Take slab crap­pies for a dip

Two crap­pie vets re­veal the pro­gram tweaks that pro­duce more spring­time jum­bos

Outdoor Life - - CONTENTS - by AN­DREW PEGMAN

THE DEF­I­NI­TION OF “slab” crap­pie dif­fers by re­gion. For some anglers, a 1 1/2-pounder might qual­ify. For oth­ers, the ti­tle is re­served for crap­pies that bust the 3-pound mark. What doesn’t dif­fer by re­gion is that spring is the peak time to get slabs on the line. Jack Canady and Bran­don Ful­gham have a com­bined 50plus years of guid­ing ex­pe­ri­ence on two of the coun­try’s most well-known slab fac­to­ries, and their tricks will help you weed out the lit­tle guys fast.

THE BIG DIPPER JACK CANADY, WOODS AND WA­TER GUIDE SER­VICE HOME WA­TERS: KEN­TUCKY AND BARKLEY LAKES, KEN­TUCKY

▶ Canady has been fish­ing for crap­pies for more than 40 years. Al­though he pri­mar­ily leans on spi­der rig­ging from his boat, he knows that spring pre-spawn and spawn­ing pe­ri­ods also of­fer shore­based anglers their best shot at slabs, and to catch them, be­ing versed in long­pole dip­ping is a must. From March through early May, the fish will con­gre­gate in heavy cover, par­tic­u­larly brush piles, in rel­a­tively shal­low wa­ter. Some may be reach­able from the bank, but oth­ers will re­quire wad­ing, and a dip­ping ap­proach al­lows you to get very close to the struc­ture and lower a jig or live min­now straight down ver­ti­cally into its heart. The trick to be­ing ef­fec­tive is “go­ing shop­ping,” as Canady puts it.

“Dip­ping is an old-time tech­nique that re­quires noth­ing more than a 10-foot pole, a spin­ning or a bait­cast­ing reel, and a bob­ber,” Canady says. “Dip the min­now or jig from one side of the struc­ture to an­other. The key is drop­ping in tight cover with­out get­ting hung up. Move around the brush pile. If you keep hook­ing smaller fish, find an­other spot. Ex­per­i­ment with jig sizes and col­ors, and sus­pend the bait at dif­fer­ent depths to lo­cate the big fish.”

Land­ing a big slab with a long pole takes some fi­nesse. Canady says if the bob­ber moves even slightly, as­sume the bait is in the crap­pie’s mouth. When you set the hook, don’t swing hard.

In spring, runoff from feeder creeks and rivers of­ten makes shal­low shore­line ar­eas of Ken­tucky and Barkley lakes muddy. If he’s not us­ing a min­now on a hook, Canady typ­i­cally dips skirted tubestyle jigs weigh­ing 1/16 to 1/8 ounce. He says dark col­ors such as a black-and-char­treuse combo and olive are top pro­duc­ers in stained to dirty wa­ter.

THE SPI­DER MAN BRAN­DON FUL­GHAM, GRE­NADA LAKE CRAP­PIE GUIDES HOME WA­TERS: LAKE GRE­NADA, MIS­SIS­SIPPI

▶ Ful­gham is a life­long crap­pie an­gler who’s been guid­ing pro­fes­sion­ally for more than a decade, and his home base of Lake Gre­nada is a par­tic­u­larly ex­cel­lent des­ti­na­tion for anglers with the sin­gu­lar goal of land­ing a true tro­phy slab.

“Some­times I’ll get clients who don’t care about num­bers. They just want the 3- to 4-pound fish,” Ful­gham says. “We might not catch as many on those trips, but it’s very re­ward­ing to help clients reach their tro­phy goals.”

One rea­son why Gre­nada grows fish so big is that the win­ters aren’t overly harsh in Mis­sis­sippi. Ac­cord­ing to Ful­gham, that equates to a longer grow­ing sea­son. Al­though he can find slabs year-round, spring is king, and spi­der rig­ging is Ful­gham’s tech­nique of choice. This method of slow-trolling with up to 12 rods al­lows him to present min­nows and jigs through­out the col­umn while cov­er­ing lots of wa­ter.

“We start in very shal­low wa­ter— maybe 1 to 3 feet deep—and ease our way back to deeper wa­ter,” Ful­gham says. “If we’re not find­ing the size we want, I might go as deep as 20 feet. Gi­ant crap­pies are usu­ally staged deeper and are more soli­tary than smaller fish.”

Ful­gham typ­i­cally be­gins with just a min­now on a hook, though he might pin his min­nows on 1⁄4-ounce skirted jigs to add color if he’s not get­ting many bites. He keeps his boat speed around 0.5 mph; how­ever, he’s not afraid to give the throt­tle a nudge when the go­ing’s rough.

“When the bite is slug­gish, a lot of peo­ple like to slow down,” he says. “I do the op­po­site. I’ll speed up a bit and try to trig­ger the fish’s in­stinct to hit.”

A sim­ple min­now un­der a float is of­ten all you need to nail huge spring crap­pies.

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