Spring is the best time to get on some BIG fish. When the females are loaded with eggs their prespawn weight can be significantly higher than what they are the rest of the year. So when the big girls wander in shallow and stage the spawn, there is a small window of opportunity to make something magical happen. This is also the time of year when the bite is hot and it can almost seem like the saying goes “shooting fish in a barrel”.
As water temperatures reach the high 50’s to low 60’s the crappie will begin to move into spawning grounds. They will actually spawn once water temps are in the high 60’s to low 70’s. These fish aren’t like bass where they will sit on their beds either. Crappie actually hide near their beds and destroy just about anything that comes near it. Their digital camo colors allow them to hide in weeds and darker colored bottoms, even in very shallow water. The action really picks up at night as it usually does with crappie. They feed more actively in low light hours.
I’ve been fishing for crappie for over twenty years now and figuring out their patterns on multiple bodies of water has allowed me to be productive all over. Knowing what they are doing and when they are doing it is key. Sprinkle a little luck on that and you could have an amazing outing. Sometimes its average sized fish pushing in at night and other times you get a chance at some once in a lifetime fish. As always, having the right presentation is important. However, this time of year they can be quite aggressive and hit lures that they won’t even touch the rest of the year.. Bass fishermen will often catch a slab by accident with a spinner bait or swim jig. I’ve found the most success in jigging micro soft plastics and small finesse jigs. Smaller baits have always done better for me when chasing crappie.
Some of the finesse jigs that I use are all hand tied pieces and i use them in a range of colors, and also in 1/16-1/8oz weights. Micro soft plastics can be just as effective and I enjoy using Euro Tackle’s Micro Finesse line, The Lightning Shad from Mr. Crappie, Berkley’s Power Nymph and Crappie Magnet soft plastics on jig heads from 1/64oz up to 1/16oz. You can fish these tiny soft plastics in a variety of ways and the lighter jig heads allow for a slower fall which i find can make a huge difference. This is important because crappie feed upward and I can cover an area effectively while keeping my bait above them most of the time. I like to pop and flutter my jigs above and near beds until I see gills flare up out of the darkness and my bait disappear.
After the spawn fish will move out to main and secondary lake points to rest and recover briefly. Getting big fish to bite during this time period may be difficult but after about a week they usually come back in shallow full force and devour juvenile bluegill and bait fish in any weed lines, brush piles and dock systems. Crappie love cover so find something appealing to them and they will be there. Get in on it while you can because once the summer heat kicks in the fish pull push deep into basins or flats and pretty much cruise around chasing bait fish during the summer months. Tactics will change and so will productivity if you aren’t smart enough to switch things up.