Spring time is Crappie time: Tips for taking early season slabs
Crappie are almost the perfect game fish. They are abundant, easy to catch and offer a tasty treat for those who wish to harvest them. They can also be caught year-round, but if you want BIG crappie you need to chase the spring time spawn. Let us share some tips on how to fill your creel with frying pan size slabs.
Yes, crappie can be caught year-round. Big crappies can also be caught year-round. So why the focus on spring? Because the spring spawn produces the perfect conditions to catch a lot of big crappie more easily. But to be successful you need to know why that is and how to take advantage of this extraordinary situation.
Moving to the shallows
In early spring crappies move into the shallows in search to pre-spawn areas. For those in the north this will occur just after ice out. Further south look for this to happen after the first few steady, warm says of spring weather. Likely locations include backwaters, marina basins or even windward shorelines where warmer water piles. They will also want cover so focus on those areas with rocky, brush or weed covered bottoms. As temperatures rise, usually when water hits the 50-degree mark, spawning age fish will seek out areas with firmer bottom. They will still want some sort of vertical cover though.
Back to basics
Most of us learned to fish with a hook, bait and a bobber. It is time to return to your youth. Because crappies prefer to hide in vertical cover the best way to target them is dropping your bait right into that cover. Even if you are fishing from shore this rig will allow you to cast over that cover and still present your bait properly. As far as bait is concerned you need to start with a jig. This jig can be tipped with almost any live bait, or even small plastics such as curly tailed grubs, but nothing beats small minnows. Most of your casts will be short so your choice of rod & reel does not need to be too fancy, but your line does need to be up to the task. Not only will you be catching larger crappie, but you will be pulling them from weed cover. Most anglers will select 6 lb. test with some going as high as 8 lbs.
School is in
One of the traits of the crappie, and something you need to take advantage of, is their tendency to gather in large schools. Crappies school in large groups, especially during the spawn, but will not move far to chase a bait. The larger spawning females and their male suitors will be in the primer locations with smaller juveniles on the outer edges of the same habitat.
Once you find likely cover make a few exploratory casts searching for the fish. If you do not get any bites after a few casts move a couple feet in either direction and try again. If throwing plastics you can try changing up the color combination but do not waste too much time on an unproductive spot. Same holds true is you are catching fish, but they are all juveniles. But one you start landing the big adults stay put.
Good luck, good fishing!