By Margie Anderson
Although a determined angler can catch crappie all year long,
itís especially fun and easy to catch them in the spring. March and
April are the prime months for shallow crappie because when the
water temperature gets into the 60s, they start moving up to spawn.
This process takes some time, and it varies all over the lake, so
the crappie bonanza goes on for weeks at a time.
We went out right after that big, strange snowstorm in March with
Leroy Price, a bass and crappie guide from Globe. The snow still
blanketed the mountains, and we had to use caution on the icy passes
over the mountains.
We were seriously afraid that the fishing would be awful so soon
after a cold front. Wrong!
Although the water temperature had dropped a few degrees and was
hovering around 56 degrees, the crappie were still up in the river
and hungry. Leroy put in at Schoolhouse and went up the Salt River
by the mud cliffs and began to troll.
In no time, we started getting bit. Leroy kept the boat in about
24 feet of water, but kept the lures running at about 10 to 12 feet
deep. He uses two 1/16-ounce jigs on each rod, tied from 18 inches
to 2 feet apart.
On the top jigs were 2-inch John Deere Kalin grubs (green and
yellow), and on the bottom hooks, he was running a grub that was
black, blue, and chartreuse. Leroy rigs the grubs so that the curve
of the tail is opposite the curve of the hook. It gives them a whole
lot more action in the water.
Leroy keeps thing pretty simple. No line counters, no fancy rods
and reels. He lets out about 30 feet or so of line, and runs the
boat at .8 to .9 miles per hour. He does use a GPS unit to track his
speed, since itís so crucial to getting bit.
Way back in October, Leroy started trolling for crappie in the
Tonto end of the lake, out toward the middle. "The fish were over
40, 50, even 60 feet of water," Leroy explained, "but they were only
about 20 or 25 feet deep."
In January or so, Leroy moved to the Salt arm and when he first
started, the fish were more toward the main lake, but still just to
the main-lake side of Schoolhouse. Heís been following them down the
river ever since.
Every now and then heíll switch colors, and when the crappie are
really shallow, he fishes in the brush for them with marabou jigs.
With a marabou jig you can just about keep it in one spot and still
get some action from it, because every little wisp of current makes
that feathery marabou wave around.
A friend makes his jig heads for him, and they have bigger hooks
than most small crappie jigs. Big crappie have big mouths, so he
likes the bigger hooks.
If he needs the jig to be a little lighter, heíll just clip some
lead off it. He also removes the little barb on the neck of the jig
so it doesnít tear up his grubs.
To find crappie, Leroy simply looks for the river channel. Early
in the year he starts in the main lake, but this time of year you
can pretty much find the crappie simply by looking for the crappie
We shared our stretch of the river with about a dozen other
boats, all of them full of cordial fishermen who arenít too shy to
ask questions. It goes the other way, too: If you arenít catching
fish, you can always ask somebody who is.
Usually, youíre fishing too deep or too fast. Crappie feed up, so
itís better to be too shallow than too deep.
- When youíre trolling, donít hold the rod. Put it in a rod
holder or set it down. When you hold the rod, every time you move
you change the depth or speed.
- Keep your eye on the graph. When we went out, the crappie were
hanging out right on the edge of the channel. If you donít get
your lure through the school, you wonít catch any crappie.
- Adjust for the wind. We were trolling one little stretch over
and over. When Leroy turned around and went into the wind, he had
to kick the trolling motor up to keep his speed the same. Use a
GPS for the most accurate speed control.
- Once you catch some fish, turn around and fish back through
that school again.
- If youíre getting bit during turns, notice which rods are
catching fish. If the outside rods are catching fish, you need to
speed up. If the inside rods are getting bit, you need to slow
- Speeding up will make your jigs ride higher in the water and
slowing down will make them drop. Using rods with the top jigs
tied on at varying heights will help you determine the right
- Small crankbaits work well when trolled for crappie, too.
Bass Ní Crappie Guide Service is Leroyís business. In the summer,
he does guided night fishing trips.
He can do full- or half-day trips, and kids under 13 fish free
with a parent. You can call Leroy at (928) 425-3037 or (928)