By Nick Simonson
One of spring’s first fish that anglers find schooling up in the shallows, rushing reed beds and staking out structure for spawning is the crappie. Whether black or white, these fish are synonymous with fast spring fishing, and knowing what to use for them can help heat up any chilly day. From small jigs and plastics to those lures that flash and flicker, this handful of baits will get things going in the right direction.
1. Start Small. Insert heads with a variety of crappie tubes help present a package that is compact and moves naturally, as the lead is spread out over the hookshank allowing for a more horizontal descent. In weights from 1/32- to 1/16-ounce, these tiny offerings should be fished on light line to allow them the most natural presentation. Vary the tube colors to find the pattern that is working or the hues that draw the most strikes and use these lighter options up in the shallows when fish are staging in their spawning areas.
2. Fantastic Plastic. Small ballhead jigs are also easily dressed with the growing array of crappie plastics on tackleshop shelves. From classic curlytailed grubs and small shad bodies, to marabou-tailed plastics and miniature creature baits for panfish, a wide selection of soft baits are now available for crappie anglers. In an array of styles and colors, the combinations are nearly limitless, and the options will provide a variety of ways to catch fish. Fished lightly, these plastics can go shallow for staging fish as well.
3. Blades of Glory. Jigging options such as the Road Runner, with its built-in trail-behind blade and the Beetle Spin, with its angled arm and small spinner blade are both excellent search lures for crappies staging for the spawn. The flickering blades give off the flash of a minnow or other baitfish and provide added motion to the plastic on the jig. A handful of these lures will provide extra excitement in the water when fish are aggressive and can be worked quickly to eliminate non-productive stretches when fish are staging for spring or setting up into summer patterns.
4. Get Dressed. While certainly more set than the interchangeable options discussed above, marabou jigs and those dressed with krystal flash, hackle and other materials are inexpensive offerings that don’t need to be reset with every cast. Coming as small as 1/64-ounce, dressed jigs combine colors and materials to match what the fish want in a water, and provide something subtle when fish are fussy.
5. Crank It. Crankbaits like the Rapala Countdown in the smallest sizes are easily cast and timed down into a strike zone before being retrieved. Trollable cranks for covering favorite crappie waters are also available, and models like the Crappie Maxx from Bass Pro Shops can be run through the water column for suspended specks. Adding a few hard baits to standard offerings provides a deep fishing option when fish are schooled up around structure and make for a well-rounded tacklebox ready for anything this spring and summer.
Simple and effective crappie offerings won’t break the bank and are fun to assemble for the upcoming season. Use forage cues and the physical features of crappies – their big eyes and large, vacuuming mouth – to offer items up that appear natural and are easily inhaled. Upsize those offerings on lakes where bigger fish are looking for something larger to eat. With these baits ready to roll, the upcoming spring crappie fishing will be hot…in our outdoors.