Over the years, crappies have quickly become a popular fish to target for anglers. They give a thrilling fight, taste great, and can stimulate the part of every angler that loves a challenge!
Like any fish, there are many ways to target and catch the Crappie.
Knowing these before you venture out on your trip will increase your chances of success greatly!
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Table of Contents
The Crappie – Its habitat & Diet
As many experienced anglers will tell you, you need to know what you are fishing for! Things like identifying the fish, its habits and diet, and what habitat it prefers are all aspects that will help you catch the crappie!
There are two species of crappie that look slightly different. The white crappie is lighter with straight black stripes running vertically along with it. Whereas the black crappie is darker and has black spots. Both species are similar in size and shape.
On average, crappies weigh about half a pound ( 0.25kg ) to 1 pound ( 0.45kg ), but are capable of growing much bigger in the right environment. In 2018, Jam Ferguson caught a crappie that broke the IGFA All-Tackle world record by catching a five-pound monster!
The crappie’s preferred habitat are bodies of fresh water filled with structures such as rocks, weeds, broken down trees, and shady areas with dense cover. Crappies feed on smaller fish and insects primarily.
When to Fish
Knowing when to fish is important. Like most fish, crappies are more active in the morning and when the sun goes down, and during spawning season.
Spawning season for crappies falls between May to June. During this time your male crappies show more aggression on the strike which can be an exhilarating experience.
During the day when the sun is out, the crappie, like the bass, becomes more lethargic. Their movements are slower, and they try to preserve more energy.
Seasons also determine where you will find the crappie. In summer, crappie will look for water with cooler temperatures, so you will find them in deeper spots. In the spawning season or spring, crappies come to shallow water.
In fall the spawning season is over, and now the crappie are trying to bulk up for the coming winter. This is prime time to fish for them! With the turnover caused by wind and rain, we see a relative consistency in water temperatures, which is great for catching crappie!
Where to Fish
Crappie like a moderate water temperature, so they will migrate closer to the shore with reasonable depth near structures such as an overshadowing or fallen tree.
Knowing if there’s structure below such as rocks and weeds will also be a promising area to fish.
Crappies like consistent water, so with the winds causing turnover in fall, they will look for areas of still untouched water such as quiet corners or areas with lots of cover from the wind.
If you find these areas, be sure to mark them, as they should be relatively consistent in producing fish.
Crappies love to stick close to fallen branches or bushes, and these areas will generally outproduce others, so whether you are fishing from the boat or shore, keep an eye out for structures like this.
Catching Crappie in the fall can be great fun, but you have to have the right rod for it! Most anglers targeting the crappie use light to ultra-light rods with or smaller spool spinning reels or bait casters.
A reel I can personally suggest is the Okuma Ceymar C-10. This reel holds roughly 100 yards of four pound line and has a 5:1 ratio.
Obviously, the lighter the poundage on your line, the more technique in fighting the fish is required. Ultra-light rods will do, but look for a decent rod length, such as 6-8ft ( 72-96 inches ). Choose the right rod for the best experience!
Baits & Lures
Crappie prey on smaller fish and insects, so when it comes to rigging a bait we want to mimic the crappie’s prey as best we can.
There are methods, lures, and baits that anglers use and have success with, each to their own, but experience has proven that specific methods work better than others.
Crappie feed on smaller fish like shad and some of their predators like the pike and bass. Using a throw net is a productive way of retrieving these baitfish.
You can feed live bait minnows on hooks in different ways, such as through the mouth up and out just above the eyes. Or another method to provide the fish with more swimming capability is just above the dorsal fin. In one side and out the other.
When using live bait, the spider rigging method is a great one to use. By using smaller teardrop floats with a small sinker head hook – roughly ¼ of an ounce – will do the trick. Be sure to spread the rods out to cover more area. Other methods include using jigs, minnows, and crankbaits.
Jigging is said to be the best method to catch crappie in the fall. Jigging is basically using a weighted hook with a soft bait rubber lure that resembles the prey of the crappie.
Lures resemble grubs, minnows, or swimbait, and are best suited with the presentation and action you are looking for in your retrieve.
There are some crappie lures that are considered the best. Lures such as the Marabou Jig or bucktail jig resemble your flying insects well and are best suited to a slow retrieve with a tug here and there.
You can also use swimming baits such as minnows that mimic shad.
You can get these in a variety of colors and can use them in different ways, such as pairing a small minnow with a bobber, and a small weighted sinker if you want the minnow to swim lower. Crankbaits also provide great success when you target crappie!
The Strike King’s Slab Hammer cranks as some of the best cranks to use. Be sure to check the depth at which your crank swims to avoid getting stuck unnecessarily.
Crappie Fishing Techniques
With each bait comes a preferred way of using it. Some jigs need to be retrieved slowly, some fast. Some need you to provide different actions to cause the lure to produce different movements to draw the fish’s attention.
In the fall, I have noticed anglers tend to favor using minnows with a slow retrieve whilst giving a flick every now and then to produce quick movement at the lure.
But it helps to know other methods.
Vertical jigging also works very well. Vertical jigging is basically dropping your jig down off a boat or dock straight into a school of crappies and giving some jerks to provide the lure with movement. Other methods are also just keeping your jig at a standard depth with little to no movement.
It’s worth mentioning that most fish, like the crappie, prefer different methods at different times, so whether you are using a fast retrieve with a crank, a slow retrieve with a minnow and a bounce, or even a stationary hold with vertical jigging, you will have to try different variations to see what the crappie take to on that day and then stick with it.
It’s a great idea to understand how your lures look underwater when you move them. We have lures that fall horizontally, drop fast and vertically, and have tails that flare well to attract attention.
Here is a great video that gives us an understanding of how Crappie baits look underwater.
Towards the end of fall when temperatures start to drop, we are faced with having to fish in areas that are sometimes frozen over.
This provides us with a great opportunity as we can now punch a hole in the ice directly over areas like weed beds or where we see good structure. Using either one of the vertical jigging methods works perfectly for this.
I would suggest you take a look at some different lures during this time, though. Colder water means the fish will try to spend less energy, so the lure will have to really draw their attention and prompt a strike.
Here are some suggestions on lures to use when fishing through the ice.
Catching crappie in the fall is a great time to target this beautiful fish! Having just come out of spawning season, the fish are eating as well as they can to fatten up for the winter.
Remember, look for structure, shade, and a reasonably good depth. Present your bait well and try different variations to see what the fish want that day! And last but not least, enjoy the thrill of catching these awesome fish!