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Spring Time Crappies

By Steve Huber - May 1, 1999
If you live anywhere in the Midwest or “near Midwest", chances are that you have waters nearby with crappies as one of the predominate panfish species. This is a good thing, because now is the time to be out on the water chasing them. NOW is the time, for crappies are normally found in the summer, suspended and moving around in open water, making locating them somewhat difficult. Springtime, with warming water temperatures will move the crappies in shallow, where anyone can catch them, with or without a boat.

All you have to do is locate the warmest water in the lake, usually on the northern portion of the lake. Look for shallow water, preferably with some brush piles, old reeds or fish cribs. Crappies, at this time of year relate to “structure". If you find an area like this, you’re in a potential crappie goldmine. If the water is clear enough, you can even see them cruising the shallows.

What I like to use for crappies this time of year is a small slip bobber and a 1/32nd to 1/16th ounce round head jig with a light wire hook. Bait up with either a small PowerGrub, a tube jig or a small shiner minnow.

Approach the pile quietly, gently lowering the anchor a “cast" away, as the crappies can be spooky and begin fishing by throwing a jig below a slip bobber/jig 3 to 4 feet from the pile. By doing this, you can pick off the more active fish outside of the brushpile without spooking the other fish. I’ll set the bobber depth about 18 inches above the jig, throw it out and let it sit for a moment, then I’ll give the rod tip a “pop", trying to move the jig up and down without really moving the bobber any closer to the boat, “vertical jigging" well away from the boat. A slip bobber is essential, a clip on bobber will not allow the line to slip through and will move the jig more horizontally than vertical, this vertical effect is what you want. The 18 inch depth is not something chiseled in stone, I’ve found that crappies will come up for a bait, rarely will they go down to feed. If you’re not getting bit, try experimenting with depth also, I’ve found sometimes that they want the bait really shallow and have had to reset the depth so that the jig is just six inches below the bobber.

All you have to do is locate the warmest water in the lake, usually on the northern portion of the lake.
If the crappies are really aggressive, they’ll even hit the bobber as you pop it. If this happens, it’s really fun to grab a rod that’s set up with a small Rapala, toss that puppy out and let it sit on the surface. After the “rings" have settled, give the rod a twitch, I’ve had crappies that thought they were a bass and blow completely out of the water grabbing the lure.

I’ll try all around a brush pile until I have either caught all of the active fish or determined that they are “holding tight". If they are closer, then I’ll toss into pockets, jigging and popping the bait. The nice thing about this particular combo is that if I overcast (that never happens to you...right?) and I’m over a branch, if you reel the bobber carefully up to the branch, the jig will tuck right up underneath the bobber and you can just give a little twitch and hop the bobber over the offending branch.

Light tackle is the ticket here, a light 6 ½ to 7 ½ foot spinning rod, matched with the correct size reel, and 4 to 6 pound test line is all that is needed. I have found that this is one of the times that FireLine really shines, with its small diameter, the fish don’t shy away from it and the extra breaking strength is appreciated when throwing into brushpiles. This is really a bonus when you do hang a jig up. Normally, if you just apply steady pressure, you can straighten out the light hook and free your line without loosing the whole rig. If the fish are “line shy", then use a small swivel and tie on a mono leader of about a foot in length. That way, if you hang up, you can just break off the jig and retrieve your slip bobber, usually without spooking the crappies.

So get on out there, now is the time for BIG crappies and you’ve been cooped up too long. Think of how good a fresh batch of crappies would taste about now. Just remember, you don’t have to catch your limit but it pays to limit your catch. Besides, you really didn’t want to rake the lawn anyway.....did you?

Until next time, see ya.

Author Steve Huber

Steve Huber
Steve Huber, an avid angler with over 35 years of experience (man, he's old) is one of the few multi-species guides in the Rhinelander area. He's been operating G & S Guide Service for 8 years now and loves to fish for Muskies, Northern Pike, Largemouth/Smallmouth Bass and the occasional Walleye (in no particular order). A person who loves to see others succeed, he's an educator while on the water and when he's not teaching you something, he'll regale you with tales of adventures and mis-adventures gleaned from his years on the water. If you liked this article, you can check out Steve's web site at
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