Find a shallow brush pile and drop an anchor. Cast out a minnow with a bobber and start hauling in spring crappie.
Springtime crappie fishing used to be that easy, but heavy fishing pressure has caused many anglers to change tactics. Prime spawning spots get worked over daily. If you’re the first angler to dunk minnows at one of these spots, you have a chance to catch some fish. But if you arrive after the area’s been visited by four or five other boats, you chances diminish drastically.
This trend has led some anglers to adopt bass fishing’s run-and-gun philosophy of moving around to several spots and firing off a couple of casts in each area. Aggressive crappie can be taken this way, but complicating the situation are detractions such as high-pressure weather fronts and falling water levels which cause crappie to leave the shallows or cling to cover.
During the prespawn stage, crappie move back into coves and bays and stage 12 to 16 feet deep in the lakes around my home. Some of the fish will suspend in that depth range while others will move in and out of the shallows checking on spawning sites.
Crappie in this stage can be moody so experiment with presentations such as holding a jig still while drifting through a school of fish or steadily reeling a horsehead jig through the same fish. Try different retrieve speeds and lure colors until you find out what triggers the fish into biting.
High barometric pressure or cold fronts push crappie into deeper water so you have to slow your presentation and stick your lure right in front of the fish’s nose. Vertical jigging or slowly drifting jigs through the suspended fish works best during these tough conditions.
Catching crappie gets easier when the fish move into the spawning stage because the fish hit at anything moving into their bedding area. A wide variety of jigs in myriad colors will catch spawning crappie because the fish are not really feeding but just protecting their beds from intruders.
The spring crappie spawning period offers the best opportunity to catch fish shallow, but fishing can be spotty at times. Casting jigs to the bank will catch fish when the weather is stable or before a storm. However, you need to flip or dip a jig during a cold front that causes crappie to burrow into shallow cover.
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