Crappie fishing is one of the most popular recreational fishing activities in the United States. These feisty sunfish are a very popular pursuit; per the most recent National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, 7.8 million anglers go fishing for crappie every year.
Crappie fishing setups range from simple rods and reels to complex rigs. Anglers of any skill level can reel in crappie– but how do you get started? In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about how to fish for crappie. Let’s dive in!
What Are Crappie?
There are two species of fish known as crappie: black crappie and white crappie. Both fish are members of the sunfish family and are
Black Crappie vs. White Crappie: Key Characteristics
|Black Crappie||White Crappie|
|Scientific Name||Pomoxis nigromaculatus||Pomoxis annularis|
|Coloration||Darker overall, with a mottled pattern of dark green or black on their backs and sides, scattered black spots; dark fins||Lighter coloration with a silver-white or pale green back and sides; faint vertical bars or stripes along sides; paler fins|
|Body Shape||More rounded body shape, deeper body, pronounced hump on forehead||Sleeker and more streamlined, reduced forehead hump|
|Habitat Preferences||Clear, deeper waters with lots of vegetation and submerged logs; lakes, reservoirs, and slow-moving rivers||More adaptable and found in a wide range of habitats, such as rivers, ponds, lakes, reservoirs, and swamps|
|Feeding Behavior||More aggressive, feed actively during low-light conditions (dawn and dusk), prefer smaller prey like insects, tiny fish, and zooplankton||Feed all day, broad diet that includes crayfish, larger fish, insects, and zooplankton|
The record weight for black crappie is 5 pounds 7 ounces, while the white crappie’s record is 5.3 ounces. Usually, crappies are no more than a pound or two in weight.
Where To Find Crappie
Like most other sunfish, you can usually find crappie near rocky overhangs, cypress trees, submerged logs, weed beds, blowdowns, willow cover, and other debris, especially near the shoreline. The dappled shadows this kind of cover creates provide the fish with great camouflage and protect them from predators.
The seasons also affect where you will find crappie. You can fish for them year-round, but the best way to fish for crappie is different at each time of the year.
As the ice melts and the water warms up, crappie moves to the shallow waters where it’s warmer. Look for weedy patches in shallow, soft-bottomed bays where they can hunt. Crappie spawns in spring, and when it’s time for spawning, they move from the soft-bottomed areas of the lake to gravelly bottoms in 3-10 feet of water.
Crappie will bite all day long in summer but will go into full feeding frenzy mode around dawn and dusk. Lower light periods give them an advantage against their prey, and the water is cooler, so they feel more comfortable with the energy expenditure. At midday, crappie are often resting in deep, cool water and will not rise to feed– so don’t waste your time if they’re not biting at noon.
Fall is a peak growth season for crappie, so look for their favorite food: shad. Find the shad, find the crappie. Peak shad locations include back bays and creek inlets. Crappies move slower in the fall and hunt prey that is easier to catch, so they present themselves with smaller jigs or smaller baits that they will perceive as easy targets.
Winter is a slow season for crappie, so now is the time to use minnows. Crappies can’t resist a big juicy minnow in winter! Small baits also work well during winter. The fish are going to be moving quite slowly, so fish are slow and deep.
How To Fish For Crappie
There are lots of ways to fish for crappie. You can go after them with a simple rod and reel, you can go fly fishing for them, and you can even find them ice fishing.
One of the most popular ways to go for crappie is with a “spider” rig. This is a rig that allows you to have multiple rods spread out at the bow of your boat, usually six or eight. When you’re set up with a spider rig, you slowly troll forwards and let the fish come to you.
You can also fish for crappie using standard spin fishing techniques where you just cast your line and use one rod at a time. However, crappie swims in schools for much of the year, so if you use multiple rods, you’ll get more fish.
A useful tool for crappie fishing is sonar. Many crappie anglers swear by the Garmin LiveScope, which is directional and sensitive enough to let you see individual fish in the water. This will help you know where the crappie is and how to present the bait. Sonar takes some of the frustration out of finding the fish, which is often the hardest part of fishing for crappie.
Best Crappie Techniques
There are several techniques that can be used to catch crappie.
|Bobber and Minnow||A simple rig where you use a live minnow under a fixed bobber||Gently flipping into the cover or horizontal casting|
|Jig Fishing||Using a synthetic bait to catch crappie||Flipping into cover, horizontal casting, or dipping|
|Shooting||Using a short rod to “shoot” your bait under a dock or into areas of heavy cover||Carefully-placed casts into hard-to-reach places|
|Crankbait Fishing||Using a moving bait to tempt predatory fish into biting||Casting and then slowly reeling in to make the bait move|
|Spider-rigging||Trolling with minnows or jigs using multiple 12-16 foot rods off the front of the boat||No casting, just dipping and holding the line almost vertically while trolling|
Best Crappie Bait
Crappie are opportunistic feeders that will take a wide variety of baits. Jigs and minnows are often the best bait to present for crappie, although some anglers like to use groundbait. Spinners can also work well for crappie.
Many anglers prefer using crappie jigs because they are cheap, easy to find, and come in lots of color variations and shapes. This ensures that you have a tacklebox full of bait that can help you in lots of different situations.
|Type of Crappie Jig||Description||Best Uses|
|Tube||A tube with a hollowed-out head region and cut appendages like a tassel||Any vertical application; long-poling, spider-rigging, trolling, vertical jigging|
|Curly Tail Grub||A thick worm-like body with a C-shaped tail section that wiggles in the water||Casting– needs horizontal action to make the tail move effectively|
|Shad Body||Shaped like a small fish||Vertical jigging, casting, shooting|
|Paddle Tail||Tiny bait with a solid body section and a narrow tail that moves to attract fish||Casting|
|Spade Tail||Rounded body with a pointed tail coming off the back; usually bulkier than shad bodies||Vertical jigging, casting, shooting|
|Fork Tail||Similar to a spade tail but with a fork in the tail section for better movement||Vertical jigging, casting|
|Hybrid||A jig with multiple features from different types of jigs||Varies depending on features|
The color of your jig is important. Crappies have large eyes and a good sense of vision, and there is no one color or color combination that is a surefire hit with them at all times. Fluorescent heads on your jigs are great for drawing attention, and glitter catches the light. Jigs with multiple colors mimic the natural color patterns of minnows and bait fish.
Best Crappie Fishing Rods
The rod you use for crappie depends on the technique you’re using.
For trolling, a 12-16 foot crappie rod like the B’n’M Pro Staff is ideal. If you’re spider-rigging, you want to use long rods that are designed for this purpose. Spider-rigging is specialized fishing, and you don’t want an all-purpose rod.
The best spider-rigging rods are stiff, static rods that can keep your line nearly vertical in the water. You won’t be casting with these rods, although you could dip with them if you wanted to. And for these rods, usually the longer, the better. Try something like the products made by Southern Crappie Rods if you’re spider-rigging.
If you’re dock shooting, you should use a shorter rod– something in the five to seven-foot range, like the Lew’s Wally Marshall Speed Shooter. Shooting requires good control and great responsiveness, so you don’t want a long rod for this.
Best Crappie Line
Crappie are not heavy fish, so you don’t need to worry about finding a line with a huge test weight. In most situations, a 2 or 4-pound test is sufficient, You can use a braided line, monofilament line, or fluorocarbon line. Because crappie does have good vision, some anglers prefer to use fluorocarbon line– it turns invisible in the water, so it can’t spook the fish. However, in deeper water or water that isn’t clear, braided or monofilament lines will be just fine.
As you can see, crappie fishing is a highly versatile sport. You can have fun with crappie no matter your level of expertise, and crappie can be caught without a ton of equipment. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and go catch some crappie!