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Jigging Tactics For Winter Panfish
It takes specialized equipment and a jeweler's touch to successfully fool perch, bluegills and other panfish in winter. Our expert explains how it's done. ... [+] Full Article
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Texas Sportsman
Limber Pole Crappie
These specialized fishing rods can be great for targeting papermouths. Let's look at what they can do and when to use them.

Logs, leaves and a collection of other floating debris created a thick surface mat across the back of the cove. As we pulled closer, I noticed that the mat was full of holes big enough to drop a minnow through. But I couldn't cast to them without getting snagged on virtually every attempt. I could fish the edge with my ultralight rod and might coax a crappie out, but I realized that most fish would be well up under the thick stuff.

My buddy had chosen the spot, and seemed to delight in my dilemma. He watched me ponder things for a moment before reaching into his rod locker and pulling out a pair of poles, each one about 2 1/2 feet long and with a funny little reel at the base. He swung one pole through the air in Zorro-like fashion, stretching its 30 inches into 10 telescopic feet. He then handed the pole to me with a grin.

Even I could figure out the rest. I strung the line through pole's eyes, tied a No. 6 long-shank hook to the end of the line and added a split shot 6 inches above the hook.

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By the time I had a minnow rigged and was ready to start fishing, my buddy had already dropped his minnow through one of the little holes, and the bait was swimming directly beneath the tip of his long pole. By the time my minnow was in the zone, his had been eaten, and he was swinging 11 inches of crappie over the side of the boat.

We spent the next hour catching fish that we never could have reached by casting, and then moved on to fish several more of my friend's limber-pole hotspots. That day, I gained a great appreciation for one of the greatest tools a crappie fisherman can have in his arsenal -- a long jigging pole.

Long poles come in many different forms, ranging from old-fashioned cane poles to telescopic jigging poles to high-modulus graphite crappie rods. Anglers occasionally use poles up to 16 feet long. However, most crappie poles are in the 9- to 12-foot range, with 10-footers probably the most commonly used.

Cane poles, or similar poles made from synthetic materials, and some telescopic poles have a length of line simply tied to their end. Other telescopic or multi-piece crappie poles can be matched with tiny round reels, made to hold and let out line, but which aren't designed to cast or to fight fish. In some cases, the "reels" are built into the rod handles.

Rod-and-reel combinations offer broader applications than the simple poles. Beyond being useful for traditional long-pole jigging techniques, the same outfits can be used for casting or even be added to a trolling spread. At the opposite end of the spectrum, cane poles and their kin offer ultimate simplicity and low cost, but minimal line control.

For pure jigging applications and practicality, it's tough to beat a telescopic pole that has some type of reel coupled with it, letting you control the amount of line dangling from the end of the pole.

Long crappie poles offer fishermen several advantages. Anglers who fish vertically over brush or other cover enjoy being able to easily measure out 10 or 12 feet of line from rod tip to rod butt, for quick and precise depth control. Trollers like to broaden their spreads by stretching rod tips a dozen feet in both directions from their boats. Anglers who cast deep float rigs, meanwhile, enjoy added ease when they're lobbing awkward offerings into place.

Still, a long jigging pole's unique and most important virtue is providing an unmatched opportunity to place the rod tip virtually anywhere and present a bait directly below the tip.

For hitting holes in weed mats, lily- pad fields or debris piles, or for reaching tight spots within trees or under overhanging limbs, jigging poles are often the only way to put a jig or a minnow where the crappie are lurking.

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