By: Matt Foster
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to watch a fish take your bait live? Garmin Livescope was released in 2018 and it’s the latest craze to hit the fishing world. Nearly all tournament anglers and guides have one. With it retailing for $1,499, most weekend anglers can afford it, too. However, most who use it will tell you it’s not as easy as dropping your bait into a crappies mouth. I reached out to some of the best Garmin Livescope fishermen in the country to see exactly what it takes to be successful when using Garmin Livescope.
I contacted TJ Shands with Sling Em’ In Guide Service. Shands consistently catches giant Mississippi crappie utilizing his Garmin Livescope. Shands has his Garmin Livescope LVS32 transducer mounted on his trolling motor. According to Shands, it allows him to chase fish more easily in open water. One thing Shands mentioned was having it mounted on a pole was just too much. He said with it mounted on a pole, “I feel like I would always be worrying about where the transducer was facing, positioning the boat using the trolling motor, and figuring out where to drop my jig. I just stuck it on the trolling motor, so when I look at the head of the trolling motor I know exactly where that fish is sitting.” Shands uses a B’n’M STICK that is thirteen-foot in length. Shands said, “I wanted a power rod that could boat flip the biggest crappie in the lake. I fish alone a lot, and I’m much more efficient boat flipping a fish instead of trying to net it. And with the B’n’M 13′ Stick, I can let out 13′ of line, and pitch out to 26′ and let it swing back to the fish.”
I asked him how he had his rod rigged and he told me that he rigs his B’n’M Stick with Vicious braided line. He said, “I don’t like the stretch of monofilament. I like the sensitivity and durability of braid.” Shands also explained, “I only use one MAD Crappie Jig with a Crappie Magnet, but run a 1/4 oz weight that slides free on my mainline. I tie a barrel swivel on the end, then attach a leader that is 8-10 inches long that my jig goes on. Since I’m looking at the fish, there’s no point in running another jig above the one on the bottom because that’s the only thing I’m putting in the fish’s face. Shands said, “The key to being successful with livescope is boat control, being able to keep your jig in the fish’s face for as long as it takes, without thinking about it. I suggest not only using the livescope for fishing, but paying attention to the profile of every fish you see, how it swims, how it sits, and how it reacts. That will help you when you’re searching for them, and you see one at 50 feet. You already know how they are acting, so you know what kind of fish it is and whether you want to fish for it or not.
I also had the opportunity to interview Robert Carlile of Robert Carlile Crappie Fishing. Carlile has won multiple tournaments utilizing the Garmin Livescope. I asked Carlile where he mounted the Garmin LVS32 Livescope Transducer. Carlile said he has it mounted on both the trolling motor and a separate pole mount. However, Carlile, said, “If a person is only going to have one, it needs to be on the trolling motor for sure.” Carlile explained that “One of the main advantages is you can control the boat, locate the fish quicker, and it’s all happening with the trolling motor. If you are trying to control the boat with the trolling motor and control the pole along with trying to catch a fish it can become quite complicated.” Carlile mainly chases open-water crappie that are isolated around structure, but not on structure. When fishing open water, Carlile will travel across the lake using his trolling motor searching for big fish. Once he locates a big fish, he will drop his power poles to slow his boat down and grab his Huckabee Rod, paired with a Grenada Lake Tackle Company jig head and MCM Tackle, and go to work. “Although, if solely catching fish on structure,” Carlile said, “that’s where the pole works best. I will spot-lock the trolling motor and fish structure.”
When I asked Carlile what rod he prefers to use, he said, “Basically, I have long rods and short rods depending on what lake I’m fishing. In clear water lakes, I will cast to the fish and in muddy lakes, I use my long ones, 10.5′ up to a 13′ rod. Carlile stated he typically uses a 12-pound monofilament fishing line. Carlile will use 1/4 ounce Grenada Lake Tackle jig heads all the way down to 1/60th ounce MCM hair jig, but starts off with a small profile and works his way to a larger profile. I asked Carlile about color selection and he said, “I’m not big on different colors. I got colors for clear lakes and colors for muddy lakes. In a clear water lake, you have to use more natural colors and brighter color jigs in a muddy lake.” The thing he thinks is more important than jig color is jig profile. Carlile said, “I keep multiple Huckabee rods with multiple bait profiles on the bow of my boat so I can change it up at a moment’s notice without having to retie a jig.” Carlile mentioned that, “Always changing and being versatile is key to being successful. If you don’t have versatility in your pocket you will not be successful day in and day out.”
I also contacted tournament fisherman and owner of Crappie Monster, Jeremy Mattingly. Mattingly who has had Garmin Livescope since October 2019, decided to mount it on his trolling motor due to getting the least amount of dead spots in this location. Mattingly said, “I do not like the separate pole because it makes it more difficult to livescope in high wind.” Mattingly stated, “I’ve done it so much, I just know which way it’s pointing by the position of my foot pedal.” Mattingly informed me that his favorite livescope rod is the 12′ B’n’M Brushcutter. Mattingly said, his choice of line is twenty-pound braid. I asked him what jigs he prefers and he said, “I have just about quit using minnows because with livescope I don’t need minnows anymore. By getting close to them I can see them react and how they react to sweet talk them into biting.”
I asked Mattingly if he believed that jig color mattered and he said, “I still believe color matters, but you need to have clear water colors for fishing clear water, something natural looking. For muddy water, you need something dark so they can see it. I feel like the most important thing is the bait profile and the presentation of the bait. I have been using white and chartreuse Crappie Monster Uppercuts like it’s going out of style.” Mattingly likes to use a 3/8 ounce jig head with a spinner and a #2 hook. He told me, “the jig head is currently being prototyped and I’ve caught over 1,000 fish off that same jig head.”
The one thing Mattingly stated first-time livescope users need to learn is to, “Know and pay attention to what is on the screen so it can be repeated. The reason people use livescope and don’t catch big crappie is because they are fishing for the wrong species. If you see a tailfin, it is not crappie, it’s a carp, catfish, or white bass. Look for dimes; if you can cover the fish on the screen with a dime, that is what you are looking for.” Mattingly said, “I would recommend anglers start off by fishing brush and once they are comfortable with that and they see one fish spook into open water to chase after it.” Mattingly also mentioned that “Muddy water is the easiest to fish because the fish won’t spook as bad.”
If you haven’t had the opportunity to use the Garmin Livescope yet, I highly recommend it. If you have and need some help catching fish using it, I suggest a knowledgeable guide. By going with a guide, you will shorten the learning curve and you will be catching crappie in no time. Thank you to TJ, Jeremy, and Robert for taking time out of your schedules to answer all my questions. Be sure to check out Sling Em In Guide Service and Robert Carlile Crappie Fishing for your guide service and livescope training. Also, be sure to check out Crappie Monster for all your crappie fishing needs.