Arizona Lakes, Arizona Fishing Pros: Curt Rambo

Curt Rambo Is The Crappie Expert

Mention crappie fishing at Roosevelt Lake, and Curt Rambo’s name is sure to come up. For decades, he has been acknowledged as one of the best crappie fishermen in the state, especially at his home lake: Roosevelt.  Curt taught me to crappie fish a long time ago, and his techniques have served me well on Pleasant, Bartlett, San Carlos, and even Dogtown  — they just flat catch crappie. I have fished with Curt at all different times of year, so here is some of his best crappie fishing advice.

Some Advice

 First of all, crappie have small mouths, so get some 1/16-ounce dart head jigs —  these are little jigs with flattened heads that swim through the water. Then grab a couple bags of Berkely Power grubs — the little bitty chartreuse ones, and some bags of Crème Lit’l Fishie baits — the inch and half ones, in white or white and blue.

That’s pretty much all you need. You’ll fish these on a one-piece 6’6” ultra light spinning rod. Curt likes all the bend to be in the last 12 inches of the rod, and wants power in the rest of it. You can cast or fish vertically with this rig. When I first fished with Curt, he used nothing but 4-pound-test Trimax line, but lately he’s been using braid.

Wait For The Graph

If you’re using Power Grubs, rig them so the tail points down and the hook points up. Curt never starts fishing until he sees the fish on his graph. You may have heard that crappie school up and look like a Christmas tree on the graph, but that isn’t so all the time. Many times they are simply streaks on the screen — lots of streaks. They are almost always over brush, which is why crappie fishermen like to sink old trees and such by tying them to heavy blocks.

You’ll find that kind of stuff on points at Roosevelt, especially if you find a point that runs out a ways, flattens out, then goes deep again.

 Once In Position

Once he positions himself over the fish, Curt drops his lure to the bottom until the line goes slack, then reels up the slack. He puts the tip of the rod on the water’s surface and reels until the line is taut, then lifts the rod and lowers it, over and over. Lift slowly, then lower slowly, not letting any slack go into the line.

If the line goes slack, set the hook. You know it’s not the bottom because you reeled it up off the bottom. It’s a fish. Crappie feed up, and they often swim up and grab it on the way, so all you get is slack line, not a bite you can feel.

Occasionally in the winter, Curt will use little Kastmaster spoons for deep crappie. You have to move them very very slowly if at all. Graph the deep centers of coves for fish, then drop that spoon down and barely move it. Towards February he starts moving toward the river ends of the lake. He often finds them in 7-8 feet of water, suspended over brush that is 15 feet deep.

This is a good time of year for big fish, and he’ll troll for them using the trolling motor and his light jigs. If there is good run-off the Tonto end is better, and if there isn’t, the Salt end is better.

If You’re Not Getting Bit

From June all the way through February the crappie will be 12-25 feet deep over brush or rocks. The most important thing is a light rod and light line, second is to keep things slow and steady — don’t make any jerky movements, and third is to keep your jig in the zone the fish are in. If you’re not getting bit, reel in a bit and fish a bit higher in the water. You may be under them, and their eyes are on the top part of their heads.

Curt Is ‘Awesome’

Curt once told me that bass fishermen make lousy crappie fishermen. “First of all, they’ll try to prove you wrong in whatever you tell them,” he says, “And secondly, they are too used to fishing fast and fishing big and fishing on the bottom.” Hopefully I’m the exception that proves the rule, because I make sure I follow Curt’s advice the best I can, and I’ve caught some huge crappie on lakes all over Arizona.

Curt is just about the nicest guy I’ve ever met, too. Even my dog loves him. He’s taught my granddaughters how to catch crappie, and shared his lunch with my dog. I’d adopt the guy if I could. If you see him on the lake, say hello. He’s awesome.