John's Journal...

Catching March and April Crappie with Guide Jackie Wayne Van Cleave

Day 5: Jig Pole Fishing for Springtime Crappie with Guide Jackie Wayne Van Cleave

Editor’s Note: Jackie Wayne Van Cleave (731-431-9700) of Samburg, Tennessee, has every fisherman’s dream job. He’s a touring pro on the Crappie Master’s National Crappie Tournament Circuit, and he’s a crappie guide on Reelfoot Lake. When he’s not fishing tournaments or guiding crappie fishermen, he catches crappie for his table. Van Cleave gives us weekly reports on where the crappie are and how to catch them at almost any time of the year at Too, because he’s a tournament crappie fisherman, he can report on the newest and best techniques that are being developed to catch crappie at the highest level of crappie fishing.

Click for Larger ViewDuring the spring, we have many anglers who like to fish for shallow-water crappie, using only a jig and a pole. These anglers will have jigs on the ends of their lines. They’ll put those jigs in the water next to trees, stumps and shallow-water lily pads. Each day, we have to use our jigs to determine whether the crappie are holding on wood or the lily pads. Our jig pole fishermen will have about 6-inches of line out on the end of their poles, if they’re fishing shallow. They’ll barely put the jigs under the water and stop them. Often, a crappie will hit the jig as soon as it enters the water. If the angler doesn’t get a bite as soon as the jig gets under the water, he’ll lower it down a couple of inches keeping the jig still. If he still doesn’t get a bite, he’ll twitch his pole to make the jig move a little bit. If the fish still fails to bite, he’ll move the pole around the structure like the jig appears to be swimming. This very-effective way to catch crappie works when they move in shallow. On bright sunny days, we’ll start using dull-colored jigs. If we have a cloudy or overcast day, we’ll begin with a bright-colored jig. If the water’s muddy, we’ll use bright colors. If the water’s clear, we’ll start with a lighter-colored jig.

Click for Larger ViewWe also have to determine at what depth the crappie are biting. If the crappie aren’t biting in a foot or less of water, we’ll start fishing a little bit deeper water. We’ll use the same technique until we find the depth of water where the crappie are biting. The jig pole tactics will produce crappie in any depth of water, but our fishermen usually like to use this tactic, when the crappie are holding in 1- 4 feet of water.

I like the 12 foot B’n’M poles (, when we’re jig pole fishing. These poles allow us to stay well away from where the crappie are holding. Also, they have enough backbone in them to bring a 2-1/2-pound crappie all the way to the boat. As I’ve said earlier this week, when the crappie move in shallow to spawn, they’re not the only fish at Reelfoot in shallow water. I really enjoy the show, when one of my customers ties into a big ole bass, a big catfish, a grinnel or a yellow bass with those limber poles and short lines. Eighty percent of the time using this technique and others we’ve described, our anglers will catch crappie. The other fish are just bonus fish. When fishing at Reelfoot, I don’t like a light-action pole, because of the many roots, stumps and underwater tree limbs where crappie hide and get hung-up. We have to use poles that have a lot of power to get the fish out of the cover quickly. When spider-rigging in late April and May, our crappie fishermen will catch a lot of catfish and bass, as well as crappie.

Click for Larger ViewHere’s another question I’m often asked, “In the spring, when crappie move up shallow, why does a person need to hire a guide?” I respond, “The guide already knows where the crappie are holding, what depth of water they holding in, and what type bait the crappie have been biting. But more importantly, if the crappie aren’t where they were the day before, the guide usually knows where they’ll move to on the day you’re fishing. Anyone can go crappie fishing. But more often than not, when you go with a guide, you’ll go crappie catching. This is the crappie guide’s job. He has to use all his knowledge, experience and history as a crappie guide to try and help you be successful every day you fish with him.”

Click for Larger ViewThe crappie guide is also extremely valuable as a teacher. He teaches the people who fish with him, how, where, when and which baits to use to catch crappie. When you get in the boat with a crappie guide, you’ll be going to school with him to learn how, where and when to catch crappie. Often, knowing when to let your jig or your minnow sit still, and when to move it is the difference between getting a bite and not getting a bite. Knowing what part of the structure to place your bait also will determine whether or not you’ll catch crappie. Knowing what water depth has been the most productive for catching crappie will help to ensure that you have the most bent poles all day long. Also, when you go with most crappie guides, they’ll have all the right bait and tackle you need to be successful, on the day you fish. A good crappie guide will do everything he can to make your fishing experience successful and fun.

For more crappie fishing tips, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks “Crappie: How to Catch Them Fall & Winter,” “Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and Summer,” “Catch Cold Water Crappie Now,” and “Reelfoot Lake: How to Fish for Crappie, Bass, Bluegills and Catfish & Hunt for Ducks” Click on each, or go to, type in the name of the book, and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.

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About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) 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.

Check back each day this week for more about Catching March and April Crappie with Guide Jackie Wayne Van Cleave"

Day 1: Black Crappie Are on the Banks in March – Mid-April with Jackie Wayne Van Cleave
Day 2: When Black Crappie Go to Deep Water the White Crappie Move to Shallow Water with Jackie Wayne Van Cleave
Day 3: Fishing for Spring Crappie with Three Tactics and Guide Jackie Wayne Van Cleave
Day 4: Listen to Crappie Every Day to Catch Them with Guide Jackie Wayne Van Cleave
Day 5: Jig Pole Fishing for Springtime Crappie with Guide Jackie Wayne Van Cleave

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Entry 762, Day 5