It doesn’t take a genius to catch crappie, nor does it take a lot of expensive equipment and gear. It can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. A lot of reasons that people have trouble catching any fish is because they usually try to overthink it. Crappie, especially, are only looking for three things:
- Suitable environmental conditions
- Shelter from predators
That’s really all there is to it. Meet those three conditions and you will catch crappie. For a lot of this, you will need to do research and learn how crappie act, what they are looking for, and where they may be. To aid in this search, your choice of gear is quite large. Let’s start with rods..
Go into any sporting goods shop and look at the available rods. They are made of all kinds of space-age materials, from simple fiberglass, to boron, graphite, and other exotic polymers. Some are just about indestructible. You can almost tie a knot in them without breaking them. Others are so sensitive that you can feel a mosquito land on the tip. Then there are some that are so expensive that you need to take out a second mortgage to afford one. At the bottom end of the scale is the ubiquitous cane pole, and its modern synthetic counterparts.
Poles For Crappie
First, let me raise the ire of all tackle manufacturers and retailers by making a simple statement. In my opinion, anyone can fish from now until the day they die with nothing more than a cane pole, and catch all the fish you want, and then some. You can feed yourself from now on with a simple cane pole. You don’t need complicated rod/reel combos, or any other expensive gear to catch fish. This is fishing in one of its purest forms, and is the original fly rod from the time of the Macedonians. The term ‘Angling’ originally referred to this type of fishing when using lures, hence the term ‘Angler’.
The difference between a pole and a rod is that a pole does not have a mechanical reel.
The simplest type of pole is made from bamboo. You can purchase one already made at any sporting goods or department store for a very modest cost, usually under $10.00, already rigged with a hook, sinker, bobber and line. All you have to do is bait the hook and start fishing. Alternatively, if you really want to have a sense of accomplishment, you can easily make your own.
DIY Cane Pole
There are two types of bamboo: Giant, and Switch, also called River and Hill Cane depending on where you are. They are both found in bottomlands all over the world. Only Switch Cane varieties are native to the U.S. The rest are all native to Asia. There is bamboo growing somewhere near you, unless you live in the arctic tundra or the middle of a desert. Giant bamboo grows up to 30-40′ high and 4 inches or more in diameter. Only the smaller specimens of this variety are of interest to anglers. Switch bamboo is identical, except that it only grow to 10-15′ tall and 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter. This is about perfect for making a fishing pole.
To make a cane pole, find a stand of bamboo and select a dozen or more green, straight stalks around 10-15 feet long and 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter. A machete or saw is better for cutting than an axe. Bamboo is very tough. Cut the canes at their base, trim the leaves and shoots, and take them home. Try to cut poles at a joint to where the end is closed, and no hollow space is visible at the end. The best length, in my opinion is 12-13 feet, but you can adjust them to whatever is most comfortable for you. I would not recommend going much less than 10 feet, or you won’t have very much reach.
The next step is curing them. Hang them up by the tips and let them dangle just above ground. The eaves of your house, or a handy tree works just fine for this. Allow them to hang until they turn a tan color, usually after several weeks, or months. Do not rush them, or they can become brittle. When they are cured, test them by holding the butts and whipping the tips back and forth a few times. If any cracks appear, the pole had weak spots. Discard the cracked ones. Now you should have around 7 or 8 good straight poles. Run your hands over them and sand any rough spots down smooth. You can now use them as-is, but I prefer to coat them with a few layers of varnish. Coating them with varnish makes them almost weatherproof. Another advantage is that if you drop your pole in the water, it will float indefinitely. If transporting 10-15 foot poles is a problem, you can cut them in half at a joint and glue rod –joining ferrules to each end to make two-piece rods.
Now, all you have to do is rig the poles up, and catch fish. Do not make the mistake of tying your line to the tip. If a large fish breaks the pole, you have lost it. Tie the line around the butt end of the pole. Then cover it with duct-tape (1000 mile per hour tape is magic!). Run the line along the length of the pole, taping it in several places, to the tip. Wrap 10′ or more of the line around the tip and anchor with an overhand knot, and cover it with tape. You can now adjust the line length simply by unraveling what you need. You ideally want about 2 feet more line out than the length of the pole. If you want a bit more high-tech in your pole, I usually glue and tie a rod tip-top eyelet to the tip of the pole, and duct-tape a plastic line-winder about ¼ of the way up from the butt. You can easily make a line winder by taping a kite string holder to the pole with electricians or duct tape. You can also make on just by clipping to clothes pins to the rod about halfway down.
Why Use A Pole?
The advantages of poles are numerous. They are inexpensive. They are simple to use. They can be used to catch fish in cover so dense as to be impossible to fish with conventional equipment. The only disadvantage I can think of is that you are limited as to the depth you can fish. Anything deeper than 10-15 feet requires a rod/reel combo.
If you need a more high-tech approach, the next step up is a synthetic pole. These are made of graphite and are very sensitive. Price-wise, they are not too bad. You can expect to spend anywhere from $11.00 to $25.00 for a good one. They are usually in two or more pieces, or telescoping-type poles and come with a carrying case. Other than being very nice-looking, and a bit lighter, they work exactly the same as cane poles. There are some that have line guides and a reel seat for mounting a small reel. These are great for catching fish in heavy cover, and for vertical jigging.
There is something very satisfying about nailing crappie with a simple pole. Try it sometime, but I warn you, the fish may not be the only thing that gets hooked….