are, in my opinion, one of the most fun fish to catch and certainly one
of the best tasting fish. They swim in large schools and are found
throughout most of the U.S. and into Canada. Crappie prefer fairly warm
water and are normally found in nearly all types of cover. They average
6-11" fully grown, however with enough food and cover they can reach
lengths up to 17". A large crappie is referred to as a "Slab". In most
waters, crappie with a weight of 1/2 to 1 pound are considered good
fish. In other waters, crappie are not considered large until they hit
the 1 1/2 or 2 pound mark. They can, under ideal circumstances, reach
weights of up to 6 pounds.
are versatile feeders, eating most types of insects, worms, and
small crayfish and minnows. This variety of forage makes choosing baits
for crappie fairly simple. Just about every angler has one bait that he
or she swears will outfish any other. This is because that person
probably uses that particular bait much more than any other. This is
not necessarily a bad thing, however, because having confidence in your
bait is almost as important as having a bait at all. As a rule of
thumb, if the fish are eating it, keep using it. When the fish seem to
stop eating it, don't keep using it. If the fish aren't biting, you can
try three things:
a different presentation.
That is slow down, speed up, twitch, or change your retrieve in some
a different color lure.
Crappie are especially famous for being color picky. Simply switching
from a green jig to a yellow one can make the difference between a few
bites and a stringer of slabs.
baits completely. If you
have been using minnows all day and have caught no fish, try switching
to a small spinner or jig. The fish could want something with more or
less action than your bait produces, so you must experiment until you
find what they want. Most baits will catch plenty of fish provided they
are presented to the fish in the right way at the right time. That
means choosing a lure is about 50% trial-and-error and 50% your
preference. Though minnows and worms are often very effective for
catching crappie, I rarely use them because of their cost and/or effort
to catch them. The three types of lures that I use most and I recommend
to all crappie anglers are:
Jigs- These are the small
jigs that have little furry bodies and puffy, feathery tails. They come
in many sizes and tons of colors,are very durable, and are fairly cheap
to buy (I catch them on sale at Wal-Mart for $.25 for a four-pack).
They can also be easily made at home with some yarn and pipe cleaners.
These jigs are perfect for finesse fishing picky crappie, vertical
jigging over structure, or suspending under a bobber. I prefer a 1/16
or 1/32 oz. jig. When choosing a color, I follow the table below.
Grubs- These are the soft
plastic baits that have curly tails on the back that produce lots of
action when jigged or retrieved steadily. They come in many sizes, but
I like a 1 1/2"- 2 1/2" grub for crappie. Rig them with a 1/8- 1/64 oz.
jig head, depending on conditions and preference. Follow chart below to
choose a color.
These are my personal favorite lures to use when crappie fishing. This
is because they are very versatile, effective, and fairly weedless.
When I say versatile, I mean you never know just what you are going to
catch on them. I have caught 16" bass, 9" bluegill, 21" catfish, and
13" pike while crappie fishing with a spinner. The spinners I use and
have the best results with are the smallest sized ones I can find. The
1/16 oz. Beetle Spin is the perfect size. Wal-Mart caries several sizes
of the individual spinners, but the absolute smallest ones are the
best. I have also found that gold blades seem to produce slightly more
strikes than the normal silver. I strongly recommend trying the tiny
gold blades the next time you are on the water. Here is a breakdown of
the types of spinners I use:
Leaf Blade- This is a very
effective type of blade and seems to work well on most species. Try
rigging it with a 2" tube bait or curly tail.
Colorado (circular) Blade-
This blade type produces a lot of vibrations and can be fished very
slowly. Rig with 2" tube bait or, for even more action, add a curly
tail to it. This combo is great for very stained, dark water.
Blade- My Favorite! A tiny,
gold, Colorado blade with a 1/32 oz. jig head and a hot-colored, 2"
tube bait is a dynamite lure for nearly any freshwater species. I
suggest going to Wal-Mart and picking up a 2-pack of these tiny gold
spinners. You will be glad you did!
These come in tons of colors, sizes, and brands, but they have never
let me down. The 1/8 and 1/16 oz. sizes are perfect for crappie as well
as other fish. They are also a good choice.
Now that you know which
type of lure to choose, what color should you use? Well the answer to
this is simple, yet terribly difficult. Often you must try many
different colors before you find the one that will catch the most fish.
However, here is something to go by:
Try following these
basic guidelines the next time you are choosing a lure and color and I
think you will be pleased. However, remember this is just a guideline.
If these techniques do not produce fish, try something totally
- Clear Water: In clear
and lightly stained waters, the most important thing to remember is to
match the natural food items. When fishing with a minnow type lure,
such as a tube bait or a shad shaped lure, try to use natural looking
colors such as silver, smoke, gray, etc. When jigging near or on the
bottom, try using browns or dark greens.
- Dark/ Stained Water:
In stained or muddy waters, the keys to attracting strikes are
vibration and brightness. Because dark water filters out much of the
sunlight, often the best fishing is during mid-day or bright sunlight
times. The fish can see better with more light penetrating. Vibrations
also thoroughly help crappie to find forage in dark water, so a lure
that produces these is usually a plus. Spinners, grubs, and jigs that
are kept moving are usually good choices. Choose bright colors! Try
using chartreusse, hot pink, white, yellow, hot green, etc. Sparkles
are also good.
- Cloudy Days: Cloudy,
overcast days limit the amount of sunlight that reaches the fish. Try
using colors that are slightly darker than you would normally use.
Browns, greens, and even black are good colors to try on cloudy days.
One of my personal favorites is a 2" black curly-tail grub with a
yellow or chartreusse tail. The fish seen to pick up the combination of
light and dark very well. I also use a small gold spinner with this
- Bright Sunlight: Sunny
days are usually fairly simple days to choose a lure color. Try the
brightest color you have first. Chartreusse, white, yellow, and hot
pinks and greens are favorites of mine. Try small silver or gold
spinners to produce extra flash as well.
- Night Fishing: Crappie
fishing at night is said to be quite productive, though I have never
tried. Because of the lack of light at night, try jet black lures, or
combinations of black and other colors.
are fairly active year round, but fall and spring offer the hottest
fishing. The warming spring water temperatures triggers a feed-a-thon
amongst fish. Crappie spawn when the water temperature reaches about
52-60 degrees. Just before spawning (when the water hits about 48-51
degrees), they move into shallower water and feed aggressively. This is
known as the pre-spawn period. Most crappie move into shoreline cover
such as fallen trees and shallow coves during this time. The females
will then lay their eggs and move to slightly deeper water while the
males stay in the shallows and guard the nest. If you catch several
smaller fish in shallow water, try moving to the nearest dropoff and
you may find the larger females feeding. These pre-spawn and spawn
periods of spring often offer the best fishing of the year. The cooling
water of the fall also offers good crappie fishing. When the warm
summer waters begin to cool down, the fish begin feeding aggressively
in order to fatten up for the winter. Schools of big slabs can be
caught easily during this "fall feed-up". Crappie are fish that love
structure, so key in on ares with prominent cover. Rock piles, shallow
coves, stumps, points, fallen trees, and submerged brush are all
favorites. Many anglers sink Christmas trees, old bushes, tires, and
even wooden pallettes to create homes for big fish. Vertical jigging is
a good method to fish submerged cover. A 1/32 or 1/16 oz. jig dropped
into brush and twitched will produce many fish if the conditions are
right. Try swimming a small spinner through stump fields or along
fallen trees to locate the slabs. When you identify the depth at which
most of the fish are holding, try suspending a jig or minnow at that
depth under a small bobber. This is an effective way to keep your bait
in the desired depth for a much longer period of time.
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