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If you’re lucky enough to live in North America, you’ll no doubt be glad to hear that crappie can be fished throughout the year, providing anglers with unlimited opportunities to catch these exciting fish. The fish can be found in freshwater bodies, including ponds, lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. As these fish like to school, if you catch one fish, you’re likely to find much more waiting to be caught. They are also incredibly fun to catch, putting up a worthwhile fight. Read on for the rest of our Crappie Fishing Tips article.
From the outset, we’ve intended this article to be the definitive source for everything related to crappie fishing, covering tip and tricks, feeding habits, locations and everything else we could think off. If you find this article useful, we’d love it if you could share it with your friends, it means a lot to us when our content is read.
Crappie Fishing Tips: Black or White
Crappie can be found all across America, but are particularly well suited to the southern states, boasting significant populations in these locations, they are however found in nearly every single one of the 48 states. If you venture North of the border, you’ll still be able to find crappie living in the southern parts of Canada. Different parts of the country might know the fish by different names, the most common is Crappie. They might also be called:
- Dirty Sunfish
- Calico Bass
- Bachelor Perch
The species can be broken down into two distinct varieties, Black Crappie and White Crappie. It’s not at all unlikely to find both types residing in the same body of water and they will go as far as schooling together. The methods used to catch each variety is mostly identical, it’s possible to use the same techniques, lures and bait. Both types will grow to roughly the same size and have nearly identical body shapes, the main difference as the name suggests is the coloring and markings.
White Crappie are nearly always silver in color with some faint markings on their sides which look like bars; the fish also has a dorsal fin that consists of 6 spines.
Black Crappie are also predominately silver with a touch of gold, they will show distinct speckled black marks all over, and unlike the white variety, they have between 7 or 8 dorsal spines.
Exceptionally large crappie will grow to 20 inches in length and can exceed 6 pounds in weight. However, the average fish you’re likely to catch will be ½ a pound and at most 12 inches in length. Any fish which exceeds 1 pound is a rarity.
Adult crappie will feed on live prey such as worms, insects or baitfish.
Hunting for Crappie
Simply put, if you can’t find Crappie, you’ll not be able to catch them. As temperatures and the season’s change, Crappie will change their habits, choosing to move the locations and depths which better suite the climate or their breeding habits. However, they will select habitats which have a constant similarity in one respect or another.
Crappie has an affinity for underwater structures, for example, sunken trees, docks, weeds, piles of rocks or anything else which is similar and can provide shelter for these fish. They will often be found near, above or in amongst these types of structures. These shelters offer some obvious benefits for the fish, providing a level of protection from larger predatory fish or birds of prey. It’s also where their food sources tend to hang out; smaller bait fish will seek out these areas as it also offers protection from predators.
Other than during spawning season, you’ll find crappie seeking out the deeper parts of a body of water, which can make them a challenge to locate. As a general rule of thumb, crappie will prefer water which is 10 – 15 feet in depth. Deeper water if advantages for fish as it is more likely to maintain a constant temperature which has the upside of creating an unchanging living environment.
While it’s true that crappie will seek out deeper water, they will rarely if ever be found right on the bottom, which poses a challenge when attempting to locate a school. The fish prefer to be suspended at various depths within a column of water. To successfully find a school, tactics, and experience will play a factor, but the use of a fish finder can dramatically improve your chances and make things somewhat easier.
What’s The Best Rod For Catching Crappie?
Despite what a salesperson might tell you, you don’t need expensive or pricey gear to land crappie. Crappie are a long way from being the toughest or hardest fighting fish you’re likely to come across, nearly any suitable rod setup will do the job. Keep away from using a fly fish rod and try to stick to something made out of carbon fiber and try to keep things light. We’ve put together a few rod recommendations based on our experiences.
Telescopic Rod Options: If you’ve had experience using a cane pole in the past, but would rather use something that utilizes modern technology, you might find that fiberglass or a graphite telescopic pole might be exactly what you’re looking for.
Many experienced crappie anglers like to use huge rods when fishing, this has the benefit of distancing yourself and the boat from the lure or bait, which in turn will improve your chances of landing a fish before you’ve had a chance to scare the school away. Modern telescopic poles which can be used for crappie fishing, for example, the Black Widow can collapse away into a comparatively small package, which makes storage and transporting it somewhat more manageable.
A telescopic pole which you can use for crappie fishing is excellent if you prefer to fish for the shore, mainly if the banks have a lot of vegetation. That’s not to say they’re not used for fishing from a boat; they are very effective if you plan to use spider rigging, which we’ll get into in more detail later on. A distinct advantage of a telescopic crappie pole is the sensitivity of the tip, allowing the angler to feel even the most subtle bite.
If you’re a beginner with no existing fishing equipment and just looking to test the waters, we can thoroughly recommend the Reel and Rod combo from Plusinno. If you’re fortunate enough to already have a reel, then an FXS spinning rod from Shimano is a great choice. The rod is incredibly lightweight and comes in a range of lengths, allowing you to customize it to meet your requirements.
We find that out of all the rod options available that can be used for crappie fishing; ultralight spinning rods offer the most flexibility in terms of configuration options and price to performance ration.
You can find crappie ultralight rods in a wide range of sizes, from well over 16 feet to something that is less than 5 feet. The purchase or rod that you use should be based on the angling methods you intend to use.
If you intend to use a boat for vertical jigging, then a shorter rod is a better fit, allowing you to keep your rig within a small circumference of the boat. This method is best employed when a fish finder is available to locate a school of fish.
Mid-sized rods which are between 6 and 8 feet are great for casting and reeling in when using lures or other types of jigs. The added length enables the angler to make more precise and longer casts, placing the lure exactly where you intended it to go, which can be casting it under an overhanging dock or in the shadow of low hanging tree branches.
Rods that are between 10 and 16 feet tend to be ideal choices when bait trolling or when using spider rigging lures. The additional length afforded by an extended crappie spinning rod helps keep the lures and bait well clear of the boat and its prop, it can also help cover larger areas when trolling.
An experienced crappie fisherman will likely use a rod which has a very sensitive tip, allowing the angler to pick up on even the lightest bite that crappie is well known for. Additionally, a firm butt on the rod can assist the angler in forcefully removing a crappie from thick cover.
If you’re considering performing jigging from a boat, a rod which has a stiffer / faster tip will likely serve you better, allowing you to impart motion to your jig while it’s down in the water.
The Best Crappie Fishing Reels
Almost any freshwater spinning reel will work perfectly well for crapping fishing. As we’re going to be using a finer line, we would recommend choosing a larger spool diameter as this will go some way to preventing line memory and will additionally assist with casting further. In order to cover most of the crappie fishing situations, you’re likely to encounter it’s best to choose the second smallest or the smallest sized reel in any given range.
If you’re going to opt for a shorter rod, then the Pfluger Purist reel is well worth considering.
A medium length rod will benefit from a Shimano Sedona reel.
A long rod is best paired with something like a Cardinal STX10 reel.
Picking the Best Fishing Line for Crappie
Crappie fishing is most often done using a line that is between 1 and 6 pounds, that is to say, lightweight line. However, if you’re fishing in water with heavy vegetation, it’s advisable to choose line which on the heavier side, up to around 20 pounds, this will assist in tackling fish heavily entrenched in weed beds or other vegetation.
Monofilament line is the most common variant available for crappie anglers, however, there has been a growing trend towards using a braided fishing line. Braided lines offer some advantages over the traditional monofilament, it doesn’t stretch, it’s rarely affected by line memory and it’s very fine. The latter two features greatly assist with casting, allowing the angler to cast further and more accurately.
However, braided lines require a more skilled hand to use. As braided lines have minimal stretch, you’ll need to be careful when setting the hook or when snagged on an underwater obstacle. The stretch of monofilament allows the line to absorb a certain amount of shock, while braided lines are less shock resistant, and may snap if unexpected force is applied. For this reason, braided lines are recommended for experienced anglers.
What Are The Best Bait Or Lures To Catch Crappie?
Whether you use an artificial lure or live bait to catch crappie will depend mainly on your preferred fishing method, as well as the season in which you’re fishing and what the conditions are like.
Both methods have their benefits as well as their disadvantages when it comes to catching crappie, and you shouldn’t necessarily ignore one method over the other. Weighing the pros and cons in any given situation is more likely to result in a successful fishing trip.
In the short term, bait will often be the cheaper option compared to buying a top of the line lure, but once a lure has been used several times over, season after season, the economics tend to tip in their favor. Assuming, of course, the lure is not lost. Below we take a look at the best bait and lure options available.
The Best Crappie Fishing Lures
Time and again jigs have been proven to provide consistent and effective results when fishing for crappie. Working in their favor, jigs are very flexible and can be adapted to match nearly most conditions you’re likely to encounter when fishing. When used correctly, crappie will enthusiastically take them.
Jigs can either come as existing lures, or as a set of parts that can be interchanged to meet requirements best. Jigs are made up of several parts, at the cornerstone of every jig is a head hook, which consists of a hook and a weighted head. In most head hook configurations, the eye is placed at 90 degrees to the shank. Configuring the body of a jig is where things start to get interesting, there a vast array of options and combinations available that will affect how to jig moves through the water, how it sounds and what it looks like, all of which will be appealing to different fish at different times of the year. The idea is to adjust your jig set up until you find something that allows you to catch Crappie consistently.
Our Favourite Jig Set Ups
We can highly recommend spinnerbait; the jigs are a head with a blade that spins around its axis when dragged through the water. Spinnerbait which can be used for crappie or bass are largely the same, the main difference is the size, with crappie variants being the smaller type. A spinner’s blade acts as a colorful, flashing and shaking attractor, attracting the attention of crappie.
We’ve had excellent success using a spinnerbait, but if you’re looking for something to get you started, then we can recommend the Rooster Tail here. The colorization and action are sure to make the fish interested.
If you’re someone that likes to take the DIY approach to things, then you might just love creating your jigs. The combinations of colors and parts are near endless, meaning you can spend time testing and configuring your jig until you come up with the perfect combo. There are two parts you need to buy to get you started, the head and body.
The head: Jig heads are available in a vast variety of colors and sizes and are suitable for catching any number of fish species. To catch crappie, we’re going to want to opt for the smaller jig heads, ideally between 1/16 oz and 1/32 oz. If you’re stuck and not sure what to buy to get you started, then the Mr. Crappie heads are a great first purchase, not only are they the perfect size but they are high quality and the perfect color.
The Body: You’ll find Jig bodies in numerous sizes, shapes, colors, and actions. The vast majority that are available come with a plastic body and are relatively easy to attach to a jig hook. Tubes and various types of curly-tails make up a large selection of the grub types that are available. You may occasionally see spinnerbaits. However, these are primarily sold as standalone completed lures.
The curly-tail body type is a consistently popular option amongst anglers, the body is made from a soft almost rubbery plastic and is very easy to attach to a hook. Most curly-tails have an excellent action when in the water, which is facilitated by either a corkscrew or curved tail, causing the jig to move around in a fashion that mimics baitfish very well.
The options and selection available for anyone looking for a curl-tail jig are outstanding, with so many varieties available. As a starter for 10, Mister Twister offers an excellent selection pack which is high quality and have been used successfully on thousands of fishing trips, take a look below.
Lastly, tubes are widely available and accessible style of jig body. Most varieties have a smoother surface and a rubber tail that flares to provide an attractive motion through the water.
If you’re not sure where to get started, consider the tube kit here which comes in more than a few color varieties as well as some weighted hooks to provide a solid foundation you can further build upon.
Choosing Live Bait for Crappie Fishing
It’s possible to have a massive amount of success when fishing with lures, but there will be days when an artificial lure just won’t do the job, when this happens it’s time to break out the live bait.
In many ways live bait is more natural to use than a lure, and you can have immediate success without having to learn subtle techniques or strategies.
Minnows: Using live minnows continues to one of the most popular live baits used when fishing for crappie. Most halfway decent bait shops will stock a range of live minnows in various sizes, for crappie fishing you’ll want to er on the side of the smaller fish, choosing minnow that is up to 1 ½ inches in length. If you want an additional challenge, you could always catch minnows with either a net or trap.
Live Grubs: Insect larvae are great for catching crappie, they are perhaps not as popular as a minnow, but they work very well when ice fishing Some common types include wax worms and meal worms.
Powerbait: If you don’t like the idea of handling minnows or grubs, or if you just don’t want the hassle, then there various forms of soft baits available which work well. This type of bait comes as a type of colorful dough with a distinct scent. One of the most significant advantages of these baits is that they can be stored for long periods and can be molded around a hook to present an attractive piece of bait.
Top 5 Crappie Fishing Tactics
So far we’ve gone over the bait, lure and tackle you can use to catch yourself some crappie, so it’s about time we got into the methods you can employ to get a fish on your hook.
Most crappie anglers choose to fish from a boat. However, you don’t necessarily need access to a boat to employ any of these tactics; most work equally well from the bank, dock or when wading.
What is Vertical Jigging and How do I use one?
If the crappie are choosing to stay deep, seeking cover from sunken objects or weed beds, vertical jigging is a useful tactic that can be employed to overcome these difficulties.
How to create a Vertical Rig
A basic version of the vertical rig will consist of your preferred jig attached to the end of the fishing line. That’s all there is to it. You can, of course, choose to increase the complexity of the jig rig by adding additional jig, one above the other or by utilizing tools that allow for half a dozen jigs to be used at the same time. But, if you’re just starting out then there’s very little need to overcomplicate matters, stick with one jig and see how you fair, instead concentrating on technique and catching fish.
If you’re just starting out with vertical jigging, just use whatever you have to hand, there’s no need to go out and buy a specific length of a rod. Once you’ve gained experience you might find you prefer a shorter rod or a longer rod, at which point you can look to buy something that suits your specific requirements.
How to Catch Crappie with a Vertical Jig
You don’t need to do any casting when jigging. It’s as simple as hanging your rod and line over the side and letting the jig go. You can just let the jig all the way out until it hits the bottom, but if you’re lucky enough to be using a fish finder, then you can let the line out until you reach the depth of the fish.
Once your jig is in the water with the line hanging from the tip of your rod, the key is to make the jig look enticing by lightly bouncing it for a couple of seconds and then pausing to see if you get a bit. Reel the line in slightly and repeat the process. Continue to do this until a crappie takes the jig or until you’ve reeled the jig all the way in. It’s worthwhile experimenting with retrieving the jig in different ways, changing the bounce, speed, pauses, and depth until you finally get a bite. Once you get a bit try repeating the jig play until you get another one or until you feel you need to try something else. Either by changing tactics or by moving to a new location.
Check out the video below for some great tips on fishing for crappie with a jig.
How to Catch Crappie with Bobber Fish
Catching fish with a bobber is as popular today as it ever was, it’s perhaps one of the most well-known methods around. Fishing for crappie with a bobber is an advantageous method and one that everyone that wishes to catch these fish should be experienced with. Bobbers are adaptive and can be used with lures as well as with jigs; the basic set up is the same.
Creating a Bobber Rig
Building a bobber rig is easy and can be used with almost any sort of rod.
Just attach a plastic bobber to your line which is between 1 and 3 feet from the end. If you’re using a weighted jig, all you need to do it tie it to fishing your line with a hook and you’re all set to start fishing.
If you’re looking try bobber with live bait, merely use a crappie hook and a couple of split shot around 8 inches from the end. Adjust the height of the bobber to match the depth that you’re looking to fish at.
Bobbers are great for when you want to quickly and easily adjust the depth that you’re fishing at, but it’s best used in water that isn’t too deep. If you move your bobber too far up the line, it can be awkward to cast and can quickly become tangled or caught on brush or other objects. Ideally set the maximum depth to around 4 feet.
Check out the video below which demonstrates a variety of bobber fishing techniques.
Using a Slip Float
If you need to catch fish that are down deep and be accurate about it, then using a slip float is the perfect solution. A slip float setup is in many respects the same as a bobber rig. The main difference is while the bobber is fixed to the line in one location, the slip float will slide through your line until a preset stopper is reached. Changing the depth is very easy, merely move the stopper to a different height.
Building a Slip Float Rig
Firstly add the tube stopper to your line and set it at a depth of the fish. Next slide a plastic bead on the line and then your slip float. Tie a swivel to the end of the line and add around 2 feet of leader line to the swivel. Lastly, tie your hook to the end of the leader and you’re ready to begin fishing.
Using a Slip Float Setup
The most significant appeal of a slip float is that you can quickly and easily adjust the depth that you’re fishing at. One of the most efficient methods when using a slip float is always to be changing the depth of your bait until you finally get a bite. Once you’ve successfully identified the depth of the fish you need only keep fishing at that depth until the bites dry up.
You’ll probably find that crappie will sit at one particular depth across the entirety of a body of water, so if you find fish at 10 feet in one location, the odds are good that you’ll find more crappie at 10 feet in another area.
Casting and Retrieving
If you’re a fan of being actively involved in fishing, then the cast and reel in a method will probably be a good fit for you. The premise is simple, cast your line, wait for a couple of seconds to let it sink to the desired depth and then merely reel it back in.
Setting Up A Rig
It’s easier to use a medium / long rod when using the cast and retrieve technique, something that is between 6 and 7 feet in length is ideal. If you can get a rod that has a softer sensitive tip that will help with the motion of the lure through the water, allowing it to look more natural and will help when you hook a fish, providing immediate feedback.
Spinners work well with cast and reel techniques, but any suitable lure can be used. With time experience will tell you what lure to use and when based on conditions and how the fish are behaving.
Setting up a rod for casting is very easy, simply attached your preferred lure to the end of the line and you’re all set.
Choosing where to cast can be quite tactical. Ideally, you’ll want to cast where the fish are, which means getting close to structures, weed beds or overhanging branches. Casting close to an obstacle without getting tangled in the structure is a skill that comes with practice, in the beginning, it’s better to err on the side of caution and attempt harder casts once you become consistently accurate.
The next challenge is finding out how deep the fish are. This will take a certain amount of experimentation.
The first step is to cast your lure and allow it to sink to the bottom of the body of water. If you can, try and gauge how long it takes for your lure hit bottom, this can be accomplished by counting the seconds as they pass. At this point, you need to just reel in the lure and watch out for any fish bites. On the next cast, reduce the count slightly before you start reeling in, this should mean you’re fishing at a different depth. Repeat this process, reducing the count each time until you get a bite. Once you have a bite you’ll know what depth of the fish.
Setting Up A Spider Rig
Spider rigging is a unique set up and something you’re only likely to find crappie anglers doing. Spider rigging is very efficient and fast at locating crappie in big bodies of water; it’s amazingly useful.
What the hell is Spider Rigging?
The only way you can use spider rigging is with the use of a boat. Commonly around eight rods are used, which are set up to cover roughly 180 degrees. The boat will look like it’s got lots of legs, hence why it’s called spider rigging.
Most crappie anglers using this method will set each rod to a unique depth and will use a range of lures and baits. The angler will then troll the water, covering as much of the body of water as possible until they get a bite. Once a bite has been confirmed, the rest of the rods depths and lures will be adjusted to match the successful setup.
In order to use the spider technique, you will, of course, need a boat, as well as several rods, rod holders and a motor that’s suitable for trolling.
Any serious spider angler will tend to use very long rods, in excess of 14 feet. This has the bonus of keeping the lines and lures well clear of the boat’s propellers and will hopefully help prevent the fish being spooked by the boat.
When using this method, you’re not limited to using one lure or bait type. Having so many rods available means, you’re free to experiment with a range of different combinates. However, even though you can use a different lure on every rod, it doesn’t mean you should. It’s often wise you stick to two different lure types and use a variety of depths. This means the set up is simpler and you’re primarily focusing on a couple of variables.
It’s important to stay in complete control of the boats speed when using a spider rig; this will probably have the biggest impact on a successful trip versus the lures and depths. Keeping things steady and measured will increase your chances of success.
If you have access to a fish finder, this can cut down on time to find a school dramatically.
It’s important to keep a constant eye on your rods while fishing. If you see a rod twitch, it’s time to grab the rod and try to set the hook in the fishes mouth. Once you’ve located one fish, the depth, and the lure, it’s time to take things up a notch and switch all your rods over to the successful rig.
Catching Crappie in Every Season
You can catch crappie throughout the year, but their habits and behaviors will vary as the season’s change. As an intelligent and savvy angler, you’ll also need to adjust your behavior to stand the best chance of catching crappie.
To help you with this process we’ve laid out a guide to the seasonal habits of the fish and what you can do to maximize your chances of catching one.
Catching Crappie in Spring
During spring the chances of finding crappie are much more favorable. It’s the time of year when the fish spawn, with each spawning phase bringing about varying crappie habits, which in turn affects the tactics we need to employ.
As waters begin to warm up after the winter months, crappie will start to migrate to shallower waters to start the pre-spawn process. This is the time to use vertical jigging in shallow water, ideal locations are small bays and the openings of small streams. Despite crappie seeking the shallower water, they will inherently choose the deepest part of the shallows, so try jigging right of the bottom.
When spawning is at the height of activity, you’ll find crappie in very shallow waters near banks. Try using small spinnerbait cast toward or along banks, retrieving the lure slowly as it goes over the spawning nests.
Post spawn the fish will retreat and might be harder to catch. This is an ideal time to give the fish and yourself a break.
Catch Crappie in Summer
At the height of the summer heat crappie will seek the colder and deeper parts of a body of water and can be found anywhere up to 20 feet deep. The fish also tend to be less densely packed, preferring to spread out slightly, which can also make locating them somewhat harder. During this time a spider rig will shine and make finding the fish much more efficient.
Look to find the fish in and around submerged objects such as sunken trees or old docks. You might find that artificially created lakes, ponds or reservoirs will contain structures specifically designed to attract fish. If you know where these objects are in the water, you can increase your odds of making a successful catch.
Catch Crappie in the Fall
As the days begin the shorten and the nights start to draw in, crappie’s staple diet (baitfish) start to move towards the warmer shallower water, as the bait move, so do the crappie. As the surrounding water cools, this also increases the fishes appetite, causing them to gorge themselves on as much food as possible before it becomes harder to come across. This is excellent news for anyone looking to bag a few fish.
As is the case most of the time when you’re crappie fishing, you’re likely to find the fish closer to underwater structures, even when it’s in shallower water. Live bait is especially effective at this time of year, but you should still have success using spinnerbait or any other sort of lure.
Catch Crappie in Winter
When it’s consistently cold, crappie will migrate to the deepest part of a body of water, but the occasional spot of warmer weather will incentivize them to move into shallower waters. If you have access to a fish finder, it’ll make winter fishing much easier, allowing you to focus your efforts on the deepest parts of the lake. During the colder months, crappie will tend to school tightly together, so even though they are harder to find, once you do you’ll see them quite tightly concentrated.
Once you’ve located a school of fish, you’ll need to pay particular attention to your rod tips, a bite in water can be easy to miss as the fish can be lethargic so they are easy to miss. Using a slip float is an excellent idea as they allow you to fish consistently at the required depth and present slow moving bait which is ideal for a cold fish. Once you make a catch, more are likely to follow.
Crappie Fishing Final Thoughts
To maximize your success rate and time spent on the water, we’ve put together a few tips gleaned from experts in the field, which will hopefully help you to succeed on your next crappie fishing trip.
Take caution when setting a hook. Crappie are well known for having a delicate mouth which means it’s straightforward to lose the fish if the hook is set incorrectly. Unlike most all types of fish, choose to set the hook firmly but cautiously. This will maximize your chances of landing a bite.
Ensure the line is kept taut at all times and reel the fish in slowly and steadily. If the fish is given a loose line it’s more likely to be able to wriggle free of the hook.
Rather than changing your bait or lure, try changing the depth instead. Crappie are sticklers for being sensitive to a particular depth, so instead of wasting time changing your rig on every other cast, ensure you’ve covered every depth before moving onto something else.
Make sure you’re aware of the local laws and regulations before you begin setting up a spider rig. Some lakes or regions have banned people from using multiple fishing rods at the same time. The last thing you want is to be banned from a body of water because you used six rods at the same time when you’re only allowed one per angler.
Use lightweight gear as much as possible. While it might be tempting to choose heavy lines and strong hooks, this can be more of an issue than you might expect. As we’ve discussed above, crappie tend to hang out near underwater structures, so if you find yourself hooked on one of these structures, it’s better to straighten or snap a hook rather than risk damaging a lightweight rod or reel. Over the course of a full season, this can save you money on damaged or lost gear.