Crappie are a lot of fun to catch and very delicious to eat! Here in Texas, they are one of the most prized pan fish, and are widely considered to be among the best tasting freshwater fish. This is also true for most other states as well. So how do you go about catching crappie? Here are a few tips and tricks to help you fill your stringer every time and catch your limit of slabs.
USE THE RIGHT GEAR
Sometimes the right fishing gear can make all the difference between a successful day at the lake and going back home empty-handed. Getting the right gear for the job is one of the most important steps you can take towards being very effective and efficient in crappie fishing. Here are a few tips:
- Spinning rod and reel combo: You need to make sure that this is light enough for extended jigging, while at the same time having enough backbone to be able to pull fighting-mad slabs out of the water. Your spinning rod and reel combo should have a good enough weight distribution to help you cast well beyond your target area while also allowing you to reel in without any issues.
- Long rods: This is the old school way of doing it. Long rods are very efficient. The distance they place between you and your fishing spot also helps keep you from spooking the fish, which makes it much easier to fish in clear waters.
- Hooks: Using the right hook for the job can really go a long way in helping you reel in more crappie. Aberdeen hooks are great for crappie fishing, because they work really well with live minnow baits. They have just the right level of thinness that lets you hook minnows without killing them, and are long shanked which makes them much more easily retrievable from the crappie. Here is a comprehensive article of crappie fishing hooks if you are interested.
I also have a list of essential crappie fishing gear that I put together for my readers
USE THE RIGHT BAIT
When it comes to live baits, I firmly believe that no live bait beats minnows. As long as you make sure they are lively and you hook them the right way, you will have much success fishing for crappie using live minnow baits.
When you go out to buy your live minnows, be sure to ask for crappie minnows. They are much smaller than “regular” minnows that are commonly used for bass. Once you have them, you need to keep them alive by keeping them in your minnow bucket in the lake or by using an insulated bucket with an aerator.
To hook them, you can either do it at the lips, at the back on the dorsal fin, or at the tail. Or these styles keep the minnow alive and lively if done right. However, they each have their own set of strengths and weaknesses, so you need to make your choice based on that. For instance, hooking them through the lips will make it harder for them to take in oxygen to the gills, and they will die faster (you can prevent this by hooking them only through the upper lip). Hooking them through the back runs the risk of crushing the backbone if you are not careful, and hooking them through the tail can tear off the tail entirely sometimes.
There are also other live baits that you can use. If you can find them, you can also try using crickets and live maggots. A few buddies of mine have been quite successful using these bugs. In fact, I just started using wax worms and “super worms” in the last few weeks and I am pretty impressed. I will use them regularly from here on out. I was able to purchase them from a local pet store. The good news is that the worms stay alive forever without doing anything. I just put them in the garage and they lasted for weeks!
If you crappie fish in colder climates, check out this article on minnows and crappie fishing. I did not write it, but I think it is excellent!
USE THE RIGHT JIGS
Some anglers will only jig for crappie. You may have seen one or two of them wearing one of those “Feel the Thump” t-shirts.
As a crappie angler, you need to get a good assortment of jig heads. Go for size 1/8 to 1/32 oz. These smaller sizes are more manageable when dealing with crappie.
Make sure you also get a few different color plastics. You can then play around with the colors and hopefully, you will stumble upon a winning color combination which the crappie will love that day. Crappie can be rather unpredictable when it comes to colors. What they loved yesterday may not work at all today, which is why it is so important to test out a few different combinations until you find one that works well.
You can also make your work way easier by asking other anglers around you for the color combination they have had success with that day. This will cut down on the time you would otherwise have had to spend trying out different combinations. I find that most fishermen/women will freely part with this information. I have never had an issue asking and receiving an honest answer.
LEARN TO LOCATE THEM
Sometimes figuring out where exactly to fish can be quite frustrating. You might spend hours and not even get a single nibble. It is easy to forget that the crappie are trapped in the lake, they cannot really go anywhere. If you are having a tough time locating them, here are a few pointers to help you out.
Depending on the season, there are specific places that crappie prefer over others. Learning their likes and dislikes will help you catch them sooner.
- Spring: In spring, it’s a free for all situation. Crappie are abundant everywhere, especially in the shallows. You can catch them in as little as 3 feet. You will have the easiest time catching crappie in spring.
- Late fall and Winter: As it gets colder, they move deeper. They do this to protect themselves from the weather and the elements up top. They also go deeper because during winter, temperatures are more stable the lower you go. If you are fishing in late fall and winter, go deeper too and you will find lots of them down there.
- Summer and early fall: The summer heat forces the crappie to seek out cooler waters, which they find by going deep, just above the thermocline. Do the same thing too. Search for them just above the thermocline and you will get a good summer catch.
CATCHING THEM MORE EFFICIENTLY
Once you have located them, you need to catch as many as you can. This is where this next tip comes in. Here is how to be more efficient in catching them.
Crappie are a schooling fish. This means that because they hang out in large groups, finding one at a specific depth will often mean that there are many more around the same place. Therefore, as you fish, keep track of your depth.
So how can you keep track of your depth? Well, you can either start from the bottom and count your reel cranks as you move up. Memorize the depth at which you get a few bites, and go back to the same spot. You can also mark your pole one foot from the reel, then manually drop the line a foot at a time. You can then drop back the exact number of feet to the depth where you got a few bites.
Both these methods have their own sets of pros and cons. While starting from the bottom and cranking up is easier and more efficient, it can get quite troublesome if you are fishing in brush. This is because your line will get snagged a lot, and your entire fishing experience will be an endless combination of battles to unsnag yourself. Use the second method if you are fishing in brush.
Catching crappie is a beloved American activity that anyone can enjoy. As a plus, there is no greater satisfying feeling than eating what you caught. Just to recap, here are a few tricks you need to be aware of if you want to be more efficient in catching crappie:
- Use the right gear. A good spinning rod and reel combo or an efficient old fashion long rod will work well for catching crappie.
- Use the right bait. Live crappie minnow work great, but you can also use live crickets and maggots if you can find them.
- Use the right jigs. Get a good assortment of colors in size 1/8 to 1/32 oz.
- Learn crappie habits and how to locate them. Generally, they love stable temperatures, so they go deeper when it gets too hot or cold.
- Learn to catch them more efficiently. Keep track of your depth so that when you find one at a particular depth, you can always go back to it and catch more.
With these few tips and tricks up your sleeves, you will end up being way more efficient. You will greatly improve your chances at catching your limit of slabs every time you head out.
Leave me your thoughts and comments, as well as your favorite tips below.
Good fishin’ to you,