Early Season Crappie

with Jeff Simpson

When it comes to early season crappie opportunities, watching bobbers disappear and thoughts of a fantastic meal never gets old.

While spring crappie fishing is relativity simple — you are hunting moving targets. And crappies move a lot during this time frame.

Good spring fishing can start as soon as the ice leaves the lake. Finding them is a big part of the equation and that depends on a lot of variables. Locationally, man-made channels are good places to start the search. After that, shallow weed bays with bulrushes or developing weed beds are good options.

A lot of good crappie fishing also revolves around consistent weather. Warming trends draw fish in, while cold fronts push them out. One day they’re loaded; the next day, they’re gone with the wind.

Is there anything better after a long winter to spend a beautiful early spring day crappie fishing? Not in our opinion! Springtime crappie fishing is a North American favorite for all ages.

And no matter how experienced, become or evolve as an angler (or how well you age), there’s something magical about seeing a bobber go ‘bloop’, and the next thing you know, you are reeling in a fish.

Springtime is the most popular time for everyone to get out and catch some crappies. On popular crappie fishing lakes with known productive spots, it can admittedly get a little crowded with anglers. However, by giving yourself some space and investigating nearby locations near the main hole, you’ll be shocked how many fish are hanging away from the crowd.

This time of year, crappies are relocating and position to spawn. Often you can find them staging anywhere between 6 to 10 feet from where they will eventually move shallow to make beds and spawn. Crappies are very active this time of year, eating minnows and bugs, and often whatever else swims in front of them — including artificial baits.

“I haven’t used live bait for crappies for over 60 years,” said Al Lindner. “I grew up fishing the lakes in between Chicago, IL, and Milwaukee, WI, where there’s a bunch of lakes that host excellent fishing. When I was a kid, a jig available was called the Pinky Jig. It was in all the bait shops, and it had a pink head and a white calf tail particular jig would outfish most baits, but most importantly, it taught me that I didn’t need minnows or other bait to catch fish.”

Today’s panfish jigs are excellent —further eliminating the need for livebait. Whether you’re fishing with hair or plastic, you want a bait that looks like it’s breathing and moving, like a VMC hair jig with a Hot Skirt Glow Jig, hot skirt glow jig, and the 1/16 ounce Marabou Jig. Some of our favorite pre-rigged jigs are the VMC Prob and Flap Tail jigs now if you want to rig your own. The VMC Moon-Eye jig and we prefer a Big Bite Crappie Minner, Slab Tube, or Panfish minnow — all of these baits work in the water with minimal motion horizontally or vertically.

Spring fishing and floats go hand. The fish are often holding and not willing to chase, especially early when the water is cold. So you have to drop a bait right in their strike zone and leave it there. There are so many different floats available today. Depending on the situation, each presents the bait naturally — right in the face of crappies.

When it comes to bobber styles, there are two different versions: the fixed float and the slip float. When fishing scattered weeds anywhere from 4- to 5 feet down, a fixed or a slip float work, but if you are targeting water deeper, a fixed float becomes too cumbersome to cast or fish efficiently.

Fixed float allows you to use very light lures and present that bait extremely subtly with no extra weight. If you use a slip float and a light jig you might have to add a split shot, and then you lose that subtle action of the light jig. When you’re fishing in and around emergent cover like reed beds, a fixed float can get clunky because of all the line between the bait and the bobber tends to tangle. However, a slip float is a tight little package that you can cast and drop directly into the cover.
A good solid pair of sunglasses is a requirement. We use Wavy Label shades, which are very reasonably priced and they are as good as anything on the market for spotting key spots and fish in the shallows. Simply being able to spot little patches of weeds with the aid of a good pair of shades can make a huge difference. And in clear water, you’ll be amazed how well you can actually see fish — even in deeper water.

Early season crappies are often the first fish people target in the spring. They are fun to catch, often cooperative, and great for the season’s first fish fry.

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