Sight Fishing Crappie Video: Jeremy Smith and Ty Sjodin search springtime shallows for magnum-sized crappies, hitting pay dirt with 10-foot rods and a technique called Doodle Socking crappie.
One of our favorite rites of spring is chasing early-season crappies in natural lakes, reservoirs, and river backwaters. In terms of action and fun, it’s just plain hard to beat.
It’s a pursuit that recalls childhood memories of fishing with modest means. In the old days, springtime crappies didn’t require fancy gear; instead, some live bait and a few hooks and bobbers got you in the game. But what worked wonders were long bamboo cane poles that allowed anglers to reach crappies buried in cattail and bulrush beds — fish that were almost impossible to reach by other means.
Today’s modern equipment and refined presentations often include long species-specific spinning rods and gear.
Dropping baits in the faces of crappies located in the shallows is a tactic used by anglers from north to south. It’s a great way for anglers at any level to take full advantage of early-season fish-catching opportunities.
In spring, crappies can be located on large weed flats or scattered in bull rush beds. One of the best ways to find them is to drift over the area while wearing quality polarized sunglasses, which allow you to spot the fish.
According to Jeremy Smith, “One fundamental key to this entire system is a long rod. As you maneuver over the area trying to spot a fish, the long rod allows you to reach out and place the bait right in front of the crappie, away from the boat, so that you don’t spook the fish.
“Long rods, like a 10-foot St. Croix Panfish rod, are perfect for sight fishing crappies. The long rod allows you to dangle and work the bait out away from the boat — it reminds me of a puppet show. You may have to lift, drop and tease the bait right in their face, making several attempts to inspire the fish to strike. Stick with it! Most times, you can get them to bite.”
Crappies are nest spawners and typically nest in colonies. A successful next can produce 20,000 to 30,000 fry, which is enough to support an entire population. All the research that we’ve done over the years shows that even though males are important in the population, it doesn’t seem to be at the same level as with bluegill.
That said, it’s still good conservation practice to return the larger males because they’re essential to the population.
“The technology that’s available with the Humminbird Lake Master Combo is truly amazing,” Smith explains. Along with my sonar and GPS, one of the most powerful tools that I use is called Depth Highlight. This simple feature enables users to color highlight a specific depth. I know the crappies will be located near a particular depth range this time of year, so it eliminates a lot of water.
When it comes to finding these key areas, you can drift or use an electric trolling motor to see fish with your eyes. Start dropping waypoints when you spot fish, and most times, the fish come back to the same spot — even if it appeared that you spooked them.
“I don’t start fishing until I’ve located several pods of fish. After that, I slowly maneuver to the waypoints and used my talon to anchor the boat in the exact position.
Once you spot a fish, start by holding the bait just above their head. Typically, if you can get them to rise up, it’s game over. However, other times crappies act like your bait doesn’t even exist. “When fish aren’t showing any inters, I like to drop the lure just below their chin, then pop the bait up really fast a few times. This movement seems to trigger a reactionary bit — kind of like snap jigging a Rapala Jigging Rap or hair jig.
Now, if you find a school of crappies staging in an area, you can cast and retrieve these exact same jigs, again, using the long rod to your advantage to slowly swing the bait through the zone. “What I do is work the bait like it’s a pendulum. After making a short cast, I hold the rod in place and let the bait naturally swing back towards me — rarely ever using the reel.
Jigs are the top lure selecting for sight fish dipping crappies. VMC makes many pre-rigged jigs that work well for this application. The best baits for this type of fishing are the Wingding the Flaptail in the VMC Nymph jig that triggers many crappie bites.
VMC moon eye jigs are my favorite if you want to rig your soft plastics. Also, the Big Bite Crappie Minnr is one hot little number. The Minner features a straight shafted tail that seems to drive fish nuts.