KINKAID LAKE – An unsuccessful walleye trip five years ago made Murphysboro’s Chuck Novara a better crappie fisherman.
Novara and a friend were using a bottom-bouncing rig, tipped with night crawlers, attempting to target Kinkaid Lake’s walleye. As a walleye trip, the excursion was an abject failure. On the other hand, crappie seemed unable to resist.
Now, Novara turns to the technique each summer when crappie seek cooler temperatures near the thermocline. He isn’t claiming to have re-invented the wheel, just taking advantage of it.
“I knew guys for years have been fishing spider rigs and trolling baits, I just never did do it,” Novara said. “I use it during the summertime. July and August are about the only time I use it. I don’t pull crank baits. I pull little sixteenth-ounce jigs. I think you do need like a ‘twister tail’ type body on them.
“Whenever the fish or suspended or up on a point like that you don’t have to cast to them. You’re moving a pretty good distance. You’re moving a lot, the baits are moving a lot, the fish are moving a lot. You’re covering more territory.”
To the observer, the technique looks simple.
Novara attaches a couple of jigs to a Mr. Crappie Trolling Rig, sets the rods in a bracket mounted on the front of his boat, then trolls slowly along contour lines on the lake bottom, waiting for a fish to pop one of the jigs.
The rig not only puts a couple baits in front of the fish, but it also allows the angler to maintain a steady fishing depth.
“Basically, I like to use a little bit of a heavier weight,” Novara said. “What we were using was one ounce. You don’t have to put out as much line. I troll at 1.04 miles per hour, which my depth finder tells me how fast I’m going. That’s my target speed. That seems to be the best set up for me.”
Execution is a bit more complicated and electronics are an important element. He uses his depth finder to follow the contours and to get a reading on bait fish.
“Some places through the years I mark where I catch a lot of fish, those are way points,” Novara said. “So, basically between the way points and the contours on the graph, you just kind of fish the same areas.
“The bait fish are up 10-12 feet. The crappie are underneath them. The fish today were more suspended off the bottom than actually being under the bait and feeding. I don’t know the reason for that. It’s dropped off since last Monday. Last Monday you couldn’t hardly put a rod in the water without catching fish, and it’s just steadily declined.”
The invaluable local knowledge provides likely starting points throughout Kinkaid Lake on each trip.
In this instance that knowledge paid off quickly for Novara when a nice crappie was pulled into the boat on one of the first trolls. And, there had been a couple of near misses before he caught the first fish.
Knowing there were plenty of fish in the area, Novara turned around and using his electronics, retraced his figurative footsteps.
“I have GPS on it (depth finder),” he said. “I put the trail function on. If you go through and are catching fish on a particular line, you turn around and go right back down that same line and hopefully you’ll continue to catch fish.”
Obviously, the technique can’t be used around submerged timber or brush. On the other hand, it is effective fishing open water and points.
And, there is always the element of surprise when a fish strikes.
“You never can tell what you’re going to catch,” Novara said. “You might catch stripers, bass, catfish or bluegill. It’s just a different way to fish. It’s not anything that’s super secret. The guys down south have been doing it for years.”