Pre-spawn Crappie Tips & Techniques to Improve Catch (A Quick Guide to Pre-Spawn Crappie Fishing)

Pre-spawn crappies can be a tricky fish to catch, even in moments when everything feels right. Sometimes, it appears they read my mind and choose to take a day off the moment I decide to go fishing.

Nonetheless, despite the obvious challenges they present, pre-spawn crappie fishing offers the promise of a wonderful day in the sun while also giving me a chance to take a couple of delicious fish home.

If you find yourself in a situation similar to mine, you can study and apply these pre-spawn crappie fishing techniques to improve your chances.

Table of Contents

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What Month Do Crappies Start to Spawn?

Crappies begin to spawn when the water temperature rises to about 60 degrees, which usually begins around February, running through to the middle of May.

Where do I Target Pre-spawn Crappies?

Crappies build their spawning nest in shallow waters which are between one and six feet deep.

If you’re going pre-spawn crappie fishing, you should target the shallow end of the water, as crappies typically move to spawn, and they remain there in concentrated numbers feeding and protecting their nests.

angler holding freshwater crappie close up with a lake background

Where can I Find Pre-spawn Crappies?

There are different locations where you can find pre-spawn crappies.

Natural Lakes

You can find pre-spawn crappies in natural lakes, where they often spawn in the shallow and weedy bays.


Pre-spawn crappies can be found in reservoirs, where they spawn on shallow flats in secondary coves. You can locate pre-spawn crappies in old creek channels with isolated brush and vegetation.


Pre-spawn crappies can also be found in sloughs with slightly deep water and little current.

Mouths Of Creeks And Open Waters

You can find large schools of crappies in the mouth of creeks and open water, just before they move up to the creeks to spawn.


Pre-spawn crappies usually move to warm water during winter months. This places them in high numbers in areas such as dams, bridges, and locks, where the concrete transfers the heat from the sun into the water.

Warm Water Discharges

Pre-spawn crappies can be found in water bodies with warm water discharge. If you can find a body of water that has warm water discharge from a factory or volcanic surrounding, you are likely to find a large concentration of pre-spawn crappies.

Aluminum Docks, Boats, and Pontoons

Aluminum is a great conductor of heat; and when the sun heats the aluminum and the water beneath it, crappie will congregate where it’s warm.

crappie hooked and being reeled in with bait in it's mouth

What are the Best Lures and Baits for Pre-spawn Crappie Fishing?

There are different lures and bait in crappie fishing. You can deploy these baits and lures in pre-spawn crappie fishing.

Soft Plastics

Crappies tend to be attracted by shad and minnows. You can use soft plastic to create grub and worm imitations.

This gives you a higher chance of getting crappies to bite your line.

Micro Jigs

Micro jigs are also effective in catching pre-spawn crappies. They are small, and they use little trailers to create a bite-size morsel that can attract fishes the size of crappies.

Jig Head Lures

Jig Head lures are bigger than micro jigs, which makes them capable of diving deeper. You can use jig head lures if you want to go a little deeper in your pre-spawn fishing.

Imitation Lures

Fishes are attracted to food in their habitat. If you can create a lure that is similar to what they eat, you can increase your chances in pre-spawn crappie fishing.


The gleams and flashes that spinnerbaits create in the water causes an instant reaction from Crappies, and this can improve your chances of success.

Related articles:

man holding Crappie fish

What are Some Tips and Techniques to Use to Catch Pre-spawn Crappie?

These are some pre-spawn fishing tactics you can use to boost your odds.


Crappies are not very big, so small spoons between 1/6- to 1/4-ounce can be ideal in catching pre-spawn fish. You can use sonar to find crappies suspended above humps, points and breaklines before free-spooling a jiggy spoon to the fish.


You can use spinners to lure crappies by locating scattered pre-spawn crappies by using small safety-pin-style spinners.

Begin by creating a fan cast in a big circle. Then, as you retrieve, work the lure slowly through the woody cover. If you’re fishing for pre-spawn crappies in visible cover, you should cast beyond the cover and bring the lure through or alongside it.

Look for Ledges

Crappies often gather at ledges that are 10 feet or more. Ledges located near weed beds, timber stands or other crappie cover typically have high concentrations of crappies. You can use micro jigs to lure crappies in ledges.

Find Super-structure

Crappies often concentrate in smaller areas of a much larger body of water. Crappies tend to gather in small schools where they can cluster and stay secluded from the general lake structure.

Locating these spots can give you a much better chance of catching more crappies in one location.

Jig for Hideaway Crappies

Crappies often take up positions in areas that might be challenging to reach. You can use a jig and a jigging pole in reaching these hidden crappies.

Take up a good position, and hold the line-guide eye nearest the reel. Then pull the jig tight against the rod edge, before carefully working it through the tangles of the cover until it reaches the desired fishing hole.

Points & Crankbaits

Crappies also tend to congregate in areas that can only be reached with baitfish-imitating crankbaits.

You might find it challenging to hold crankbaits at the desired depth, while also slowly moving it around to attract evading crappies. You can fix this by using a light line of about four to six pound test.

Crank to achieve the desired depth, and slowly move across the bottom to attract the crappies.

crappie hooked and being reeled in with bait in it's mouth

Soft Strikes

You should be on the lookout for any slight movement on your line, as pre-spawn crappies aren’t known to bite down heavily.

Be on alert to set the hook the instant your line goes slack, or you notice any movement. You should also try to note the depth at which the crappie hit the bait, as there might be more crappies in the area.

River Tactics

Crappies migrate to warmer areas once temperature begins to rise. Water temperatures differ from river to river, so you need to find the water body with the most suitable temperature for crappies.

You can look up water with reduced currents, such as backwaters and side channels. You can also look at water areas that connect backwaters and rivers.

It’s important that you explore as many locations as possible, while also changing tactics accordingly, in order to identify the best spot, the best lures and baits, and the best fishing techniques.

Tailwater Tips

Crappies often rest, feed, and breed in current break areas such as lock walls, wing dams, boulders, and sandbar edges.

In this type of water, you will want to use a combination of jig and minnie to create a leadhead that’s heavy enough to reach the depth of the current.

Watch The Weather

The weather determines the movement of crappies, hence you should keep an eye out for changes in temperature.

When the weather starts getting warmer, male crappies begin to build nests in the shallow area of the waters in preparation for the breeding season. The male crappies will then be joined by female crappies who swim up in search of food.

When the temperature drops, crappies return to deeper waters, where they stay in bottom structures with more cover.

Crappies’ location in the spring differs from crappies hideout in the winter. Hence, you should learn to read the weather to know the best time to find crappies.

Final Tips

  • Hunt for cover, not the crappie.
  • Crappie can be found in 30 to 40-foot waters during the pre-spawn.
  • Fish at the docks and look for aluminum.
  • Look for crappie in creek channels leading to spawning areas.
  • Troll ledges.
  • Big crappie suspend in large clusters at the mouths of creeks.
  • Locate large schools of shad.
  • Find waterfowl dewatering areas.


Pre-spawn Crappie fishing is an exciting experience, especially when you find the right location. Understanding the right techniques will not only give you a better chance of catching more crappies, it will also improve your general fishing tactics.

The exciting thing about fishing is that the learning never ends. So, don’t hesitate to share your crappie fishing experience in the comment section.

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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