John's Journal...

Catching Crappie with the Sipes Brothers

Day 3: When to Catch What Crappie as the Spawn Begins with Sonny Sipes

Editorís Note: Gilford ďSonnyĒ Sipes of Moody, Alabama, is one of the nationís top crappie fishermen. He and his brother, Shannon Sipes, just have won the Alabama State Championship on the Alabama River near Montgomery, Alabama, on the Crappie Masters tournament circuit. His first partner was Coy Sipes. He won the first Crappie Masters championship in 2004 in Grenada, Mississippi. His two-day catch of 20 fish weighed 37.88 pounds, the heaviest ever weighed-in for a Crappie Masters tournament. In the Alabama 2013 State Championship, Sonny and Shannon Sipes weighed-in 14 crappie, a total of 27 pounds and a few ounces. They also caught the biggest fish in the tournament, a 3.01-pound crappie.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewWhen the crappie start moving into shallow water 2- to 4-feet deep to spawn, the male crappie will move in first. We primarily catch the males at the first of the spawn. Once the water temperature is right for the females to move in, weíll catch a mixed bag of males and females with the females generally the bigger crappie. Another critical factor of catching crappie during the spawn is the color of jigs youíre using. I particularly like a florescent pink with a red head. Black-and-chartreuse is my favorite go-to jig under almost any condition. Pink-and-chartreuse is another good jig color that we fish a lot during the spawn. We also use green-and-chartreuse and red-and-white quite a bit.

Most of the time when weíre fishing shallow during the spawn, we prefer a 1/16-ounce or 1/8-ounce jig head. One important fact to remember during the spawn is that not all the crappie spawn at the same time. Some crappie will be in extremely-shallow water holding at the first bottom drop-off, going away from the spawning area. Youíll still find crappie suspended over deep water. When crappie spawn, many times theyíll move out and suspend over deep water and then move back in to the first bottom break near the spawning flats, spawn and repeat the process. During the spawn, you can find crappie in two or three different water depths. Iíve found that my most-reliable tactic is to fish for those big crappie suspended over deep water, instead of moving in close to the bank and fishing for crappie where everyone else is.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewThe advantage that the Humminbird Side and Down Imaging depth finders gives me is that I can find and catch crappie that are suspended in deep water for which other fishermen arenít fishing. Iíve learned that one of the most-effective ways to catch the most crappie and the biggest crappie in the shortest time is to not fish the first day when I go to a new lake. Instead, I spend that time looking for crappie. When I find schools of crappie, Iíll mark those schools as waypoints on my side-imaging depth finder. I then start trying to fish for the crappie. Iíve found that I can be far-more efficient and catch more crappie quicker if I find the fish first and then fish for them, instead of fishing for crappie and hoping I can locate them. If Iím fishing a crappie tournament, and I have 2 or 3 days to practice, Iíll often spend that first day scouting for schools of crappie. Once I have crappie marked as a waypoint, even if I return to that same location 3 days later, that same school of crappie often will be holding in that area. Not only do my electronics help me pinpoint the crappie, the depth finder also tells me how to fish for them. For instance, if I locate a school of big crappie holding at 8 feet, I know that when I start trolling for those fish I want my jigs to run at 7 feet - about a foot above the fish. Just finding the schools of crappie is not enough information to catch those crappie. You have to know how deep the fish are and how deep the jigs need to run to catch the crappie in that school.

The Sipes team use either Tru-Turn hooks or Xpoint hooks on their minnow rigs. They also use Roadrunner lures. One of their favorites is the Roadrunner Pro 2.0 and the Lake Fork baby shad in the lime or lime trues glow colors. To learn more about the jigs and hooks that the Sipes use, visit

Sonny Sipes also guides for crappie on several lakes in Alabama. You can contact him at 205-919-0982, or you can email him at

To learn more about crappie fishing, go to Or, to view an online crappie fishing magazine, go to

To learn more about how to catch crappie, click here, or visit, and type in the name of John E. Phillips’ latest crappie-fishing book, “Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and Summer.”

About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (AMA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Tomorrow: How I Learned to Find and Catch Crappie with Sonny Sipes

Check back each day this week for more about "Catching Crappie with the Sipes Brothers"

Day 1: How to Catch Crappie in the Spring When a Front Hits with the Sipes Brothers
Day 2: Why Sonny Sipes Believes Slow Trolling Is the Best Way to Catch Crappie
Day 3: When to Catch What Crappie as the Spawn Begins with Sonny Sipes
Day 4: How I Learned to Find and Catch Crappie with Sonny Sipes
Day 5: Crappie Bite All Year Long with Sonny Sipes

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Entry 711, Day 3