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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One of the best times of year to catch Northern Pike is in the post-spawn and early spring when water temperatures warm to 45-55 degrees. The post-spawn and early spring is one of those special times of the year when you can land some of the largest Northern Pike of the open water season. Gold, Silver, and Bronze Yo-Zuri hard baits are all Olympic winners when chasing big Pike during this time.
Gold: One of my favorite “go-to” lures during the post-spawn and early spring for Northern Pike is the Yo-Zuri Golden Shiner 3DR Jerkbait. The Jerkbait is a lure that that works especially well for Northern Pike during this time of year because it can be effectively twitched in 2-5’ of water which they often frequent. Old bulrushes, rock and sand points, and shallow bays are all prime spots to try with the 3DR Jerkbait.
Silver: Another great option during the post-spawn and early spring for large Northern Pike is the Yo-Zuri Prism Silver Black 3DB Vibe. The Prism Silver Black Vibe works great when fished with a sporadic cadence along the first drop-off in a lake. The drop-off approach with the Vibe gives large Northern Pike a perfect vantage point for ambushing bait with minimal effort to feed. Ideally, I look for drop-offs in the 5-8’ range so that I can let the lure sink as needed to generate reaction strikes. It may be necessary to go this route when fish are lethargic and not yet feeding heavily due to recent spawning activity.
Bronze: The last lure choice that I want to discuss which I rely on for large post-spawn and early spring Northern Pike is the 4 3/8” Yo-Zuri Holographic Bronze Shiner Crystal Minnow (Floating or Suspending). One of my favorite ways to fish the Holographic Bronze Shiner Crystal Minnow is to use it as a search bait via trolling. When trolling the Crystal Minnow from my kayak, I change paddling speeds frequently and twitch the rod occasionally to emulate an injured or dying baitfish. Trolling with the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow works great on flats as shallow as 4’, the first drop-off from a bay, and points that drop into 10’ or more of water.
Choosing a Yo-Zuri Jerkbait, Vibe, or Crystal Minnow can be a great way to increase your odds of catching more fish. Go for the Gold, Silver, or Bronze during the post-spawn and early spring and you may end up netting your largest pike of the open water season.
As the ice thickens, snow accumulates on top of it, and fish have seen just about every bait imaginable offered by ice anglers in northern states, catching walleyes and northern pike can become a bit more of a task in mid-winter than at first ice. By the middle of January through early February fish have become more lethargic, and in many cases are reluctant to chase down bait than they were earlier in the year. However, this is no reason to put away your noisemakers that have worked throughout the open water and early winter ice fishing season! The 3DB Vibe can be a great lure which creates a disturbance in the water that can be used in more way than one catch walleyes and northern pike in mid-winter.
The Yo-Zuri 3DB Prism Fire Tiger Vibe is probably my most versatile lure that I use on lakes where perch is the forage species for northern pike and walleyes. Like in open water, it can be used effectively throughout the ice season to catch fish. The first way that I employ the 3DB Vibe is to rip it through the water column, making as much noise as possible and trying to get a reaction strike. This approach with the Vibe through the ice is great in mid-winter wherever the first big drop-off is in the lake. Usually, I look for quick transitions from 12 feet down to 18 feet or more and set up right in the middle of the transition. In this scenario, the goal is to catch fish that are moving up breaks and transitions before they get to the flats at dusk to feed on forage species.
While rapidly ripping, jigging, and swimming the 3DB Vibe can be a great way to catch some northern pike and walleyes in mid-winter that are cruising drop-offs, there are time when I simply use it as a decoy to draw fish in from a long way off. Even the most finicky of fish can be drawn into the area to investigate all of the commotion caused by the 3DB Vibe. When fish approach while pulling the Vibe through the water, but will not strike it directly in mid-winter, I employ a second Yo-Zuri product, the Snap Bean tipped with a fathead minnow only a few feet away under a slip bobber at the same depth that I am jigging the 3DB Vibe. What happens is that northern pike and walleyes will come cruising right up to the Yo-Zuri 3DB Vibe to investigate, see the Snap Bean setup, and will leave the Vibe to catch the easier smaller meal with the Snap Bean and minnow. In this case, the Vibe is used just to get the fish’s attention, and the Snap Bean tipped with a minnow is what seals the deal. In this scenario, I move to the top of the flats in 8-11 feet of water as the focus is less on reaction and more on catering to feeding fish after dusk.
Whether you are using the Yo-Zuri 3DB Vibe to get fish to bite it directly, or you are using it as a decoy to draw in finicky fish from a distance so that they bite a Yo-Zuri Snap Bean tipped with a fathead minnow, the Yo-Zuri 3DB Vibe is a top-notch choice that can keep catching fish for you throughout the mid-winter ice season.