dingy, off-color or muddy water, I like oranges, browns, blacks and blues. I’ll stick with the darker colors on overcast days as well. In clear water, I like chartreuse, bubblegum pink or white.

Question: In a day of fishing, how many crappie do you expect to catch?

McClellan: On a good day in March, my catching 50 to 75 crappie isn’t uncommon. The last trip I went on, my two biggest fish weighed 2.59 pounds and 2.6 pounds. When we start catching the big females, they’ll usually weigh from 1-1/2 to 2-1/2-pounds each.

Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and SummerLearn more about catching crappie from some of the top pros, anglers and guides for crappie in the country. Get your copy of the Kindle eBook, “Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and Summer” by John E. Phillips by clicking here. Amazon Prime members can receive the book free for 5 days.




Tomorrow: Fishing the Tunica Cut-Off During March and April with Ed “Dawg” Weldon

Check back each day this week for more about "How to Find and Catch March and April Crappie "

Day 1: Finding Early-Spring Crappie in Kentucky with Malcolm Lane
Day 2: Minnesota Crappie through the Ice in March and April with Matt Johnson
Day 3: Taking South Carolina and North Carolina March and April Crappie with Stokes McClellan
Day 4: Fishing the Tunica Cut-Off During March and April with Ed “Dawg” Weldon
Day 5: Catching Black and White Crappie on Reelfoot Lake in March and April with Billy Blakely

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Entry 658, Day 3