WHAT BAIT SHOULD YOU USE FOR CRAPPIE?
The answer to this question is simple. The number one crappie bait is minnows. Lively, beautiful minnows. Crappies love them!
It is very important to make sure that the minnows you use are lively. When they are healthy and lively, their swift motions reflect light off their shiny bodies underwater, attracting crappie to them. A dead or dying minnow provides none of this. Most crappie will usually ignore sickly or dead minnows.
When you go to your local bait shop, ask for crappie minnows. Crappie minnows are somewhat smaller than “regular” minnows, like the kind used for bass. They work great because even though crappie will attack minnows of almost all sizes, they prefer smaller ones. With bass minnows, you may get one or two slabs (large crappie), but you will largely miss out on “normal” crappie.
The next thing you need to do is keep them alive by protecting them from the elements. In spring and early fall, you can place them in a bucket and dunk the minnow bucket in the lake and they will do just fine. However, during summer and winter, extreme external temperatures will kill your minnows really quickly. You will need to keep them in an insulated, aerated minnow bucket to ensure their survival.
WHAT ABOUT JIGS AND HARD PLASTICS?
If you are a bit more experienced, consider trying out a little bit of jigging. Just be sure to use 1/8, 1/16 or 1/32 jig heads. Dress them with soft jigs, and make sure you combine multiple colors and shapes. You can opt to go for one of either curly tails, grubs, tubes or minnow looking plastics. Whatever your choice is, get them in a good assortment of colors. Why is this, you ask? Well, it’s quite simple. Crappie are rather finnicky. A color combination that works for them today might not work tomorrow, and vice versa. This forces you to play around with color combinations a bit until you find one that works for you.
You can also save a lot of time by simply asking other anglers around you for the color combination that they have found most success with that day. They are usually more than willing to share this information. I have never been rebuffed for asking this question before!
WHAT IS THE BEST HOOK SIZE FOR CRAPPIE?
First of all, if you are using minnows, make sure you are using an Aberdeen hook. Aberdeen hooks are light wired, which helps a lot in stopping you from killing the minnows as you hook them. They are also long shanked, which makes it easier to retrieve them, especially on those occasions when the crappie swallows the entire hook. In such situations, it is way easier to retrieve a long-shanked hook without damaging the fish.
Many anglers swear by #2, #4 and #6 hooks. It is however largely a matter of personal preference. Personally, I prefer #1 and #2. The order of hook sizes from biggest to smallest is inversely proportional to the number, which means that #1 is the biggest, followed by #2 and so on. Like I said, the choice of hook size is a matter of personal preference. Just get a size you feel will work for you, as long as they are good Aberdeen hooks. It is a good idea to grab yourself a bunch of hooks in different sizes and try them out for yourself, especially because Aberdeen hooks are cheap and very easily available. You can get a bunch of them from Walmart.
I wrote an extensive articles about crappie hooks if you are interested!
WHAT TIME OF DAY IS BEST FOR CRAPPIE FISHING?
From personal experience, I have found that crappie are most aggressive at dawn or dusk. Crappie are super predictable. In fact, if you go crappie fishing often enough, you will soon be able to tell when they will start biting.
For instance, at the barge I go to, they almost always start biting between 0530 and 0630, depending on the season. Once they start, they will maintain their aggression for around 2 to 3 hours. Later in the day, they start biting hard again at about an hour before sunset and keep going for a couple of hours after that, just like they did in the morning.
Night fishing can also be excellent. If you choose to fish at night, bring a fishing light with you to greatly improve the results.
Knowing the best times to fish does not mean you should not fish outside of them. If you follow all the advice in this site, you should be able to easily find a great location and catch a bunch of them all day long.
HOW DEEP SHOULD YOU FISH FOR CRAPPIE?
Crappie behavior changes with the seasons. If you have a good understanding of how they behave, you will be able to be more efficient as you fish and end up catching a lot more of them.
The first thing you need to remember is that crappie are schooling fish. They like to stick together in large groups. When you go fishing, if you manage to catch one, you can almost always count on catching more by going back to the same place and depth where you caught the first one.
This brings us to the next important thing you need to remember. As you fish, remember to keep track of your depth. This will allow you to always return to a specific depth with ease. A great way of doing this is by going down to the bottom, then reeling up as you count the number of rotations you are making. You can also achieve the same results by marking off your pole at the 1-foot mark and slowly dropping down a foot at a time till you get a bite.
So how deep should you fish for crappie? These general guidelines will help you figure that out for every season:
– Spring: Spring is swarming season for crappie. There are a lot of them in the water quite near the surface, which makes them very easy to catch. You can catch lots of them in shallows between 3 to 12 feet.
– Summer: The summer heat makes crappie seek the coolness of deeper waters. They dive deeper and school down there, at about 15 feet and below. If you want to catch lots of them, stay above the thermocline. Click here for more information about thermocline.
– Winter: Crappie behavior in winter is similar to that of summer. They are trying to escape the weather up top and the cold surface water, so they goo deep. When you fish, start at 15 feet and keep dropping down from there.
-Early Fall: This is among the toughest season to locate the crappie. In early fall, crappie is scattered throughout the water, never staying in the same locations for long. A good rule of thumb is to try the shallows during warm days, and go deeper during cold days.
-Late Fall: Treat late fall like winter and fish in the deep.
Crappie fishing, and fishing in general, does not have to be intimidating and frustrating. You can still get much success if you know a few simple tricks, no matter the season. Just keep in mind these few fishing crappie tips:
- Use live lively minnows for baits
- Use 1/8, 1/16 or 1/32 jig heads in multiple color combinations.
- Use light wired Aberdeen hooks in #1, #2, #4 and #6. If you can, grab a bunch of hooks and experiment with them.
- You can fish for crappie throughout the day. However, they are most active and aggressive at dusk and dawn. You can also fish for them at night, but be sure to use a fishing light.
- Be aware of crappie behavior during specific seasons, and use this information to figure out how deep you need to fish every time you head out.
Here is a cool infographic to summarize it all:
I hope you enjoyed this post. Leave me your thoughts and comments below and I will get back to you as soon as I can!