Crappies are one of the best fighting and best eating panfish around. Anglers targeting these fish on lakes are in for a rewarding fishing experience. Unlike bass that require a variety of tackle, these fish can be caught on fairly simple crappie fishing lures and basic tackle setups. Crappie fishing 101, for those just starting out or for those more experienced anglers, can get you back to basic crappie fishing tips for catching more of them this year.
Understanding the Crappie Species
Crappies come in two different species, the black and white crappie. Color is not always a reliable way to tell them apart, however, black crappies are typically darker than white crappies. To be sure, count the dorsal fin spines. White crappies have six and black crappies have more than six.
Both black and white crappies have similar life histories but prefer different habitats. Black crappies prefer clear and cooler waters, living mostly in aquatic vegetation. White crappies on the other hand thrive is silted and turbid waters occupying areas around submerged logs, brush and stumps.
Crappies begin their spawning cycle when water temperatures are between 50- and 60-degrees. During this time, they make their way shallow into staging areas. Peak spawning activity generally occurs when water temperature is between 68- and 72-degrees. In the south, this could occur as early as February while early June is more typically when crappies spawn in the north.
The crappie spawn is dictated in large part by the type of water body. In smaller lakes, crappies may completely spawn in as little as two weeks. In contrast, the crappie spawn may last more than a month in large reservoirs. Spawning occurs in coves, backwaters and creek arms in 2- to 6-foot of water. Water clarity plays a huge factor in spawning location and depth. Muddy water will force crappies to spawn in shallower water while clear water will keep them deeper. One of the best crappie fishing tactics during the spawn is to be observant of water clarity and fish cover in different depths for hooking up more bites.
Crappie Fishing 101
Late Spring is the best time to catch a bucket full of crappies as they move from feeding structures to shore to spawn. Fish shallow areas of lakes as water temperatures warm to capitalize on this spring bite. Crappies become very aggressive this time of the year and will usually strike anything that comes close to them. Crappie fishing 101 includes your fishing setup, crappie fishing lures and tactics you need if you want to catch them this year.
Fishing Setups for Crappie Fishing
Do not get too complex with your crappie fishing rigging. Just about any rod and reel combo can get the job done. Generally, you want to fish an ultralight or light rod with a fast action. Choose a 6 or 6-1/2 foot rod. Go with a small reel and spool it with 4- to 8-lb test fluorocarbon fishing line. Stick to light line when fishing in open water and heavier line when fishing for crappies in dense vegetation and cover.
Crappie Fishing Lures You Always Need to Have
Similarly to your fishing setup, tackle choices are fairly basic too. Live bait has to be your number one crappie fishing lure choice. Small minnows and live worms work best when fished at defined depths. Either at spawning depths in the spring or offshore at schooling fish, live bait produces. Hook a minnow through the back so it creates action and use a small piece of worm so that just the hook is covered completely. Use single hooks in size 10 or 12 with slip bobbers to position the bait at the right depth. Good electronics like those from Lowrance help you target exactly the depth crappies are at. You can also tip a small 1/32- or 1/64-ounce jighead with a minnow for added action when fishing shorelines and grass edges.
Some anglers only fish live bait for crappies but crappie fishing 101 also includes a range of artificial baits. Crappie fishing lures like small plastic tubes or curl tail worms produce when jig fishing for crappies. The Bass Pro Shops Triple Ripple Grub is a good choice in smoke purple black fleck. Also, small spoons and small crankbaits can work well just before fish spawn when they are aggressive. Try the Strike King Slab Hammer Crappie Crankbait in bleeding sexy shad along weed edges or near rock outcrops as a crankbait choice. Use natural colors in soft plastics and crankbaits while silver spoons and spinners work the best.
Crappie Fishing Tactics to Try This Year
Crappie fishing 101 usually says sit over a bobber and wait for the crappie bite. A tried and true crappie fishing tactic but go out of your comfort zone with this tactic.
Swim your crappie fishing lures, particularly soft plastics, through heavy cover. This crappie fishing tactic exploits the aggressive nature of large males guarding schools along brush piles and dense vegetation. Swimming a lure through heavy cover by reeling it slowly, letting it free fall and reeling again is the difference that gets you big bites and plenty of them in heavily pressured lakes.
3 Crappie Fishing Secrets
Fishing for crappies is not the most difficult fishing you can get into, but there are a few crappie fishing secrets that can help you if you are struggling to hook them.
Although not a complete guide to crappie fishing, crappie fishing 101 breaks down the basics to putting slabs in the boat. Stick to simple crappie fishing tactics and lures to land more crappies this year.