Crank Your Way To Suspended Late Summer Slabs
Bobbers, worms, tiny jigs and hooks, and flies are oftentimes associated with chasing
large panfish. However, summer is the time when big panfish, especially nomadic suspended
slab crappies, become hungry predators. The late summer period can be an especially effective
time to capitalize on their voracious appetites by using small crankbaits for fish suspending just
below the surface down to the thermocline.
When big crappies are suspended within the first 5’ of the water column, the 3DR-X
Shad is a must. The 3DR-X Shad is a new 2 3/8”, 1/4 oz. suspending crankbait that can be
worked just under the surface of the water down to about 5’. It is an exceptionally versatile
small crankbait with an internal scale finish that perfectly mimics the minnows that crappies
feed on near the surface. It can be casted, trolled, or drifted effectively for shallow suspended
fish. Casting when conditions are calm, especially at dawn or dusk, can be a dynamite way to
fish the 3DR-X Shad when a more finesse-based approach is needed. When windier conditions
exist, trolling and drifting the 3DR-X Shad can be great ways to cover as much water as possible
to chase bigger crappies feeding near the surface.
Depending on the conditions and where the forage is located, crappies will sometimes
be found a bit deeper as summer progresses. In these instances, it may be necessary to dig
down a little further in the water column to catch them when they are suspended. The 3DB
Shad is a 2 3/4” and 3/8 oz. lure that works well when chasing crappies that suspend 8-12’
down in the water column. This lure will dive to around 6’, which works great for mid-range
crappies as these fish are notorious for uphitting a lure. Fish over 12” will readily come up 4-6’
in the water column to chase down a larger meal during the late summer period. Trolling is
arguably one of the most effective ways to fish the 3DB Shad for big crappies in late summer. It
is a search bait that allows for covering a lot of water, and it elicits strikes from the most
aggressive bigger fish in a school when trolled quickly above them.
2 1/8” Rattl’N Vibe
The 2 1/8” Rattl’N Vibe is a 3/8 oz. lipless crank that works great for situations where
crappies are suspended from 12’ down to the thermocline. This lure is large enough to sink to
the depths where the fish are located, yet, it is small enough so that larger crappies will still
readily feed on it without hesitation. Experimenting with the movement of the 2 1/8” Rattl’N
Vibe is key feature when fish are stationed more than 12’ down as it is possible to catch big
crappies by casting, trolling, drifting, and jigging. The key is to make sure that the lure is
constantly moving to resemble a struggling baitfish so fish instinctively attack it.
As the heat of summer progresses, choosing crankbaits that cover all areas of the water
column where fish are located can put some solid crappies in your livewell. Gear up with the
3DR-X Shad, 3DB Shad, or 2 1/8” Rattl’N Vibe, and get ready for some late summer slab action!
Stay safe and tight lines!
Watch as Mark Maule shows the guys from Midwest Outdoors how he uses the Rattlin' Vibe Mini on his Kayak for crappie and panfish:
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With August rapidly approaching, many larger northern pike have retreated to deep water weeds, deeper rock piles, or roam the basin in some cases chasing schools of baitfish. During this time, many anglers put away their northern pike gear because it can be more challenging to catch bigger fish than it is during the spring and fall seasons. However, if you can find the fish, they can be caught. One of my favorite lures to fish large northern pike during late July and throughout August is the Yo-Zuri 3DB Knuckle Bait.
At 1/4, 1/2, and 5/8 oz. the Yo-Zuri 3DB Knuckle Bait can effectively be fished throughout the water column. The 1/4 oz. Knuckle is a perfect choice when fishing in water up to about 10’ above downed wood, right at the edge of weeds that drop into deeper water, or off of long points. The 1/2 oz. and 5/8 oz. Knuckle Baits are a great choice when fishing in water from 10-20’ deep while working the edge of weedlines and sharp drops or humps. The 5/8 oz. Knuckle Bait can also be a great option when pursuing large fish in the 15-25’ range over basins when they are chasing schools of baitfish.
Two of my favorite colors regardless of how deep I am fishing are the Golden Shiner and Tennessee Shad. The Golden Shiner 3DB Knuckle Bait is perfect for tannic or dirty water and the Tennessee Shad is an excellent choice for clear water conditions where the sun is high in the sky. With each pattern, it is recommended to use some kind of trailer. Normally, I go with a 4” or 5” plastic grub that emulates baitfish that are in the system. So, for example, when fishing the Golden Shiner Knuckle Bait, I might choose a grub that has some chartreuse and orange flecks in it because it mimics a bluegill that northern pike will be feeding on in weeds. When using the Tennessee Shad Knuckle Bait, I might go with a pearl or white grub to try for basin fish because these colors look like tullibees that northern pike might be chasing.
Fishing for large northern pike during summer can be daunting at times, but they can still be caught with relative frequency. Throwing the Knuckle as a change-up to patterns used in spring and fall can be a terrific way to keep you on the numbers and good-sized fish.
The weather is just getting perfect and the bite down here in Costa Rica is on!!! Down here in my little piece of paradise I am fishing every day and have dream trips catching Mahi, Cubera, Wahoo, and Rooster. The Mahi are not on a full run yet where I am fishing, however I am catching the occasional few. The Cubera and Wahoo bite is going crazy right now, and fishing for them out of a kayak adds to the excitement.
I am finding myself having to paddle about 2 miles off shore right now to locate a solid bite. I start every morning around 5:00 and am usually back at the dock in time for lunch. By then anyway, my arms are so tired from fighting fish all morning I barely find the strength to paddle back in. Typically the best days have been in a post-frontal, cloudy condition. This weather pattern will generally create more current coming out of the rivers and stir up the bait fish. This creates a feeding frenzy for the fish and a perfect time to catch multiple trophies each day.
My typical set up is a 7’ rod with a big spinning reel on it. I will advise anyone to not go cheap on a spinning reel, the general rule is the more you invest in a quality spinning reel the more likely you are to land more fish. A better quality spinning reel provides a better drag system and anyone that fishes offshore knows, fish will rip your drag a lot in a fight. Because of the larger spools on spinning reels offered today in the market I am able to get away with higher pound Yo-Zuri SuperBraid. Typically I run a 65lb Superbraid with a 40-60lb clear Yo-Zuri TopKnot Leader. The heavier line is what I trust when fishing shallower around boulders and rough bottom. You just have to let the fish tell you where to fish to catch them, and this is usually following the bait.
When thinking about bait selection, I generally follow this rule of thumb: “anything will work as long as it’s Yo-Zuri.” My box is usually loaded down with Hydro Minnows, Crystal Minnows, and Mag Minnows. Sometimes in the morning I will mix in using the 3D Popper on very calm mornings. The retrieve varies based on the species; Roosters seem to prefer a very fast action retrieve, but Cubera and Wahoo seem to really prefer the slow retrieve. I generally cast a bait out and rip it violently but give it long pauses in between rips; lately it seems like the longer the pause the better. There is no question when you get a bite so pay attention!!!
If you’re planning a vacation soon and are angler; you’re crazy not to have Costa Rica on your bucket list. Make sure to stop by your local tackle store to get a few Yo-Zuri lures on your way. Happy fishing and see you out there!!!!!