Kalin’s Crappie Tips: Color selection critical for clear-water crappie

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Sunday, April 28, 2013
by Mike Pehanich

Guide Jerry Bean dials in deepwater crappie on Arkansas’ ultra-clear Lake Ouachita with match-the-hatch Kalin’s grub colors and attention to the fine points of light line jigging!

Crappie have a lot of room to roam on deep clear lakes like Arkansas’s Lake Ouachita.

The late spring of the 2013 season found crappie clinging to cold water patterns, primarily holding on deep brushpiles near river (and creek) channels from 30 to 48 feet deep.

“Light bite” crappie can be extremely tough to catch at those depths, but guide Jerry Bean (1-501-282-6104), who operates out of the Mountain Harbor Resort on Ouachita near the Arkansas town of Mt. Ida, has fine-tuned bait selection and technique to keep Lake Ouachita crappie coming to boat no matter what winds and thunderbolts the weather gods wield.

Grub time!

Watching Bean count coup on crappie, you would think the lake’s crappie population was on a strict diet of Kalin’s curlytail grubs! But what’s really at work is careful lure and color selection on a population of fish keyed in on a plentiful and highly desirable food source.

Bean’s “match-the-hatch” strategy employs Triple Threat grubs (primarily the 2-inch, but also the 3-inch and the 3-inch Slim Triple Threat Grub) in the TN Shad (a.k.a. Tennessee shad) and Rainbow Trout colors.

“Everyone thinks that TN Shad color of Kalin’s is a shad color, and it is to a point, but it is even more like what we call a Ghost Minnow found on Lake Ouachita,” explains Bean. “They are nearly transparent, with just a hint of green in them. Crappie will forego just about anything else to eat that particular minnow. They just love them, and that TN Shad color really does represent them! And the Rainbow Trout color is very close, too.”

Bean calls the TN Shad and Rainbow Trout colors his mainstays. “I use those two 80 to 90 percent of the time on Ouachita,” he says, also noting that he matches grub size to the approximate size of the forage.

When he’s not matching the hatch, water tint and clarity determine his color selection.

“We use all the colors,” says Bean who occasionally guides on Lake DeGray and Lake Hamilton in addition to his home water of Ouachita. “If we are fishing a stained creek or have stained runoff in the main lake, we go with brighter colors like Popsicle or lemon lime and John Deere. It just depends on the water color.”

Jigging the depths

Due to the extreme clarity of Lake Ouachita, Bean often finds his fish in deep brush piles near main lake or creek channels, especially in winter and the hot summer months. Many are as deep as 35 to 48 feet.

He prefers fishing horizontally for crappie even when they are tight to deep brush.. If conditions dictate a vertical presentation, he ties on a 1/8-ounce jig, which enables him to get a fast drop rate. But the 1/16-ounce jig is his workhorse. (see Kalin’s Triple Threat Crappie Jigs featuring wire keeper)

 “When we are fishing horizontally, I prefer a 1/16-ounce jig,” he says. “That sounds light, but I prefer the lighter jig and smaller hook so I don’t hang up as badly when fishing horizontally. The 1/8-ounce jig may fall too fast when you are fishing horizontally. The 1/16th just puts so much more life into the bait – and more fish in the boat!”

Bean also advises crappie anglers to use a loop knot. “The loop adds even more life to the jig,” he says. “It just looks alive to the fish when it is working down there.”

It’s how you move your tail!

Long casts are essential when retrieving over deep cover. Bean positions marker buoys over the brush and backs his boat off. His casts far enough beyond the buoy to achieve sufficient depth to reach the top or sides of the brush.

“I’m just reeling fast enough to get that tail moving as I’m presenting it horizontally,” he explains, noting the need for sensitive tackle to detect light bites. “Often the only thing you feel is the fish loading up.”

The suppleness of the Kalin’s plastic enables him to retrieve his grubs extremely slowly without sacrificing critical tail action.

“It doesn’t take a lot of speed to get that tail working,” he says. “Several other grubs look similar, but Kalin’s has a much better plastic mixture, and the baits just work so much better. I’ve tried a lot of others, but they just don’t produce as well.”