Popularity of Crappie Fishing
Angling for crappie is popular throughout much of North America. Methods vary, but among the most popular is called “Spider Rigging,” a method characterized by a Crappie fisherman in a boat with many long fishing rods pointing away from the angler at various angles like spokes from a wheel. Anglers who employ the Spider Rigging method may choose from among many popular baits. Some of the most popular are plastic jigs with lead jig heads, crankbaits or live minnows. Many anglers also chum or dump live bait into the water to attract the fish to bite their bait. Crappies are also regularly targeted and caught during the spawning period by fly fishermen, and can be taken from frozen ponds and lakes in winter by ice fishing.
Crappie are a schooling fish and will also school with other types of pan fish. They prefer underwater structures like fallen trees, weed bends and other structures that might be submerged. Generally during the day crappie tend to stay deep under water and only move to shore when feeding, mostly at dawn or dusk. However, during their spawning period they can be found in shallow water in large concentrations. They do not go into any semi-hibernation during the winter, making them a prime target of anglers that are ice fishing. Crappies, both black and white can have color variance that is affected by their habitat, age and the colors of the local breeding population.
What are the top 10 locations for Crappie in America
As with any fish around the nation, there are hot spots and not so hot spots. Crappie are no different. While prevalent in the southern and mid-western US, catching Crappie in the western and extreme northern mid-west US is not out of the question. Places like The Detla in California and Roosevelt Lake in Arizona are prime fishing havens for Crappie. Here is a list of just some of the incredible Crappie catching lakes that if your are from ~region~ and may want to visit.
Grenada Lake, MS. – This is the top spot when it comes to catching limits of giant Crappie. It has the crown for the “Most three-pound Crappie”. This lake has it all. Nice ramps, beautiful scenery and great food close by. Most anglers here like to Spider Rig with minnows on jig heads and plain hooks. Some anglers choose to pull crank baits around ledges and humps. Be prepared to lose some rigs here. There are tons of structure on this body of water. But, if you aren’t losing some rigs then you aren’t fishing correctly.
Reelfoot Lake, TN. – Reelfoot is nestled in the foothills of Tennessee. This gorgeous body of water provides just about anything a Crappie angler wants with regards to structure. From sandy bottom flats to stump fields, you are in for a real treat when you drop the boat in this body of water. Be prepared to “one pole” stumps with a Road Runner head tipped with a minnow. This is a great technique on Reelfoot.
Lake of the Woods, Ontario – You wouldn’t think this body of water set on the border of Minnesota and Ontario would be prime for Crappie. Think again! This is an absolutely picturesque lake in the northern region of the US. 65,000 acres of beauty and loaded with Crappie. Even the ice fishing for Crappie here is awesome! The typical minnow rig and small Road Runners through the ice is the ticket here.
Shelbyville Lake, IL. – This mid-western lake has proven time and time again that catching Crappie on different structure is a reality. Shelbyville Lake has ledges, stump fields, drop offs, sunken brush and river channels. It is possible you could use every technique on this lake on different structures and come away with a cooler full. Not only that, but you will be amazed at the beauty of the lake and the local hospitality.
Toledo Bend Resivior, LA. – You may have heard of this lake from the amount of giant bass it produces. But, don’t be fooled. This is a trophy Crappie lake. There are literally miles of flooded timber and stick ups. A wondrous amount vegetation holds Crappie year round. But, the timber and stick ups is where it’s at. One pole these with Road Runners tipped with minnows or a slip bobber with a Blood Red Tru-Turn hook tipped with a minnow. It’s non-stop action!
Weiss Lake, AL. – If you want to catch a boat load of Crappie and be just amazed at the scenery, then Weiss is your destination. You are in the midst of surrounding hills dotted with beautiful homes with giant docks and vegetation that hold Crappie year round. This is one of the ultimate spider rigging lakes. There are plenty of brush piles and other structure to push into. A local favorite. Talk the locals at the ramp or the bait shop. They’ll help put you on fish and where to get some of the best BBQ in Alabama!
Alabama River, Prattville, AL. – Most Crappie anglers don’t think a river is worth the time for Crappie due to moving water. The Alabama River is different. The flow of the river creates structure that Crappie love. Floating timber that gets locked in curved points of the river is a superb place for Crappie to hang out. They hide and ambush bait fish on these points. During a national Crappie tournament five years ago, 15 Crappie weighed in at over 33 pounds. That’s a huge average. This river is a beautiful place surrounded by great restaurants and local folks that love to talk Crappie fishing. You’ll feel right at home for sure.
The Delta, CA. – Varying clarity of water and structure is what makes this body of water so unique. Crappie are caught by numerous bass anglers throwing crank baits. That shows how many Crappie are in this great body of water. Crappie anglers use minnows on jig heads and they also throw Crappie Thunder Road Runners retreived slowly to catch the brightly colored resident Crappie. You can troll long line Crappie crank baits to cover a lot of water and catch a live well full.
Roosevelt Lake – This gorgeous body of water is a well kept secret among Crappie anglers in the western states. It has proven to be a big Crappie catch lake for many years. If you live anywhere near this lake, be sure to put up the big rods and down size for the Crappie bite. It will amaze you. Roosevelt is surrounded by beautiful scenery that sets this lake apart from most in the US. The typical way to fish here is structure in the afternoon and shallow flats early morning and late evening. Don’t be surprised if you wind up with a boat load of two-pounders caught on minnows and Road Runner heads tipped with minnows retrieved very slowly or one poled near structure.
Truman Lake, MO. – If you are looking for a place to “one pole” and catch fat Crappie, then this is it. This lake is full of flooded timber and stick ups. You can one pole with a bottom weighted minnow rig or a Road Runner head tipped with a minnow. Use a longer, 12-15 foot pole to reach the timber you are fishing without spooking the fish from the shadow of your boat. Just “dip” the bait slowly into the water next to the stump or stick up, and give the pole a slight shake to give the bait some action. Then, stop moving it for a few seconds. That’s when the Crappie will strike most of the time In ~region~. There is also no lack of beautiful scenery here. There are numerous boat ramps and plenty of restaurants and bait shops near by. Give Truman a try. You will not be disappointed.
Tactics And Tricks When Fishing For Crappie
Crappie, the most prolific fish in America. Knowing where to go and what to use brings home dinner…White or Black, a superb taste.
Other monikers such as paper mouth, sac-u-lait (which translates to bag of milk), specks, speckled perch and a host of other names describes the Crappie. These tasty table fish have been a staple for anglers for over a hundred years. Crappie tend to be the desire of winter anglers. However, it is a known fact; you can catch Crappie year round, even in the dog days of summer. Crappie are most active at dawn and dusk but catching them in the deeper waters during the day is more productive. They average eight to twelve inches long but a good Crappie is about 16 inches long and three pounds.
There are two common Crappie. Black, which has 7-8 spines on the dorsal, White, which has six spines on the dorsal and 7-9 vertical stripes on their sides. Another Crappie found, that is an anomaly, is the Black Nose. This anomaly is a Black Crappie with a black stripe that stretches from the back over the head and down the nose. A very uncommon catch but a real prize when brought to the boat. Most anglers throw them back because they are so rare. The Black is also shorter and stockier than the White is. The White has a more slender and longer body.
Most Black Crappie live in large ponds and in the shallows of lakes. They prefer sandy and muddy bottoms. However, they like to have vegetation within close range. White Crappie prefer the shallows of most lakes. They can handle more ranges of water than the Black can. White Crappie are more apt to hang around an area when the water turns over or is turbulent than the Black.
All Crappie have great eye sight. That is why there are so many color options for lures. These colors have to adapt to water clarity, cloud cover and light penetration in the water. The right combination can result in a cooler full of the white flaky meat that so many anglers love in ~region~.
Check all local regulations on the daily limit of Crappie allowed per person or per boat. In addition, check local regulations on how many hooks allowed per rod, per boat and per person at one time, and how many rods allowed at once.
Techniques and Tips for Catching Black and White Crappie
There are numerous techniques used to catch Crappie. The most common is the hook, bobber and sinker method using minnows.
With the thousands of lures made for Crappie, it is no wonder that adapting to certain environments is so easy. One of the current trends for catching Crappie, called “Spider Rigging”, is evolving day to day with upgrading methods. Spider Rigging consists of four to eight 12-18 foot rods extended from the front of the boat with different enticements on each rod at different depths to start with. Once a particular rod is successful, using that method in that environment will produce the most fish until the anglers move to a different area of the lake.
Some may ask, “Why is that”? Well, it is quite simple. If you take a column of water out of any lake, say 20 feet deep, that column will have numerous temperatures as you go down the column. It may be 71 degrees at the top of the column and 68 degrees 3 feet down and 66 degrees six feet below the top. These variances named “Thermoclines” are how fish adapt to their surroundings. This is where Spider Rigging comes into play.
For instance, looking at eight rods from left to right fishing in 15 feet of water, set rod #1 at three feet down with a weight 2 feet above a hook tipped with a minnow. Rod #2 is set at five feet with a jig tipped with a minnow. Rod #3 is set at eight feet with a Curly Tail Road Runner. Rod #4 is set at ten feet with a Stand Out Stacker rig. This rig is one Slab Daddy Jig on the bottom and a Stand Out drop shot hook 6 inches above the jig, both tipped with a minnow. Click this link to view the Slab Stacker’s . The Stacker can allow you to catch two Crappie at one time! Rod #5 is set at eleven feet with a different color and style of jig tipped with a minnow. Rod #6 is set at twelve feet with a Slab Daddy jig with no minnow. Rod #7 is set at thirteen feet with a weight above a hook tipped with a minnow. The hook has a brightly colored skirt applied. Rod #8 is at fourteen feet with a Crappie Thunder Road Runner tipped with a minnow. The Crappie Thunder will be a darker color since it is at the deepest depth. These lures and depths are not set in stone but you can see how you can cover a lot of water with various bait combinations to hit the right color and thermocline. It all comes down to giving them a buffet instead of a sandwich!
Rigging For Crappie Fishing
Spider rigging is for “pushing” baits into a zone that you found to be “fishy” looking. It is highly recommended to use a side imaging depth finder to locate brush piles or ledges that you can spider rig. The long poles keep the shadow and sound of the boat from spooking the fish while putting the “buffet” in front of the fish first.
When spider rigging, always be prepared to “One Pole”. This is taking another rod or a pole in the spider rig set up, and dipping a bait or lure close to a dock piling or stump you might pass by while the boat is moving. This method is a proven tactic for catching fat rogue Crappie.
Keeping your boat quiet is important. One tip to remember, place your bait bucket on a thick towel or seat cushion to prevent the sound of the aerator from echoing throughout the boats hull and transferring that sound into the fishing environment. Sound travels fast in water. Banging weights against the boat, dropping pliers and a loud aerator can spook fish away from the anglers.
Another technique is just fishing from a bank. Find an area that you know will vary in depth within casting distance. Use a simple hook, bobber and sinker method with a minnow. Vary the depth of the minnow every five to ten minutes until you get the first strike. The great thing about this method is while you are watching the bobber you can cast a jig to cover more water and increase your chances of catching fish. The Reality Shad Road Runner is a minnow profile that has proven to be an excellent lure for Crappie.
One of the other techniques growing popularity is “Pulling”. This technique requires a trolling motor on the side of the boat. Side pulling crank baits on very long lines is a very good way to cover a lot of water and catch Crappie. Just like with Spider Rigging, you must vary the depth and the distance from the boat along with varying colors of baits. Imagine spider rigging, down the side of the boat. The trolling motor is mounted on the opposite side of the boat. The advantage of side-pulling is using the boat’s length to cover water.
As you can tell, catching Crappie comes down to the right technique in the right situation and applying varying methods to fill the boat in ~region~. To learn more about techniques from the pros please visit www.crappienow.com
About The Author
Ron Stallings works at TTI-Blakemore/Red Eagle Technologies as a sales manager for the hunting division. He also helps in the design of lures and packaging for the fishing division.