Locate a thick concentration of crappie, and you can catch them two at a time with cannonballing. Catchy names to describe highly effective fishing techniques are certainly not a rare commodity these days.
Flippin, pitching, dragging, cranking these are all unique terms bass anglers use to describe productive ways putting lunker largemouths in the live well.
But there’s always room for an addition to the family, especially one used about a crappie-fishing jig trick that’ll sack em up two at a time in deep water.
Enter the world of cannonballing for crappie a deepwater fishing tactic whereby the angler becomes the aggressor.
With cannonballing, you are aggressively going after aggressive fish rather than sitting there waiting for them to come to you. During the winter months, when the crappie is relating to deep-water structure, you can catch more fish cannonballing than six or seven boats anchored up around you if you do it right.
Word of its effectiveness has spread, and numerous anglers in other parts of the country have perfected it. Do the same on your home waters and you, too, can become more proficient at catching wintertime papermouths.
The main ingredients to the cannonballing technique are a pair of specially-designed jigs, light line, and an ultra-sensitive rod. I like to use six-pound Ande IFGA rated line in combination with a nine-weight flyrod. I use electrical tape to attach a tiny spinning reel to the rods cork handle.
What makes the cannonball jig head different from others on the market are its design features. Each jig has a large, round head that resembles a cannonball. The head is balanced in proportion with a small hook, which allows the jig to hang horizontally in the water 100 percent of the time.
The size jig used is gauged according to how hard the wind is blowing. But at any rate, the cannonball jigs are heavier than most crappie anglers are accustomed tying to their lines.
Almost everyone feels like a crappie won’t bites a jig that is bigger and 1/8-ounce ounce. Most jig fishermen like to use a 1/32 or 1/16-ounce nothing heavier. But the truth of the matter is crappie will hit anything that looks like a bait fish. In cannonballing, you use big, bulky jigs that are designed in a manner that they’ll run horizontal in the water no matter what angle your line is at.
In moderate winds, I like to go with a pair of 1/4-ounce jigs staged about a foot apart with loop knots. In higher wind, I might go to a 3/8-ounce head on the bottom and a 1/4-ounce on top. In light winds, Ill tie on a 1/4-ounce on the bottom and a 1/8 or 1/16-ounce on top. The jig heads are tipped with soft plastic tubes or grubs. Some of the better colors are black/chartreuse, blue/white, and black/orange.
The reason you want the heavier jig on the bottom is so you can keep it on the bottom. Remember, in cannonballing, you are aggressively going after aggressive fish rather than anchoring up waiting for them to come to you. In other words, you need to stay on the move and keep the bait in the strike zone at the same time. To do that, you’ll need an electronic fish-finding unit like an LCR or paper graph and a good working knowledge of how to use it.
This technique is impossible to master without good electronics. You’ve got to find the depth where the active fish are. This time of year, the most active fish are usually going to be suspended about one or two feet off the bottom. I consider fish that are glued to the bottom to be inactive fish. You’ve got to put the jig right on top of them to get them to bite.
Cannonballing will work on any lake where you’ve got deep-water points, river channels and other types of structure that have well-defined break lines. That’s where the crappie tends to stack up during the winter months right along the break lines. It also will work around bridge pilings.
Once I have located a deep-water breaking with his electronics, I will use my troll motor to move along its edge until he pinpoints a group of fish. At that point, I’ll toss a marker buoy overboard and continue easing along the broken line until I locate another group. Once I’ve got two or three buoys out, I return to the first, drops my cannonball rig to the bottom and trolls slowly from buoy to buoy, preferably into the wind.
The buoys are reference points to mark the breaking as well as individual groups of fish. Crappie will move up and down the break lines. So all you’ve got to do is stay on the breaking with your trolling motor. And believe me, that’s a lot easier said than done.
The light line allows the heavy jig to get to the bottom quickly. Plus, it allows the jig remain fairly vertical about the moving boat, whereas heavier line would create more resistance and invariably result in the lure rising and out of the strike zone.
The reason you need a rod with some stiffness is so you can feel the strikes. You can get by with an ultra-light down to about 25 feet. But after that, you need to go to something with a medium-action. A 6 1/2-foot medium-action spinning rig will work just fine. But I prefer nine-weight flyrod, mainly because its sportier and allows the fish to fight harder.