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Catching Crappie in Triple-Digit Heat

Learn how three veteran crappie guides contend with tough conditions brought by extreme summer heat and continue catching crappie.

mid-summer crappie catchmid-summer crappie catch

When you can’t beat the heat, you might as well beat the fish. That was the mentality of Bobby Garland pro staffers and crappie fishing guides Dustin McDaniel (Grand Lake, OK), Terry Blankenship (Lake of the Ozarks, MO) and Brad Chappell (Ross Barnett Reservoir, MS).

The three came together on Grand Lake for an early August crappie expedition to test Bobby Garland’s six newest color patterns: Cherry Lime, Fried Shad, Hot Tater, Hummingbird, Plum Fun and Sandfly. The conditions couldn’t have been tougher, but the guys found ways to succeed. Daytime heat indexes soared well into the 110s, and a full moon had most fish feeding.

Patterning the Bite

crappie on Itty Bit Slab Hunt'Rcrappie on Itty Bit Slab Hunt'R

The crew identified a few reliable color patterns by midday on Day 1. An evening spent discussing findings had them confident that Day 2 would see more fish hooked up. They were spot on.

It was apparent that a massive shad spawn on the lake had the crappie looking for small fry. The pros quickly turned their attention to the 1 1/4-inch Itty Bit Slab Hunt’R and immediately found results.

McDaniel latched onto Fried Shad, while Blankenship and Chappell favored Hummingbird, with all three also taking a liking to Sandfly. Cherry Lime and Hot Tater found bites, but their aggressive color patterns were disadvantaged in the clear water. All the pros agreed that they’ll be dynamite combos for stained and dingy water. Plum Fun is only available in the Stroll’R and didn’t get a chance to shine with the technique needed to find bites where the fish were located. Chappell, a master long-line troller, was thrilled about the new Stroll’R color and couldn’t wait to get it home to Ross Barnett Reservoir where he regularly boats limits with purple-bodied baits.

With easy meals everywhere, fish were unwilling to chase baits retrieved horizontally. This led the group to vertical presentations beneath docks and out of brush. Coaxing a lone fish from the school proved tough, but doable thanks to the Itty Bit Slab Hunt’R in Fried Shad, Hummingbird and Sandfly.

With Grand Lake being a popular recreational fishery as well as tournament lake, its crappie have seen it all. The guys agreed the new colors made a difference, and that crappie across the country best be on notice.

Currently available on Lurenet, the new colors will be hitting stores near you later this summer and fall.

Key Factors

Brad Chappell with crappieBrad Chappell with crappie

Temperature, moon phase and forage availability played the most influential roles in finding bites. Daytime air temps in the 100s with water temps in the high 80s had most large schools on brush and under docks in water depths of 20 to 30 feet. A full moon coupled with a tremendous amount of bait had fish feeding heavily in the overnight hours, which magnified the picky bite.

“These fish are typically tough at this time of year, but with all the bait fish and this full moon they don’t have a reason to chase baits,” McDaniel said as another fish followed his bait out of the brush and retreated. “If you’re not right on the X, you’re not getting ‘em.”

Grand Lake experienced a prolific shad spawn this year. Water clarity was superb for the first week of August. Crappie were keyed in on bait profiles in the 1-inch variety. The 1 1/4-inch Itty Bit Slab Hunt’R best matched the profile of the preferred forage.

New Colors

New Bobby Garland ColorsNew Bobby Garland Colors
shooting for crappieshooting for crappie

Blankenship is top of the class in dock shooting, making Grand Lake a proverbial playground for the seasoned sharpshooter. While Blankenship focused much of his attention on docks in the 13- to 20-foot depth range, he didn’t overlook what most would ignore in the middle of a particularly hot summer.

Blankenship found arguably his best school under one dock at the very back of a main creek arm in less than 6 feet. It ended up being his most productive bite in terms of quantity and quality.

“Sometimes fish won’t leave an area and just end up acclimating to the higher water temperatures,” Blankenship said. “Docks give ‘em a place to hide and find some shade but makes it easier to shoot a bait right into the thick of the school.”

Grand Lake

Scorching heat and a tough bite couldn’t beat the resolve of McDaniel, Blankenship and Chappell. Collectively, they caught fish on all six of the new Bobby Garland colors. The LiveScope, dock shooting and long-lining experts, respectively, were each able to boat fish using their preferred technique.

However, the most consistent bite was a vertical presentation over brush in the 13- to 25-foot depth range. The 1 ¼-inch Itty Bit Slab Hunt’R in Fried Shad, Hummingbird and Sandfly had the most willing and aggressive takers. Most were fished on Crappie Pro Overbite Sickle Jigheads in 1/16- and 1/32-ounce sizes with split shot 6 to 8 inches above the jig.

The baits were vertically dropped to the top half of the brush and steadily retrieved upward. Most bites came within a foot or two of the brush. Fish were willing to chase up to 5 feet, but rarely committed that far from the brush.

Crappie were heavy on brush in all types of water. The pros focused most of their efforts on brush near channel ledges and the mouths of feeder creeks. The next best bite was underneath accessible docks on both the main lake and tributary arms.