Are you looking to perfect your crappie fishing tactics? With crappie being one of the best tasting freshwater fish (other than fried catfish), you’ll definitely want to learn these techniques so you can easily bring in buckets of crappie. Ok, so what I want to go over today is the basics of crappie fishing, where to look for them during the different seasons, what types of crappie bait to use, and some techniques for fishing your selected baits.
Crappie Fishing Basics
The first thing you should know about crappie is that they are a schooling fish. So when you find one, often you can fish several out of the same location. But not only are crappie a schooling a fish, but they are also a small, panfish with very fragile mouths. Therefore, they aren’t going to put up much of a fight (unless you catch a 2 plus pound whopper), and if you set the hook too hard, you could tear the hook out of the crappie’s mouth. Also, because crappie are in the panfish family, their mouths are very small, and you’ll need to gear down your rigs when you go after them, or they simply won’t be able to get there mouth around the bait, and you’ll lose lots of fish.
Crappie multiply quickly in environments that have a good balance of shallow water, deep water, and good cover. I’ll talk more about their seasonal movements in just a minute.
Where to Find Crappie
Finding crappie depends on the time of year and conditions. During the spring crappie spawn, you’ll find them in very shallow areas, perhaps even as shallow as a foot or two of water. The structure will typically be a slow, sloping bottom, without many points or drop offs that would trigger ambushments from other game fish. Also, the area will likely be a cove or other wind and current protected area with lots of cover. Submerged tree branches and bulrushes with some sandy bottom areas in between are great locations for crappie schools.
During the summer months, you’ll want to look for schools of crappie under bridges, lilly pads, underwater tree limbs, docks, and other shady areas. Look for them in depths of at least 4 feet, and as much as 15 to 20 feet of more, or perhaps even more. Like most fish, when the summer heat is on, they like to dive where the water is cooler; however, they are oxygen sensitive, and they’ll be in areas that have plenty of it.
Find fall crappie can be challenging. As the surface water temperature cools, it falls and warmer, deep water is brought to the surface, thus bottom debris is brought to the surface. This can disrupt the oxygen levels and water clarity. The problem is the water temperature begins to be constant, whether you are deep or shallow. So the crappie could be at any depth.
But crappie fishing during the fall still follows some basic precepts. Crappie are going to try to find areas that have good light, plenty of oxygen, and suitable cover. So if there is a lot of debris in the water, find areas of clear and shallow water, as the fish will have more oxygen and availability of food. Once the water turnover is over, look for crappie to congregate around stumps and other standing timber. This offers the crappie the luxury of running shallow, or deep, depending on light levels. On bright, clear water days, they’re likely to be deep, likewise on overcast days with murky water, they’ll probably be shallow.
Catching winter crappie can be challenging as well, but not impossible. The fish will be looking for the warmest water possible, so they will likely be deep. During the middle of the day, when the weather is warmest, you can find them in a little higher, as they look for bait fish to feed on. Adjust your rigs, and slow your retrieve after you find a school of fish on your fish finder, and go after them.
Crappie Fishing Bait
The part you’ve been waiting for, what bait to use to catch them. Probably the best live bait to use are small minnows. Get them in 1 to 2 inch sizes, and hook them through the upper and lower lip. Worms and maggots may work as well, but most bait stores will have small minnows that will be great for crappie fishing.
Crappie lures are my favorite way to go. You can use small spinnerbaits and crankbaits, but the best option for catching the crappie are jigs. And the best of the best in the jig class are marabou jigs. For beginners, stick with white, yellow and chartreuse colored jigs. If the water clarity is really low, try some darker colors like black, purple or dark orange.
Some Crappie Fishing Tactics
Crappie aren’t very fast fish, and because of their schooling tendencies, probably the most widely used method to catch them is “jigging”. This is mostly effective when using crappie jigs, where you select an area to fish, drop your jig(s), and bounce them up and down at the depth your fish finder shows the fish to be in. This will keep the bait in the strike zone for a good length of time, and entice the fish.
If you are fishing live bait, you may put them under a bobber, or drop them to the bottom, and then slowly raise them up to try and find the depth that the crappie are located in. Once you find the depth, adjust your rig to keep your bait at that same level.
At times, trolling can be an acceptable way to find crappie. Use small crankbaits or spinnerbaits, and once you find the fish, stop and commence with jigging or live bait tactics, until the fishing action slows down.