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The Art of Crappie Fishing

Article: December, 2003
Lake Fork Pro Jim ReaneauCrappie come in two different species. The white crappie and black crappie. They will hang together and both taste the same. The difference is their color. The white crappie are lighter and the black crappie have darker scales and a black line from their mouth all the way back to there top fin. Crappie like to hang around trees bridges, and will suspend over deep water in the winter. You will not need expensive gear to catch these fish. Most crappie fishermen will use small ultra light rods and reels. Most stores will carry a combo setup for under thirty dollars. The push button reels are also popular. You will have to use what fits your style. The next is the line you use. Four, six, and eight pound test line is the most popular sizes. I like 6 and eight pound. Color and brand really are not a problem. Minnow and jigs are the best baits to catch these fish. Rig your line with two jigs or minnow setup about a foot apart. Jig color can change with the times of year. I hear many times it doesn’t matter. This I disagree. Try a different color when you rig the second jig on your line and try several colors till you find a good one. Ask your marina dealer what is hot. Now you will need a measuring board. Most lakes have a ten inch minimum so it is important to measure them. Some lakes have special rules at certain times of the year so be sure to find out the rule for the lake you are fishing. The next thing is remember how many you catch. Most lakes have a limit. So get a counter like a golfer uses for stroke counting, this will help keep up on your count. The best thing is crappie can be caught year round. Just as the bass, crappie will be in different places in the seasonal changes. They will spawn in the same areas with bass in the spring. Crappie are layer fish. What this means is they will be at a certain depth. This is the key to catching them. Since this is winter I will start here and go through the areas and tactics you should use to catch them.

Winter time the crappie move from their usual hangouts out to the deep water. They will be out on main lake points and deep humps. Use your electronics and find bait fish or fish themselves. Throw out a marker to give you a reference point to where the fish are. You can either anchor or if it is not too windy you may use your trolling motor to stay over the fish. Vertical jigging is the best way to catch these fish. There are two ways to approach these fish. When you found the fish they were either on the bottom or suspended. Remember what depth they were holding. Now you can start pulling off line one foot at a time to where you think the fish were. Secondly before you go to the lake pull some line out on your reel and attach something to it that is heavy like a half ounce weight. Place it on the ground and mark the spot. Now reel slowly one complete turn of the reel handle and stop and mark this spot the weight stops at. Measure the distance. Some reels in their instructions will give this dimension. The reason for all of this is now you know how for your bait will come up on each handle turn. This way you can go straight to the bottom and reel up to the fish. The last way is to go to the bottom and slow reel to you catch a fish or get a bite and remember how many reels off the bottom you were. Now you can mark your line with a black marker or if you are using a spinning reel you can hook the line on the side of the reel it self. Spinning reels have a small tab to hold your line so you can change spools easy. No matter what you use just get back to the same depth every time and this will get you bit. Most good areas on a lake will have several of the local fishermen on them so if you approach the area don’t come in on plane and sit down. Use common sense and slow down way out and move in very slowly. Most crappie fishermen don’t mind a gang around but the wake you make will get them upset.

When the season changes to the spring the crappie will move to the shore lines to lay their eggs. I have seen them in water so shallow their top fin was out of water. During this time of year you will need a small slip cork. The slip cork is easier to cast and you can set the depth. You can still use jigs and minnows here. The small spinner baits like the beetle spin is another good bait when the fish are shallow. You can cover plenty of water from the bank out. Just cast out and slowly reel it back in. Don’t be surprised if you catch a big bass while looking for crappie in the spawn. They both like the same areas this time of year.

When the spawn is over the fish will move back to the bridges and timber. The best way to insure you a good crappie hole is to put out brush on several areas out in twenty foot of water with deep water close by. Keep adding to them and build a good brush pile. Willow branches is very good. Oak is good. Many think the Christmas trees are good but they are two thick till they decay some. When fishing the bridges tie up on one piling cast out to the far one and let the bait sink till you catch a fish. Now you can count down till you find the fish and mark your line and then the quicker you get back to the area the more bites you will get. This will not work in the timber as you will lose a lot of jigs. Timber fishing will require vertical jigging with jig or minnow. Slow reeling here is a good tactic, again mark your line when you catch a fish. A good black marks a lot is very handy to mark your line. When you get a bite before you reel in just mark your line at the front of the reel about six inches long so it is easy to see.
Thanks and Good Fishing,

Fishing Tip by EX Lake Fork Guide Jim Reaneau


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