Crappie Fishing Basics – Go From Novice to Pro!

If you have been looking to get into crappie fishing, you have come to the right place. If you are a seasoned pro looking for a community of like-minded potential fishing buddies, this is also it. This entire website is dedicated to helping beginners, professionals and enthusiasts to improve their crappie fishing skills and techniques. Take a look around for all the answers to your questions.


This article will focus on crappie fishing basics. This includes everything a complete beginner will need to know before getting into the wonderful art of crappie fishing. Let’s begin!


What is a Crappie



A crappie is a type of North American freshwater fish that is part of the sunfish family (same as bluegills). Crappie are considered to be one of the most fished freshwater fish in the US, along with bass, trout and catfish.


They have a lifespan of about 3 to 4 years in the wild, but can live to up to 8 years in a controlled environment. A young one-year old crappie would be about 4 inches long, and a 3-year-old crappie would be about 8 inches long. A fully-grown crappie is between 10 to 20 inches long. They can weigh over 4.5 pounds (very rare to catch one of these bad boys).


There are two types of crappie: black crappie and white crappie. They are both considered to be among the most delicious pan fish to eat. Experienced anglers can often tell the difference between white and black crappie by looking at the body shape and color. Black crappie tend to be larger, rounder and with a darker color with scattered speckles all over their bodies. White crappie, on the other hand, are lighter, more oval shaped, and have vertical dark bands on their bodies instead of speckles. However, a good trick that anyone can use is by counting the number of spines the fish has. White crappie have a maximum of 6 spines while black crappie have between 7 and 8 spines.


In your fishing adventures, you may stumble upon the rarer ‘gray’ crappie. Gray crappie are actually a hybrid of black and white crappie, and show a diverse mix of different characteristics from the parent crappie. They came about as black crappie were introduced into predominantly white crappie habitats and vice versa. Although not as common as black or white crappie, there is always a good chance of catching one.


Crappie are commonly called by many different names, including papermouth, silver perch, goldring, speck, strawberry bass, speckled perch and calico bass. They are also known as sac-a-lait, one of the coolest names I have ever heard 🙂


crappie eating a minnow



Every angler has their reasons why they enjoy fishing so much. Most times, it is all about the fish. Some anglers enjoy the thrill of the fight, catching an elusive beast, or simply getting those easy catches that allow you to doze off once in a while and still be successful.


Crappie are interesting because they have it all. You get a little bit f everything when you fish for crappie. They can be shallow or deep, elusive or insanely abundant, lazy or surprisingly aggressive, all rolled into one. Whatever you are looking for, you will always get it with crappie. They know how to keep things interesting.


Why is this? Crappie are very smart fish. Individual fish behave differently. This is especially apparent when you look at how they react to being caught. Sometimes you may barely feel a crappie strike, while other times they may strike so hard you would think it is a big bass. This behavior makes it very important to stay active and pay attention to your line whenever you fish for crappie, because you just never know what to expect from them. They act in this way for various reasons.


A bigger crappie may strike harder, or depending on whether the fish is hunting or defending itself, the bite will feel different. This is what makes crappie fishing so much fun. There is never a boring moment, because the crappie will always keep you alert and on your toes. Plus, the fact that they have delicate mouths (which is why they are called papermouths), forces you to tame your excitement when pulling them out and do it gently but firmly with a steady lift of your fishing pole’s tip.


Personally, I just love fishing. Being in nature, mostly by myself, has a therapeutic and calming effect that I can find nowhere else. For years I have been a catch and release angler. That lasted until one of my fishing buddies had me over for some fried crappie! The rest is history. As long as the crappies are within the size limit (and bag limit), I have kept them and cleaned them.


They taste fantastic! Even my picky daughters who think anything other than pizza or burgers tastes “weird”, love my crappie (and catfish) fish fries. If you get the chance, try it out. You will be amazed!


creeks and Lakes



To understand where to find crappie, you need to have a good understanding of their behavior. Crappie are a schooling freshwater fish, which means when you find one, it is very likely that there are a lot more of them around the same place.


Whenever you go out to the lake, remember that crappie behave differently depending on the season and the weather. In Spring, they are abundant everywhere, which means you can find them in as little as 3 feet below the surface. This is the easiest time to fish for crappie. As it gets colder in late fall and winter, they move deeper, so you need to look for them deeper too. The summer heat also forces them deeper just above the thermocline as they seek out cooler waters, which is where you will find most of them.


Finally, remember that crappie love still and slow-moving waters. Expect to find more of them in lakes and slow-moving rivers than in fast moving rivers.


Here is a good article I wrote on the topic look for the section titled how to find them


when to fish for crappie




I fish all year round! Rain and cold do not stop me from hitting the lakes. The only thing that stops me from fishing is lightning! I am always puzzled when I hear people tell me that they only fish in spring, or summer. Why limit the most fun activity on the entire planet ( ok I may be a bit biased) to 3 or 6 months!


You can, and should fish all year! You need to know crappie behaviors so you can maximize your chances of catching them. Once you know their quirks, you are armed with the information you need to catch them no matter the season!


Crappie behavior changes with changing seasons. They move to different parts of the water at different times of the year and depending on the general temperature of the water.


As stated earlier, having a good understanding of how they like things will make it a lot easier to catch them. This is why it is possible to fish for crappie all year round.


In Spring and early fall, look for them in shallow water where they come to feed on baitfish. It is during this time that you can expect to have the easiest time catching crappie, because they are very close to the surface and on predator mode, so they attack anything that moves, including your bait.


In Summer, late fall and winter, crappie dive deeper due to the extreme conditions on the surface. In Summer, it is too hot up above, so they dive deeper to seek out cooler waters. In late fall and winter, it is too cold on the surface, so they dive deeper to find warmer water zones. Fishing for crappie in these conditions is much more challenging, which makes the entire experience way more rewarding, entertaining and challenging.


how to catch crappie




If you want to fill your stringer every time you go out crappie fishing, there are a few tips and tricks you should know about.


1. You need to invest in the right gear


Having the right crappie fishing gear can sometimes make all the difference. If you want to be efficient and effective every time you hit the water, here is what you need to use:


  • Spinning rod and reel combo: (I recommend the 6′ medium combo or either of the light combos) Make sure they are light enough for extended jigging, and strong enough to pull fighters out of the water.
  • Long rods: Long rods are efficient because they place a good distance between you and your fishing spot, preventing you from spooking the fish. This is essential especially if you are fishing in clear waters.
  • Hooks: Aberdeen hooks are the best hooks for crappie fishing.


2. You need to use the right bait


When it comes to crappie fishing using live baits, nothing beats minnows. Using live lively minnows is the best way to catch your limit of crappie. When you purchase live minnows, be sure to specify that you are looking for crappie minnows. Crappie minnows are a little smaller in size. Keep your minnows alive by placing them in a bucket and submerging them in the lake or by using an insulated bucket with an aerator.


Here is some additional information on crappie minnows


It is also important that you hook your minnows in the right way. You can do this by hooking them at the lips, by the tail or at the back on the dorsal fin. Just be sure to do it carefully to avoid hurting the minnows and to make sure they stay lively in the water.


hook a minnow


3. Use the right jigs


Sometimes you may want to use jigs for crappie. If this is the direction you wish to take, make sure you get several different color plastics. This is because crappie are rather unpredictable. The colors they go for today may not exactly be what they went for yesterday, or what they will go for tomorrow. So, it is up to you to mix things up until you find a winning combination. You can also ask other anglers that you find at your fishing spot about the color combinations that they have had success with that day, which will make your work a lot easier.


4. Catching them more efficiently


Once everything is in place, and you have found the perfect spot with lots of crappie beneath you, you need to catch your limit. Achieving this is easy if you know what you are doing. First of all, you need to keep in mind the schooling nature of crappie. Finding one at a certain depth means that there are more right around it. This is why it is so important to, above all else, keep track of your depth as you fish.


There are several methods that you can use to keep track of your depth. You can choose to start from the bottom and count your reel cranks as you move up. When you hit a depth where you get a few bites, memorize it because you will be coming back to it later. Alternatively, you can mark your pole about one foot from the reel, then slowly drop the line one foot at a time. Memorize the number of feet at which you get a few bites, then go back and drop to the exact number of feet. This second method works best if you are fishing in brush, because it is easy for your line to get caught in stuff when you are coming from the ground up.


Here is a good article on the subject of finding the right depth (go to the section “find the right depth”)




Crappie fishing is a fun activity that anyone can enjoy. The cherry on top is that they taste fantastic, so you will have the pleasure of eating what you caught. As long as you have this set of crappie fishing basics in your back pocket, you are ready to hit the lake and start reeling those slabs in. Here is a recap of the crappie fishing basics that everyone needs to know about:


  1. A crappie is a type of North American fresh water fish that is considered to be among the most fished and best tasting freshwater fish in the US. They are popularly known as papermouth, silver perch, goldring, speckled perch, speck, calico bass or my favorite: sac-a-lait.
  2.  Crappie fishing is interesting because it allows every angler to experience a little bit of everything they love about fishing. Whether you love shallow or deep-water fishing, elusive or abundant catches, lazy or aggressive fish, you can expect to experience it all when you take up crappie fishing.
  3. The best way to locate crappie is to have a good understanding of their behavior so that you will be in a better position to predict where they can be found. Crappie, being schooling fish, can often be found in large numbers around the same spot where you get one catch.
  4. Crappie behave differently depending on the season and the weather. They are abundant everywhere in spring, but they move deeper as the surface gets too hot or too cold in Summer, late fall and winter.
  5. To best catch crappie, you need to do the following:

a. Invest in the right gear.

b. Use the right bait.

c. Get the right jigs.

d. Learn how to find them.

e. Keep track of your depth if you want to catch them more efficiently.


I hope you enjoyed this post. There are many more helpful crappie fishing articles on this site. Please feel free to look around. Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts in the comments section below.


Good fishing to you,



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