This June, I had the privilege of spending three days in the boat with Wally Marshall, a.k.a. “Mr. Crappie.” We fished for his namesake fish species while filming an episode for Fishing the Midwest TV.
Marshall is a truly iconic angler, as his 33 years in the fishing industry includes a long list of accomplishments. Those include his developing several “crappie-specific” products under his trademarked Mr. Crappie brand. And, recently, founding a consumer crappie fishing event called “Crappie Expo” that also includes the $200,000 Mr. Crappie Invitational fishing tournament and the World’s Largest Fish Fry.
Wally is a true gentleman and great angler, but he is a bit of a character as well. Not particularly fond of snow and cold, Marshall joked that while this was his first open-water Minnesota fishing trip, he had been to Minnesota in the winter before, “I made two winter trips here, my first and last!”
Marshall and I battled high winds, heat, and storms for the better part of three days. During that time, I was able to learn some of Wally’s crappie wisdom. Included, were many interesting thoughts, with several being pertinent to Midwestern anglers.
A big difference that Marshall noted between Midwestern crappie fishing and fishing in the southern United States revolved around the structure or cover that crappies use to call home. “We fish lots of structure, like brush piles, that we actually put in the lakes for the crappies to get around,” Marshall said. “Up here, you don’t have that, so you fish around grass.”
“Grass” is the term Wally used to describe the cabbage and coontail weeds we were finding crappies around.
While the structure that Midwestern crappies relate to might be different than southern crappies, the baits used for catching fish are pretty similar. Small jigs tipped with plastics and very slowly retrieved over and along the “grass” was the fishing method we used. This is the same method commonly used by Midwestern anglers, though Marshall’s preference is for a bit larger baits than are often preferred here.
“One goal I had in coming up here was to show that you don’t have to use those little bitty baits and tubes to catch ‘em,” Wally said. “They’ll readily hit baits 2-inches long.”
Marshall was spot on with that assessment as we put several dozen fish in the boat during our time together using a couple of his signature series baits. The Mr. Crappie Slabalicious and the Mr. Crappie ShadPole are both 2-inches long with enticing actions that the Minnesota crappies loved.
Not only are these baits built with fish-attracting actions, but they come in a wide variety of appealing colors too, many of which we caught fish on. Marshall caught several fish on the Tuxedo Black Chartreuse Glo color pattern, while my favorite color became a new color called Who Dat.
Wally and I fished these baits on his Mr. Crappie Sausage Jigheads in pink or chartreuse colors, mostly in the 1/16-ounce size.
Fishing jigs and plastics on slow retrieves was not new to me, but one thing where Marshall definitely differs from many Midwestern anglers is on his line choice. Many Midwestern waters are clear and anglers are programmed to believe that fish are “line shy,” meaning low visibility lines produce the best.
Marshall disagrees. “I think fish can see all lines and bright line actually attracts fish in some cases,” Wally said. “I developed a Mr. Crappie line in a hi vis monofilament. I like hi vis because I can see the line jump when a fish hits, even on a long cast. I’ve been all over the country and caught crappies on it.”
We definitely caught crappies on the hi vis line, and I am fortunate to have had the chance to share a boat with Mr. Crappie. A good guy, a great angler, and the wisdom he shared will be beneficial to this angler on my future crappie fishing trips. Wisdom that can be used to help other Midwestern anglers up their crappie catches too!
As always, good luck on the water and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure!
Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series. Visit www.fishingthemidwest to see more.