Category Archives: Crappie Fishing

Catching Ice-Out Crappies

Ice Out Crappie
Catching Ice-Out Crappies in Northern Lakes
From Northland Tackle Pro Joel Nelson
from The Fishing Wire

It’s been an odd spring, and for that matter, and even more peculiar winter.  Open water in the southern part of the northern states has been around for a few weeks, while in the north, there’s still ice, albeit a poor version of it, clinging to memories of a winter that wasn’t. 

Early season panfish bites are a rite of spring, typically happening in mid-late April for most northern lakes.  This year due to the unseasonably warm weather, I’m happy to say, we’ll probably have some bonus time in my state, Minnesota, with crappies already snapping in the shallows. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when tracking down a good spring crappie bite.

Water temperature is a key contributing factor to everything crappies in the spring.  Cold nights below freezing, cool-water runoff from melting snow, and heavy cloud cover can all contribute to the death of a seemingly un-killable bite.  As black-bottom bays and rock-laden shorelines store what solar energy they can, crappies flood to the shallows as water temps hit 45 degrees and above.  In most of the lakes I fish, this seems to be as close to a “magic number” as I can find in helping to predict not only locations, but mood of the crappies I’m after. 

Anything much off that value, and shallow water crappies become much more rare and hard to find.  Even after locating them, you just don’t see the large congregations of fish that are willing to eat like you do in the 45-50 degree range and above.  That said, spring is a roller coaster of conditions in northern states, full of false-starts, short intense feeding periods during warm weather, and then eventually spawn and post-spawn behavior.  Your best bet is multiple trips that allow you to track changes in water temperatures, such that you don’t hit before the front end, or after the spawn.

Regarding location, when warm water is scarcer in the early season, those shorelines that are even a few degrees warmer can be full of fish.  This is true even when they lack good cover, provided you’re fishing the warmest water in the lake and it’s still early.  Black bays on the north side of a lake are a good start, and don’t hesitate to fish shallower than 5 feet, especially in systems with poor clarity.  Even as water temps rise into the 50’s, fish remain shallow, feeding on baitfish drawn to the warm water and emerging life that’s brought on by warm afternoons and an even more aggressive sun angle.

Cover is king for pre-spawn crappies, and while any wood or timber is good for finding them, brush is better.  An isolated log or stump may hold a few fish, but large concentrations of fish will be found where they can bury themselves within and along brush piles.  Unfortunately, most anglers miss the bonanza by fishing only around the edges, rather than within the heavy cover.  Occasional fish are to be had this way, but to do well in these situations, you’ll need to be prepared to fearlessly fish inside of the heavy stuff, not just around the edges.  For that reason, especially in darker, more turbid water, I’ll fish 8lb test mono or heavier, as small jigs and small line are an exercise in brush-fishing frustration. 

In northern natural lakes with broad and shallow shorelines, timber can be hard to find, so crappies focus on bulrush and pencil-reeds for cover.  Whether wood or vegetation, getting in the middle of it seems to pay dividends.What to use is an important factor during this time of year, with water temps again dictating presentation and lure selection.  Especially early, the temptation is to fish fast and cover water to find larger schools.  Just coming out of winter, locations can be a mystery, and bobber-fishing shallows is simply too slow for most anglers. 

That said, especially during the early season, crappies will rarely chase to eat moving baits presented on the edges.  Fish with floats, and use meat.  Crappies are carnivorous little beings, and you’ll be surprised how savagely they’ll strike a minnow offered on a jig with hair, tinsel, marabou, or flashabou.  This larger profile requires some aggression, and hookups seem much more sure as crappies are required to fully inhale such a presentation. 

Keep in mind however, that bluegills which can be found in the same areas this time of year, are less likely to be able to eat such baits.  I have been pleasantly surprised by large perch, especially when fishing backwaters bites, that will be more than happy to eat a 1/32oz jig with a minnow.

Plastics bites are still to come, but typically require warmer conditions yet.  It’s unfortunate that minnows are best fished when your freezing fingers would otherwise want you to use artificial bait-only, but it seems like warm weather and glove-less hands are about the best predictor on when to start looking to retrieved plastic presentations.  For this reason, bring bait until moving presentations readily out-perform more stationary live-bait options.

It’s a great time of year to be on the water.  Wait till a warm afternoon, and pick apart the shallows until you find some fish.  Keep it simple, have fun with it, and save the ultra-serious stuff for later.For more fishing tips, visit

Crappies on the Ice

Ice Crappie

LIVETARGET Tips for Run-and-Gun Crappies on the Ice
 Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON  – Of the various species pursued by ice anglers, crappies may be tops. They’re a blast to catch and provide great eating. And while there are a bunch of ways to catch crappies – everything from tungsten jigs to spoons to set-lines with live bait – more and more anglers are discovering that the crankbait game isn’t limited to open water when it comes to catching more and bigger slabs. Progressive ice anglers are fishing rattlebaits alone and in tandem with other systems, and they’re turning out big fish all across the ice belt. Although rattlebaits will work the entire season, right now – early-to-mid-ice – is the perfect time to capitalize on these presentations.

Location and Timing For North Dakota-based LIVETARGET ice pros Scott Brewer and Kyle Agre of Brewer-Agre Outdoors, the first part of the crappie equation is locating fish. And when it comes to crappies, early- and mid-ice season fish will remain close to the same depths and locations they were found during late fall.

“For me, it’s finding that deep basin, preferably adjacent to a weedy flat or a weedy bay,” says Agre. “That’s where they’re going to be after they move out of the weeds.”Brewer agrees that weeds are key. “And the edges of green weeds on the drop-offs,” he adds. “Ideally, you’ll find a drop-off with green weeds close to that deep-water basin. The crappies will hang out there for quite a while. Crappies are also headed toward holes. If you can find a hole on a flat somewhere – a 10- or 15- foot flat that’s got a 20- or 25-foot hole – those crappies are going to be there already during early ice and remain there a good portion of the winter.”

Agre says the adjacent basins really come into play once the weeds die. “Finding the right locations really comes down to knowing that these fish were relating to the weeds until the food moved on,” he says. “The weeds will die off to a point where they’re not sustaining the plankton, the minnows, baitfish, and everything else. At that point the crappies are going to slide out into the deeper water and they’re going to feed on the whole food chain that’s taking place out there with plankton, insect larvae, baitfish and so on.

”Once prime areas are located, it comes down to drilling a lot of holes and jumping from spot to spot to find active crappies. Electronics increase efficiency. Rather than hunkering down in one spot and waiting for prime times, this kind of fishing can produce fish when the majority of anglers would either stay on shore or simply wait out the hours until set-line bobber and minnow combinations start producing.Also, there are a lot of anglers who can only fish when they have time, which might be during the day or outside of those prime-time hours. Run and gun crappie fishing is the perfect solution.

The One-Two Punch Scott Brewer says that’s when loud baits like the LIVETARGET Golden Shiner and Perch rattlebaits really come in handy, because they allow you to search for fish fast. As an added benefit, these baits are magnets for the largest, most aggressive crappies in the school, so they can often act as a filter for better-quality fish.

“The smallest of the LIVETARGET Golden Shiner and Yellow Perch rattlebaits work great for searching out and catching large crappies,” says Brewer. “Even during the middle of the day, hole-hopping with a rattlebait can pay out dividends that you just don’t get when hunkered down with a set-line or smaller tungsten set up.

”For Brewer and Agre, they almost always utilize a one-two punch of a LIVETARGET Golden Shiner Rattlebait or Yellow Perch Rattlebait on one rod, and the smallest LIVETARGET Erratic Shiner spoon (1/4-oz.) with a minnow head on a second throwback rod. “I think that whether the angler is going to fish aggressively or sit tight and be a little more subtle, having that lipless crank on can play to both techniques.

When running and gunning you’re looking for those aggressive fish, just like we do when we’re trolling crankbaits for crappies in the open-water season,” says Agre. “And once you find them, the bite might only last so long and you have to continue the search. But when it’s time to slow down and offer a more subtle presentation, I will use still use a rattlebait in tandem with the ¼-oz. LIVETARGET Erratic Shiner. I’m going to use the lipless crank as an attractor, much like we do with the walleyes on Lake Winnipeg. And if the crappies don’t commit to the rattlebait, I’ll switch rods and drop that Erratic Shiner with a minnow head on it and that’s usually all it takes.” 

Presentation Set-Up In terms of rod, reel, and line set-up, Agre recommends a light to medium-light power rod with a fast tip in the 28- to 32-inch range for both the smaller rattlebaits and spoons. Both he and Brewer prefer monofilament in the four-to-six-pound class.

As far as color is concerned, both pros like the standard silver/blue and glow patterns for the Golden Shiner rattlebaits and the Erratic Shiner, and switch to the perch patterns on lakes where perch are an important forage source.

Final Thoughts Don’t limit yourself to only fishing prime times or sitting and waiting for crappies to come to you this season. With lures like LIVETARGET’s Golden Shiner and Yellow Perch rattlebaits, run and gun tactics can produce fast – and big – crappie bites when other anglers are sitting around complaining about slow fishing. And when the fish become neutral to negative, it’s time to break out the LIVETARGET Erratic Shiner with a minnow head and slow down your movements.It’s a one-two punch that’s producing big crappies across the ice belt.

ABOUT LIVETARGET Since its launch in 2008, LIVETARGET has grown into a full family of life-like fishing lures that Match-the-Hatch® to specific game fish forage, with an expansive library of lure styles and colors for both fresh and saltwater fishing. The lures feature industry-leading designs in realism and workmanship that closely mimic nature’s different prey species. Headquartered in Ontario, Canada, LIVETARGET won ICAST Best of Show awards in the hard and soft lure categories in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Wintertime Crappie

Staying on Top of Wintertime Crappie
from The Fishing Wire
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Of all the outdoor experiences my mother, now 86, enjoyed the most, it was watching a cork disappear as a slab crappie grabbed the minnow at the end of the line.

As is normal procedure, I check in on her every few days, and she wanted to know what I’d been doing.

“Catching crappie,” I said.

“I didn’t think you could catch crappie this time of year,” she responded.

“Well,” I said, “You haven’t been crappie fishing with Tony Adams.

”Adams is the fish-catching wizard who can catch crappie any time of year on his home impoundment – Lake Eufaula.

Although Eufaula is known as the “Bass Capitol of the World,” Adams spends most of his time on the water catching crappie.

When most folks in the outdoors community are in the woods chasing whitetails or cottontails, Adams is locating the likely spots where crappie congregate this time of year. He uses his Humminbird Helix 12 bottom machine (manufactured in Eufaula) to locate the fish on the spots he has found over the years. He uses the side-scanning feature to locate the spot and then switches to down-scanning to pinpoint where the fish are located on the structure.

“I find structure in 15 to 20 feet of water,” said Adams, who manages the Eufaula Marvin’s building supply store when he’s not catching crappie.

“When I see the fish on the Humminbird, I’ll drop down a minnow anywhere from 8 to 10 to 12 feet, depending on where the fish are holding.

”Adams uses 10-foot B&M poles and spinning reels with 6-pound-test, high-viz line. When the fish are deeper in the winter, he uses a No. 2 gold hook and a split-shot pinched 12 to 18 inches above the hook. If it gets a little windy, he’ll use a second split-shot to keep the bow out of his line.

The reason he uses the high-viz line is because it’s a lot easier to watch during the sunny, clear days.

“Obviously, you watch your rod tip, but I also watch that line,” Adams said. “Sometimes crappie will bite and come up with it. You can tell by the slack in the line that you’ve got a fish.

”When Adams hits the lake, he always has a bait bucket or two with plenty of minnows.

“In the summer, I’ll tip a jig with a minnow and bounce it off the bottom,” he said. “In the winter, I just use a minnow.”

Adams prefers to hook his minnow through the bottom lip and through the hard cartilage on the front of the head to allow more action from the bait.

“In the wintertime I try to keep the bait right at about the depth the fish are holding,” he said. “Then we just wait to see that rod tip bounce or go down and then pull in a slab.

”Of course, the weather plays a significant role in his fishing success during the winter, especially the wind. The cold doesn’t bother him. He just adds more clothes. It’s the wind that dictates his strategy.

“During the winter, the less wind there is, the better the fishing I can do,” he said. “You have to keep the bait in front of the crappie most of the time. The fish are in big schools on the structure. The more time you can have that minnow in front of the crappie, the better your chances of catching them.”

Adams said the wintertime pattern kicks off on Lake Eufaula around the first of December, and crappie will remain on structure until the weather starts to warm in February.

“In the middle of February, they’ll start moving into the mouths of the creeks to do some pre-spawning,” he said. “We’ll start catching a lot more fish in the creeks. Then when they move up to spawn, we’ll catch a lot of fish in the creeks. That’s when I start throwing jigs around the grass, the rocks and bridge pilings. I’ll be shooting (casting underneath) docks because the fish are getting shallow. On Lake Eufaula, it seems the bigger fish come up first.

“In the spring, sometimes they’re in 12 inches of water all the way down to 5 feet of water. Some of them spawn in 5 feet of water. Sometimes they’ll spawn deeper than at other times.”

Adams will do two things while the crappie are in their transition period from spawn to summer. He catches plenty of catfish, but he also makes sure plenty of structure will be available to fish for the summertime and wintertime patterns.“While the fish are spawning, I’ll put structure out in deeper water,” said Adams, who uses mainly bamboo but will also sink crepe myrtles and small cedars. “I’ll take a 5-gallon bucket, fill it about halfway with water. I’ll pour in some concrete mix. I’ll have the bamboo already trimmed at the bottom and start sticking it into the concrete. I’ll make sure the bamboo is sticking in every direction. Then I’ll look for spots where the new structure will cover about half the water column. If I’m going to put it out in 20 feet of water, I’ll have the bamboo about 10 feet tall.

“Right about Memorial Day is when the crappie are back on that heavy structure in the middle of the lake,” he said.

On our trip last week, we hit the lake with a cold front approaching. It was the kind of day a bass fisherman dreams of – cloud cover with mild temperatures and the barometer falling. Those conditions usually put the bass species into a feeding frenzy.

We found out that doesn’t translate to crappie fishing. With a light fog and heavy cloud cover, the fish weren’t really in a biting mood. We’d catch two or three fish in one spot and then have to move to find a few more.

Then – cue the Hallelujah Choir – the sun broke through the clouds, and the bite began in earnest. Within six or seven minutes, we had put 10 nice keepers in the boat. That trend continued until the approaching front forced us back to the boat ramp.

“My favorite time to fish is when the sun is shining,” Adams said. “I think the fish get tighter to the structure. I also think maybe the sun shining may give that minnow a different kind of look in that deep water. That sunshine seems to kick off the bite. We definitely did a lot better when the sun was shining.

”Back to the wind, which will determine whether it’s worth launching the boat on certain days.

“On a real windy day, it’s hard to crappie fish,” he said. “Based on where you are in the lake, if you have 6- to 7-mile-per-hour winds, it could be white-capping. That will mean 15-inch to 2-foot waves. That minnow is moving up and down with the waves, which is not natural. With the crappie not as aggressive in the wintertime, they’re not going to bite something moving like that.

“I’m looking for 5 miles an hour or less. Calm is even better. Cold is not a problem. You can drop that minnow right in front of his face. It may take him a few minutes to hit it, but he will eventually hit it.

”Although we didn’t use any types of bobbers to catch the fish, I’m sure my mom won’t mind when I fry her up a batch of fillets from the 38 crappie we put in the ice chest.

Proper Equipment and Fish Correct Depth to Catch Crappie

Use Proper Equipment and Fish Correct Depth to Catch Crappie with Roger Gant
from The Fishing Wire

Editor’s Note: Roger Gant of Corinth, Mississippi, has fished Pickwick Lake on the Tennessee River for more than 40 years. Some fishermen haven’t recognized Pickwick Lake, located on the Alabama/Tennessee/Mississippi border, as a crappie lake. However, Gant guides on Pickwick Lake more than 200 days a year and consistently catches good limits of slab crappie. Here’s how he does it, from noted outdoors writer John Phillips.

* Have the proper equipment for the time of the year you plan to fish. Many crappie fishermen don’t take the time they need to make sure they have the very-best equipment they can purchase for the time of year they plan to fish. If you use too large a line, your jig will float too high in the water for crappie to take it. If your line doesn’t have the strength you need, you’ll break the line when you set the hook. I’ve found that I can set the hook hard on 8-pound-test MagnaThin line (, yet the small line will cut through the water so that my jigs run at the proper depths. You need an extremely-soft rod with enough backbone to hold itself upright. When sight-fishing for crappie, I look for the bite on the tip of the rod. So, I must have a sensitive rod to show me even the lightest crappie bite. I like a B’n’M 6 1/2-foot crappie jig pole (

I fish with Quantum’s casting reels ( that have bearings in them and reel smoothly. I use casting reels on spinning rods because most casting rods have a trigger or a hump on the butt of the rod. But, a spinning rod has a straight handle. When the rod’s on the deck of the boat, the reel faces down. I place my rod and reel in this position when I use my style of trolling. I also use casting reels, so I can count the line down to the proper water depth to catch the fish. I put a white piece of tape on the rod 1 foot from where the line comes out of the reel. My fishermen can pull the line off the reel out to where the line crosses the white tape. Each time an angler pulls the line to the white tape, he or she knows his jig will go down one more foot in the water. By having the jigs troll at exactly the water depth where the crappie hold or slightly above the crappie, then we catch more crappie. I believe you can pull line off a bait-casting reel easier and more accurately than you can a spinning reel.

* Fish in the exact depths where the crappie hold to catch more crappie. By constantly watching your depth finder and searching for fish and structure, the depth finder will tell you at what depth you need to troll your jigs. Once I determine the depth of the structure I see on the depth finder, I know how deep to tell my fishermen to let their jigs down, so they’ll pass just above the structure. If I see crappie holding above the structure on my depth finder, I can tell my fishermen how much line to pull off, so that the jigs will pass at the depth where the crappie are holding or slightly above them. If I see crappie 15-feet deep, I can tell my fishermen to let their jigs touch the water and then pull off 14 feet of line. I know that when I slow troll, those jigs will pass about a foot above the crappie. If the fish don’t take the bait, I may tell my fishermen to pull off 1/2-foot of line. Because of the tape, the fishermen know how far to pull the line and can get the jigs down closer to the crappie.

To learn more about crappie fishing with Roger Gant, call him at 731-689-5666 or 662-287-2017, or go to

To learn much more about crappie fishing, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks, and print and Audible books by going to or to for Nook books. To receive and download for free “The Crappie Catchers’ Cookbook,” by John and Denis

Deep cover keys summer crappie success

Deep cover keys summer crappie success–why not make your own?

Editor’s Note: Here’s a nice little story on summer crappie fishing and building your own fish attractors from the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission that could apply pretty much anywhere the fish are found.
from the Fishing Wire

Each spring, anglers comb the shallows at DeGray Lake in Hot Spring and Clark counties, probing tiny jigs and minnows at any likely looking spot in search of crappie. Rarely do anglers leave empty-handed when the dogwoods are blooming and the fish are spawning. But once summer’s heat sets in and the fish move out of the shallows, most anglers hang up the jigging poles or use the same tactics as spring, leaving the lake with hungry stomachs and a bare live well.

John Duncan, owner of, says catching crappie once the spawn has ended can be just as good as when they’re on the beds. Anglers just have to switch to deep-thinking mode. Once the water’s surface temperature begins to creep into the 80s, crappie seek the comfort of cooler water found a little deeper.

“If you just look across the surface, there doesn’t seem to be hardly anything to hold fish, but it’s a different world under the water,” Duncan said. “The Corps [of Engineers], the Game and Fish and some local anglers have sunk a bunch of brush piles throughout the lake, you just have to look for them.”

The latest electronics can be extremely helpful in finding brush piles made of branches and woody cover, but can be tricky to read when searching for brush made of bamboo or river cane, materials extremely popular with crappie anglers.

“If you’re using a side-imaging depth finder, wood will show up easily, but bamboo brush piles may only look like a shadow on the bottom,” Duncan said. “Sometimes you have to go right over it before you can really see what it looks like.”

Anglers who can’t afford high-dollar electronics still can find plenty of offshore options for crappie, it just takes a little more effort and elbow grease. A five-gallon bucket, some hand-cut bamboo and some fast-setting concrete is all it takes to create your own brush piles and place them wherever you want. Channel edges, points, drops and mid-lake humps are all good spots to set up as your personal crappie hole.

Glowing Crappie?

Glowing crappie may help Arkansas GFC evaluate stocking success

PINE BLUFF – Black lights and phosphorescent fish – throw in your standard mod Peter Max poster, some Hendrix on the turntable and maybe a lava lamp, and it would seem like someone’s living room circa 1970. However, more than four decades later, black lights are less a living room showpiece and more useful in the hands of biologists looking for “glowing” crappie to determine how effective a pond-stocking program can be.

As part of a grant administered by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Greyson Farris, a master’s student in the aquaculture program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, is studying the AGFC’s crappie stocking program using fingerlings from two hatcheries: the Joe Hogan hatchery at Lonoke and the William H. Donham hatchery in Corning. Late in the fall of the past two years, about 180,000 fingerlings – half of them white crappie from Lonoke and the other half black crappie from Corning – were treated with chemicals that allow researchers to track the fish after stocking in eight Arkansas lakes, according to JJ Gladden, a biologist at the Lonoke facility.

During the first year, the fish were marked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved oxytetracycline, or OTC, in which the fingerlings absorb in a six-hour bath. The chemical is absorbed in bony areas such as the ear bone. Last fall, the fish were also treated with OTC, but Farris then used another marking agent, calcein, a phosphorescent dye, in another, shorter treatment before the fingerlings were taken for stocking.

The key difference between using calcein over OTC is that fish tested for the presence of the marker do not have to be sacrificed in the process.

“As far as I know, nobody has ever done the calcein marking with crappie,” Farris said. “They’ve done it with largemouth bass, perch, walleye.”

Fish captured for testing that were marked with only OTC have to be cut open for their ear bone, or otolith, to be examined under special light. The nature of calcein, Farris says, is that it’s absorbed not only in the bones but in the fins, around the eyes and mouths, and it offers a vivid green appearance when seen under black light and with specific glasses. Using the calcein as a marker required the AGFC to request a special license from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but the process for marking the fish was far easier, Farris said. Instead of a six-hour soak in OTC, the fingerlings were hit with a 30-second bath of salinized water (about 40 parts per 1,000, he said), a fresh water rinse, then a seven-minute soak in the calcein-water mixture. The salt water bath drew out most of the water from the fingerlings – making them “sponge-like,” Farris said – which then soaked up the calcein.

OTC is a proven method in marking fish, in use for more than 40 years, Farris said. The question is, how long will the calcein last in a crappie? Farris said calcein in fish has been shown to degrade over time in sunlight. However, crappie tend to stay deeper in lakes and the fish’s nature is to not turn on its side; the underbelly of the crappie should be least likely to see much if any photodegradation, Farris said. And in fish he’s tested both at UAPB and in pond nettings, he’s found calcein.

All this is to show how effective a stocking program can be for a lake such as Lake Saracen in Pine Bluff, one of the eight lakes in Farris’ study. Other lakes in the study are Lake Des Arc, Lake Charles, Lake Poinsett, Calion Lake, Irons Fork Reservoir, Sugarloaf Lake and Beaverfork Lake. So far, he has found growing crappie that were AGFC-stocked in six of the lakes. “It’s great to see how many fish are surviving on a month-to-month scale,” Farris said. “Most of the time when you stock ponds or lakes, you don’t know if you’re having a benefit to the Commission unless you have a creel survey or stocked fish come up into your nets. You have to kill the OTC fish, and that’s not beneficial in the long term. Also, every OTC-marked fish will take 15 minutes of lab time, at least, to check. You can tell immediately if you have a calcein-marked fish. Fisheries biologists are better off in the long run, getting it cheaper, faster and easier.”

Calcein marking costs more, about $5,000 to mark 90,000 fish compared to $1,000 for OTC. But the tested fish live. And, “any measure of a stocking program is a measure of success,” Farris notes.

Because of warmer autumns the past two years, the fingerlings weren’t ready for the treatment and stocking until November. Farris tested the lakes through the winter and said he will resume through the summer and fall, netting about 250 crappie per lake to find if they were part of the stockings.

“The objective was to find a way to look at these fish without having to kill them, stock them, see them in the nets with [black lights] and see if they were the fish we stocked,” Farris said.

Lake Weiss Crappie Fishing

Fishermen have a dilemma this time of year. Its hard to decide whether to go fishing for crappie or bass. Both bite good during March and you can usually catch a good many of either species. Its hard to decide which to try to catch.

Last week I got to go with experts at catching both. They don’t have to decide, each of them concentrates on one species only all year. I met Mark Collins at Weiss for crappie fishing and Mike Morris for at West Point for bass. Each of them will be featured in articles in both Georgia and Alabama Outdoor News April issues.

Mark Collins has been guiding full time for Lake Weiss crappie for 23 years. He knows how to catch crappie there year round and spring is one of his best times for catching large numbers of fish as well as big fish. This time of year he is trolling for them from his center console boat that will hold up to four fishermen and he runs three rods per fisherman, including himself, the legal limit on Weiss.

Driving into the area around Lake Weiss you will see signs proclaiming Weiss is the “Crappie Fishing Capital of the World.” It has long been known for producing a lot of very big crappie. The lake has perfect habitat for crappie and local businesses, Alabama Power and the state of Alabama all work to keep it good and make it better.

Statewide in Alabama there is a nine inch size limit on crappie to protect the smaller fish and let them grow. On two lakes, Weiss and Logan Martin, the next lake downstream on the Coosa River, both have ten inch limits to help produce quality fish.

Mark is a board member of the Weiss Lake Improvement Association, an organization that works to improve habitat for crappie and other fish on the lake and promotes fishing there. One of the things they have done is put out brush piles made of cane. The GPS co-ordinates for them can be found on his website: Not only do those brush piles give fishermen a good place to fish, they offer crappie and other species a place to live, feed and grow.

Mark scared me but impressed me at the same time. I was to meet him at noon Monday and ride along that afternoon with him and a guide client. About the time I go to Carrollton he called and said there was no reason to come, the fish were not biting and he had canceled his guide trips.

His website says “No fish, no pay,” one of the few guides that will do that. But he says he wants happy clients that will come back for repeat business so he will call them if the fish aren’t biting.

Fortunately for me, he was out fishing trying to figure out what to do to catch fish. I met him at Little River Landing and Resort, the only full service marina on the lake. They even have rooms to rent and a small restaurant. He had caught about eight crappie that morning, a couple of them over two pounds, so we had fish for pictures for the article.

Eight crappie over ten inches long sounds like a decent catch to me but Mark expects to have 30 fish per person limits each day for his clients. If you want to go out with one of the best guides on the lake you can contact him through his website or call him at 256-779-3387.

Crappie Fishing at Lake Walter F. George in September

Walter F. George has long been known for its excellent crappie fishing. In September night fishing is very good for them. Tie up under any of the bridges on the lower lake like the one in White Oak Creek, hang a light over the side and fill up your cooler while crappie fishing at Lake Walter F. George in September.

Areas of standing timber are also good, like the mouth of Bustahatchee Creek. Anchor near the old creek channel over the timber and put your light over the side. It is a little more difficult to position your boat than it is under a bridge and you need two anchors to hold your boat steady.

With a depthfinder you can usually see the fish and know what depth to fish. Without one, drop a minnow or Hal Fly jig down to nine feet and work it at that depth for a few minutes, then drop down another foot. Keep slowly changing depth until you start catching them.

Light line is the key. Four pound test fluorocarbon is best but you may have to go to six pound to land bigger fish, especially in the timber. Try different color jigs and different size minnows until the fish pick their favorite and then offer it to them.

What Is Dropshotting for Crappie?

Get The Drop On Crappies – Dropshotting for crappie

Crappie caught dropshotting

Crappie caught dropshotting

Drop shot rigging not just for bass anymore

Drop shot rigging is a staple presentation of serious bass fans from coast to coast. But it remains a largely overlooked option for anglers pursuing other species of gamefish, including crappies.

That’s unfortunate, because in the right situations, drop shotting can yield banner catches, and even outfish textbook strategies.

“Drop shotting is a great choice whenever the fish are relatively close to bottom and you want to cover water a little faster, or with more precision, than you can with slip bobbers or vertical jigging,” says veteran fishing guide and lifelong panfish fanatic Scott Glorvigen.

Case in point: the late summer to early fall crappie migration.

“When crappies abandon withering shoreline weedbeds and head toward the main basin where they’ll spend the winter, they often follow bars and points that serve as travel corridors on their way out to deeper water,” he explains.

Drop shot rigs excel at presenting a tantalizing softbait or minnow at or just above the level of fish, and allow anglers to customize the speed of retrieve and amount of animation, without fear of the rig falling to bottom or drifting out of the strike zone.

Glorvigen admits his fall panfish epiphany came while chasing bass on a north-central Minnesota lake.

“I was drop shotting bass with a 6-inch worm on a long finger bar leading from a shoreline saddle straight into the basin,” he recalls. “I was catching bass, but noticed on my sonar there were a lot of crappies and bluegills mixed in with them.”

Glorvigen credits the ultra-sensitive readings from his Lowrance Elite 9 CHIRP electronics for revealing the difference between bass and panfish.

“I was also catching the occasional crappie here and there, which told me that drop shotting might be a winning presentation in this scenario,” he adds.

To tempt more crappies into biting, he traded the bass-sized worm for a more panfish-appropriate, 3-inch Impulse Angleworm from Northland Fishing Tackle.

Small crappie dropshot baits

Small crappie dropshot baits

Panfish-sized softbaits excel on drop shot rigs.

He also down-sized the business end of the setup to a size 4 VMC Spinshot Drop-Shot Hook. “The Spinshot hook is great for drop shotting because it spins around, allowing the bait to move freely, without causing line twist,” he says.

After threading on the worm so the tail remained free for maximum gyrations, he added a live crappie minnow for extra attraction.

“The plastic bait’s constant movement and water displacement makes it easy for crappies to find it, even in stained water, and the minnow is icing on the cake,” he explains. “Plus, if the minnow comes off halfway through the retrieve, I still have a chance to catch fish because the plastic is still in place.”

Glorvigen’s rigging also included a 7-foot, medium-light Lew’s spinning outfit spooled with 10-pound-test Northland Bionic Braid mainline and an 8-pound-test monofilament leader tethered to the hook’s lower line tie.

“The setup works great for crappies, and can still handle the occasional big bass that grabs the bait,” he says.

Leader length was tailored to how high crappies were above bottom. “On structure, the fish were close to bottom and an 18-inch leader worked the best,” he says. “But when they occasionally moved off to suspend over deeper water, leader lengths up to 36 inches produced fish.”

Glorvigen compulsively keeps sinker weight as light as possible when drop shotting panfish, and this was no exception. “It’s important to use the lightest weight you can get away with, so you can feel the fish but they can’t feel the sinker,” he explains.

Glorvigen says pencil-style weights ranging from 1/8- to 3/16-ounce were perfect in the 11- to 19-foot depths he was working.

Once rigged up, he’d cast out, let the sinker settle, and then tighten the line for a direct connection that allowed him to detect bottom as well as subtle bites.

“You can move the rig across by reeling, drifting or using your trolling motor to slowly cover key areas,” he notes.

No matter which means of propulsion you choose, Glorvigen recommends toning down the amount of action you give the bait.

“If the bait jumps around too fast, it’s hard for them to hit it,” he cautions. “I’ve had the best luck with a more subtle approach than what I’d use when bass fishing. Simply shaking and gently twitching the worm is enough. If you get too aggressive, the number of fish drops off dramatically.”

High-quality sonar and GPS can help you find and catch fall crappies.

Find crappie on depthfinder

Find crappie on depthfinder

Glorvigen notes that a good GPS chartplotter is a big help in mapping out structural thoroughfares and waypointing key areas that hold the most fish.

“Custom mapping systems like Lowrance’s Insight Genesis, which allow you to map structure in fine detail, can really help you get the lay of the land and learn why the crappies are attracted to certain areas over others,” he adds.

While the fall crappie transition is a great time to throw drop shot rigs, Glorvigen says there are plenty of other times it pays to keep an open mind on the water.

“Anglers get stuck in our ways and pigeonholed into certain presentations,” he says. “But it’s always good to experiment, adjust, and pay attention to what the fish are trying to tell you, all the way from early spring to last ice.”

Check out this video for more of Scott’s drop shot tricks.

Glorvigen & Glorvigen LLC – 29 County Road 63, Grand Rapids, MN 55744 – 218-301-9072

How Can I Catch Crappie On Lake Lanier?

Slab Crappie Time On Lanier

Lake Lanier is a 38,000 acre Corps of Engineers lake just north east of Atlanta. Since Atlanta draws much of its water supply from the lake, it has been in the news a lot the past year because of low water levels. It is also one of the most popular recreation lakes in the US.

Mention fishing at Lake Lanier and people immediately think of spotted bass and stripers. But the lake has an excellent population of crappie and a few fishermen have learned how to catch them. You can often catch 100 crappie a day at Lanier this spring and 200 fish days are possible.

Todd Goade lives in Buford and loves all kinds of fishing. Last year he finished third in the point standings on the Bulldog BFL Trail. He enjoys tournament fishing and when he is not fishing the BFL or another bass fishing trail he often will be catching crappie at Lanier.

Last spring he teamed up with Alan Gee to place second in the Crappie, USA tournament on Lanier. Todd and Alan fished the pro division and weighed in a seven crappie limit that weighed 9.83 pounds. Although they caught over 200 crappie that day, they did not catch the big fish that would have increased their weight. Catching and culling through 200 crappie is a fun way to spend a day on the lake.

There are several reasons Todd likes crappie fishing at Lanier. It is more relaxing than bass fishing so it is a nice change-up. The tackle is simple and easy to use. Crappie are excellent table fare and are hard to beat no matter how you cook them. And you can catch a lot of fish. Who wouldn’t like feeling a fish at the end of your line every few minutes.

Todd says there are a lot of pound to pound and a half crappie in Lanier but two pounders are hard to find. The Crappie, USA tournament results from last March bear this out. There were only five crappie brought to the scales weighing over two pounds and big fish for the day was a 2.31 pound fish. But who can complain about catching crappie that weigh over a pound each? And that is scale weight, not “guesstimate” weight.

Todd has learned how to catch Lanier’s crappie and the way he does it will work for you. Shooting docks with jigs is the way he likes to catch them. You will need a boat, light spinning rod and reel loaded with 4# test line and a couple of cards of Hal Flies.

“In April it seems like every crappie in Lanier is under a dock,” Todd said. Since there are so many docks on the lake and so many crappie under them, targeting docks is definitely the way to go. And you can catch crappie under docks all year, not just in the spring.

Little River and Wahoo Creek are the areas Todd usually fishes, especially early in the spring. It is good year round but the water warms first further up the lake and those areas turn on first. Later in the spring the docks down the lake will be better as the water warms there. There is a little more color in the water further up and that causes it to warm faster.

Water with a little stain in it is good. Todd likes to be able to see his jig down a foot or two but no more. Stained water warms seems to make the fish hit a little better since they don’t get as good a look at the jig. You can catch fish from extremely clear water but a little stain will help you catch more. Muddy water is tougher, too, so try to find stained water.

Any dock on Lanier can hold crappie. Todd says you should start fishing an area and keep records and notes of where you catch good fish. He will often hit a bunch of docks in the morning then return to the ones where he caught fish later in the day.

Early in March the crappie are likely to be holding on deeper docks toward bigger water. Docks with at least 17 feet of water under them are best. As the spawning urge takes hold when the water starts to warm the crappie will move back into the docks in coves and pockets and will be under docks with as little as six or seven feet of water.

“The dogwoods bloom and the crappie spawn is the old saying,” Todd told me. When the water temperature is 62 to 64 degrees I expect most of the crappie to be back in pockets in shallow water spawning. But not all spawn at the same time. They move back in waves so you can find some fish in different depths most of the time.

By late April after spawning the fish will move back out, holding on the same docks they used as they moved in. And some docks will be “honey holes” and hold crappie better than others. Sometimes you can pick these docks out by looking at them but you usually have to fish to find them.

Covered docks are best and the more stuff overhead the better, according to Todd. Pontoon boats are especially good. Older docks seem to be better. A boathouse with a pontoon or boat lift under it can be excellent. Brush piles under and around the docks sweeten them, too.

Todd seldom fishes an open slip in a boat dock. Crappie want something over there heads and an empty slip is way too bright. If there is a brush pile under the slip it might be worth hitting but usually he just goes to the next slip where a boat or lift offers lots of cover over the fish.

Seeing green algae growing on boats, dock floats, posts and boat lifts means the dock is likely to be better. Baitfish feed on the algae and are attracted to docks with it. Crappie eat the baitfish so they are more likely to be under docks where there is a lot of food for them.

To shoot a jig under a dock you need a five to five and a half foot spinning rod with a light tip. Todd likes an All American 5.5 foot rod and teams it with a small Pflueger President reel. The reel needs a smooth drag and the small spool helps the line come off faster.

The line is very important and Todd chooses 4# test Trilene Fluorocarbon Professional Grade. This line is tough for its size, invisible in the water and works well on his spinning reel. A limp line is necessary for small reels and thin line helps the light jigs sink better.

Todd uses Hal Flies for all his crappie fishing. He likes the 1/24 ounce jig best and he starts with a white or white and chartreuse jig. One with some pink in it is good in clear water, too. Many colors work well and some jigs with reds and yellows attract bites, especially if there is a little color to the water.

Hal Flies have feather tails and Todd bites off a little of the end of them, making them just a bit shorter. He says he is not positive this helps him get more hits but he does it anyway. It is worth trying, especially if the fishing is tough. You never know what might help.

Quietly approach a dock you want to shoot and get in close. Your boat will usually be just a few feet from your target. Kneeling or even sitting on the boat deck helps you get on the right level to shoot under the dock. A quiet trolling motor is best and Todd often uses his hand to move the foot control to position the boat. If you are in the back of the boat you can often just sit on the deck and stay in the right position for shooting the dock.

Boat position can be critical. Sometimes fish seem to want the lure moving in a certain direction, especially if they are holding on a brush pile right in front of the dock. Experiment with different angles and let the fish tell you what they want.

The bigger crappie usually hold in the hardest area of the dock to get your jig into. A narrow opening between dock floats and a boat lift float or pontoon float may mean you have to hit a six inch wide, four inch high hole, and you need your jig to go as far back as possible. Remember, the more stuff overhead the more likely the crappie are to be there, and the further back and darker the spot the more likely bigger crappie are to be holding.

Open the bail on your reel and drop your jig down to the last guide above the reel. Grab the head of the jig between thumb and trigger finger with your free hand. While holding the line at the reel with your finger, pull the tip of the rod down to make it bow. Aim the rod at the opening you want to hit and release the jig. As it flies toward the target, release the line at the reel.

It takes some practice to do this but is easier than it sounds. You will go high and hit the dock or go low and hit the water too soon but a little practice will have you putting your jig in spots impossible to reach any other way. Sometimes your jig will skip on the water and you can get it even further back, especially if there is not much clearance between the water and the top of the gap you are shooting.

When your jig hit’s the water flip your bail shut and count the jig down. A 1/24 ounce jig on 4# line will sink about a foot a second. Todd says he counts “One Mississippi, Two Mississippi” to keep a consistent space on his count. You need to know the depth your jig is at when you start getting bites.

Start by counting down to six and then slowly reel your jig back. No action is needed on the retrieve. Actually, jiggling your rod tip may hurt the chances of a bite. If you have ever watched a small minnow swim along it does not move much, it just glides along. That is what you want your jig to do.

Try a few shots with a six count then try eight, ten and even 12 counts. Watch your line carefully at all times. If it jumps as the jig sinks, set the hook and reel in the fish. Just remember where it was on the strike and start using that count. Crappie usually hold at about the same depth on most docks.

When Todd fishes with a partner they try different counts with one reeling in at six and the other at ten then both changing. That way they can cover different depths quickly. They will also try different colors. Once the fish tell them what depth they are holding and which color they like best both will concentrate on those keys.

Another trick Todd uses is to let his jig fall an few inches just when it passes the end of the float or edge of the boat he is fishing. Sometimes a crappie will follow the jig and that little drop will trigger a hit.

As you reel in watch your line, too. If it jumps or if you just feel it get heavy, set the hook. Don’t use a break-their-jaw hook set, just sweep the rod tip and the light wire hook in the jig will go into the soft mouth of the crappie.

Play the fish slowly and carefully to the boat. Crappie aren’t called “paper mouth” for nothing. It is easy to pull a hook out of a big fish, even with four pound line. And you don’t want to break the light line.

Often you will shoot over a bar or part of the dock under water. When you hook a crappie with your line over something, go to it with the boat and get it. You can not pull a decent fish over anything with such light line.

Some people worry about getting a hook in their finger while shooting a dock. Todd says that has never happened to him. Holding the jig by the head turns the hook up and away from your fingers so it will not hook you when you release it. And it won’t come flying back at you if you try to pull it loose if it gets hung. Four pound line will almost always break before that happens.

Todd will shoot his jig into openings on a small dock seven or eight times then move on. He tries a few shots at different depths but says crappie usually hit pretty quickly if they are there. There is no need to waste a lot of time if you are not getting bit. But if you do catch one fish you are likely to catch several.

Don’t hesitate to go back to docks where you caught fish earlier. Crappie will often move in and out around the dock and will be easier to catch at different times. And Todd says watch your depth finder. You will often see a school of crappie near a dock, or brush out from it. When you spot either back off and work your jig through that area at different depths.

Schools of crappie often look like balls of baitfish on your depth finder they are so close together. Baitfish may be present, too, and that is a good sign. Always keep an eye on what is under the front of your boat.

Bass boats are fine for shooting docks but their high decks are a drawback. A lower, smaller boat allows you to get down to the water level easier and make better shots under docks. If you are in a small boat just put in near where you want to fish since Lanier can get so rough.

If you want to try your luck in a crappie tournament, Crappie USA has a tournament on Lanier on March 15, 2008 and West Point on March 29, 2008. There is also a tournament on Weiss on March 8, 2008 and Hartwell on April 5, 2008. You can enter the Amateur Division for a $75 per team fee or choose the Semi-Pro Division at a higher cost. Cash prizes are paid in each division but are higher in the Semi-Pro side.

Crappie, USA was formed in 1996 and purchased the “Crappiethon” tournament trail. They hold 45 tournaments in 20 states each year. Each region has at least six spring and two fall tournaments. The Georgia tournament last fall was on Oconee.

To fish in their tournaments you must join their American Crappie Association organization for a cost of $25 per year. You can get more information about Crappie, USA and their tournaments at