January 25, 2007 at 8:01 a.m.
If you've experienced it firsthand, I need not tell you how truly frustrating it is. The next time you're out on the ice and hear some poor sap let out a feral scream, you can make a pretty good guess that he's feeding far more crappies than he's catching. If you aren't an angler, imagine you're throwing needle-sharp darts at a dartboard and hit the bull's-eye with every throw. Now imagine every single one of those darts you stuck in the red circle falling off the board. And if that weren't bad enough, your opponent is pointing at the pile of darts on the floor and snickering.
One tactic I've employed during those odd times when the crappies are biting short, is the use of a stinger hook on my jig and minnow set-up. A couple of the common beliefs out there that might discourage the use of a stinger hooks are their relative large size and how they might negatively effect the presentation of a natural bait. Given the fact that 99-percent of the stinger hooks we see sold at tackle shops are, in fact, too large and not the proper tool for the job I'm referring to, those beliefs are valid enough and I can't blame the skeptics out there.
By and large, we're accustomed to seeing stinger hooks in sizes appropriate for walleye fishing, generally in #8 and #10 sizes. What I'm talking about are #14 through #20 treble stingers that wouldn't span the width of the nail on your pinkie finger. I'm talking small and I seriously doubt you'll find them sold at your local shops. To find these stinger hooks, get online and look for "Stinger-36" treble hooks. I don't like to name names and refrained from identifying the manufacturer, but there are precious few hook companies out there that produce the tiny stingers to which I'm referring. I'm simply pointing you in the right direction.
The next time you're out chasing crappies, have some small stinger hooks in your box and don't be afraid to use them, particularly on those days when the fish hit short and refuse to take the jig into their mouths. You'll discover that the size and weight of these light wire hooks allow your live bait to wiggle freely and it'll transform your conventional setup in to a "quick strike" rig, allowing for a hook-up the moment after a light bite.
Believe me, I spent too many years out on the ice sitting on top of fickle crappies before I smartened up and did something about it. Adding a small stinger to your jig and minnow rig just might minimize your frustration and put more of those short-biting crappies on the ice.
Dan Brown's weekly outdoor column is brought to you by Frankie's Bait and Marine, in Chisago City, and St. Croix Outdoors, in St. Croix Falls, Wis.