Getting a Crappie Fishing Education on Lake Talquin

Large Fish, Lots of Lines, and a Slow Trolling Presentation

Crappie with Jig
This picture shows a 13 ounce crappie with a Hal Fly jig in its mouth. 2006 Ronnie Garrison licensed to About.com

Many years ago I got to fish on Florida's Lake Talquin and experienced amazing crappie fishing. In a half day of fishing we kept twelve crappie weighing 17 pounds. The smallest was just over a pound, and the biggest just over 2, as weighed on scales. And that was on a slow day!

Darren Carson, a professional crappie tournament fisherman from Gray, Georgia, took me to Lake Talquin. Darren fished a couple of professional tournament trails, and was a very skillful and successful crappie angler.

After fishing a tournament at Talquin one time, he fell in love with the lake, rented a house there, and fished it regularly every afterward.

Just over the state line near Quincy, Florida, Lake Talquin is named after Tallahassee and Quincy, the two nearest cities. It is shallow, with stumps and logs everywhere in the black, tannic water. The crappie and bass grow fast and big because the water drains many fertilized fields and phosphate deposits.

Darren’s boat is set up for trolling up to sixteen rods at a time in what has become known as spider rigging. Since I was inexperienced at fishing this way we used "only" twelve rods, four in the back for me and eight up front for him. We deployed two jigs on most of the rods, so we were trolling about twenty jigs at one time covering a strip of water about 32 feet wide with each trolling pass. Darren looked for fish on his sonar and kept the boat moving at a constant speed so the jigs would not get hung up.

Darren had an amazing assortment of jigs for crappie fishing. There were dozens of colors and color combinations and a range of weights from about 1/64-ounce up to about ¼-ounce. We tried a variety of colors at first, but settled on a red/green/yellow combination that seemed to be the favorite of the fish that day.

Darren adjust colors based on water clarity and brightness of the day. Weight is changed to control the depth the jigs run at a steady trolling motor speed. He uses his electric motor for trolling, not the outboard motor. 

When a fish hit we would hold the rod tips high and reel it in, trying to keep it from tangling other lines. I caught the biggest crappie of the day, which tangled up six other lines while I was reeling it in. With the 4-pound-test line we were using I could not force a 2-pound crappie to come straight in.

At one point something hit one of my jigs and took off. I thought it was a big bass, but Darren said it could be a hybrid striper or a catfish. He told me to break it off before it took all the line off the reel. I really hated to do that, and wanted to see the fish. But even if I got it coming toward the boat it would really tangle up everything since it ran where ever it wanted to go. I put my finger on the spinning reel spool to stop the drag and the line popped.

At the time, Darren said that a catch like ours was not unusual and that we should have caught a lot more. According to him, the crappies are active all year long at Talquin, but spring is best. Fishing in that environment, and with the techniques that Darren employed, was an education for me, and this information might prove useful to you wherever you chase crappies.

This article was edited and revised by our Freshwater Fishing expert, Ken Schultz.