A sonar equipped with a temperature gauge and a slip bobber are the tools Northwoods’ guide Greg Bohn won’t do without when he fishes for crappies in springtime.
“Water temperature is the key. It’s the driving force of where crappies are going to be that day,” said Bohn. “They don’t care about food — not anything but warm water.”
That fact holds true whether it’s a reservoir or a natural lake, he said. A difference in a degree or two is all it takes to hold crappies by the bushel or none at all.
As for slip bobbers, Bohn has been known as “Mr. Slip Bobber” for perfecting one of the most used and least understood methods to catch a wide variety of fish, including crappies and walleyes. He authored (with Scott Richardson) the book “Mastering the Art of Slip Bobbering: The Deadliest Method for Walleye!” which is in its fifth printing.
Focus On Bays
Bohn knows from experience there may be no crappies on a main-lake point, but motor back into an adjacent bay as far as you can into shallow water and there they’ll be. You might be able to even see them with a good pair of sunglasses. The difference from one spot to the other is that shallow protected water warms faster. Add a breeze blowing warm surface water into the bay and the effect is even more phenomenal. They might not bite when the surface is calm, but let the wind rough it up and action can become furious, he said.
The pattern holds true from the time water reaches about 45 degrees until it hits the 60-degree mark, he said. Maybe instinct tells them to search out the warmth to incubate their eggs. They aren’t talking. But be confident, warmer water is the place to start.
Wood accelerates the process. Water may be colder than you’d expect to find crappies, but the sun warms the wood, which warms the water surrounding it. Bohn loves to check out stump fields in the back of bays at this time of year.
He also stumbled on another fact. While fishing the shallow water surrounding a stump field, he saw crappies on the screen right below him in slightly deeper water 6- to 7 feet down. Slip bobbers next to the boat started catching them, too. The lesson — not all of the fish are at the same stage in the reproduction cycle all at one time. Some are shallow, and some are holding deeper waiting for their right time.
“Crappies can show up in the most unexpected places,” he said. “It was really an awakening. I learned something that day. I was having action on in the shallows and by the boat. They were more aggressive by the stumps where water was warming. They were defending, protecting. But the really big ones were in the deeper water.”
Look For Stumps, Brush, Blow Downs
No stumps? No problem. Look for shallow protected water with wood of any kind such as brush piles or blow downs. Any wood in the water to warm can transfer heat beneath the surface. The result will be the same — crappies for dinner!
In reservoirs, the bays closest to the points that reach to the channel will be best. They won’t go from one end of the lake or reservoir to the other in search of warm water, but they’ll find the warm water in the area of the lake they’re in. The heat is what they want.
Bohn has devised a perfect slip-bobber rig that is sensitive to the lightest of bites while allowing an angler to target exactly the depth they want without hassle. They’ve come a long way since they started with a plastic bobber stop that damaged the line and a plastic bead that refused to slide on the line no matter what. Add a cheap slip float with a tiny hole that grabs the line so the slip bobber refused to slip. Next came a split shot that pinched the line so it breaks under little stress.
A Unique Slip-Bobber Design
Bohn’s design starts with a bobber stop made out of thread to avoid line damage. The tags of the knot are carefully tightened and trimmed to 1-inch. The bead is made of red glass so it slides easily and can be seen from a distance. The bobber can be either weighted or unweighted. The choice depends on several factors like whether he’s casting into wind. A barrel swivel is added to the line, then leader. A rubber core sinker midway on the leader is added to balance the rig. Don’t twist the rubber to secure the weight. Just slide the line behind the core. That way, it will slide and free itself if it gets hung up in the wood.
Lindy Legendary Fishing Tackle assembled Bohn’s components in the Pro Series floats or the Pro Series Slipbobber Rigs that have everything you need including a tiny flicker blade. It flashes in the sun as the crappie-sized minnow hooked between the dorsal fin and the tail swims beneath the bobber as the wind creates wave action. Make sure to use fresh bait.
Stick with the minnow early in the season. Try tiny plastic baits such as the Teeny Tail or a tube skirt as water warms into the mid- to upper 50s. If state law allows, set out the slip bobbers and use another rod with a small jig and plastic to cast the area and cover more water.
If action stops, give the spot a rest and go find another. Return later for more fish. You may have a milk run of several spots by the end of the day. Move from one to the next.
Crappies in the live well — there’s no better way to warm up to spring than that!
For a fine assortment of Fresh Water fishing gear, click here.
Ted Takasaki has many fishing achievements, including in March, 2010, when he was named a “Legendary Angler” in the “Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame” at Hayward, Wis. He had a victory at the 1993 Mercury Nationals and the 1995 Professional Walleye Trail Top Gun award. He reached the pinnacle of both angling and business when he was named PWT Champion in 1998 and president of Lindy Little Joe, Inc., of Brainerd, Minn., a year later.