The Ultimate Crappie Fishing Guide

Welcome to my ultimate guide to crappie fishing! After many years on the bank and on the water, I have finally found the time to put this guide together. Crappie fishing can be one of the most rewarding and relaxing types of fishing an angler can undertake. I’m sure you’re here to share in a piece of that experience or maybe you had the pleasure of crappie fishing and want to take your experience to the next level.

This guide will firstly look at the crappie fish themselves (know thy enemy..), then we can jump into tackle box preparation. Once prepared, let’s go fishing and take a peek at my crappie fishing tips and then finish by pinpointing some select spots that crappie are best known to be hiding out.

Quick Fire Crappie Reel Comparison

ReelPerformancePriceOur Rating
Shimano Stradic CI4+ ReelsA-$$$$
Pflueger Purist Spinning ReelB+$$$
Abu Garcia Cardinal Spinning ReelA$$

.. And A Brief Crappie Rod Comparison

RodPerformancePriceOur Rating
St. Croix’s Panfish SeriesA-$$$
G loomis Trout/Panfish Spinning Fishing RodA+$$$$

Meet Our Friend, The Crappie Fish

meet-crappie-fishFor those of us putting their first toe in the water for crappie fishing, here is a small intro to this hand sized fish. Feel free to skip this part if you’re a seasoned crappie angler.

You will generally come across two types of crappie, either a white crappie and/or a black crappie swimming together in large schools. Apart from the color, you can tell one type of crappie from the other by their dorsal spines.  The black crappie have 7-8 dorsal spines on the top of its back, whereas the white crappie has 5-6 dorsal spines. You’ll notice on the white crappies that they are lighter in color and have vertical gray lines down both their sides.

The Weigh In

Really depends on where you are fishing as to what defines a "well weighted" crappie. In some waters, up to a pound is a good weight and in other waters you could break the 2 pound barrier. On average a fully grown crappie will be up to 11 inches and some “Slab” crappies growing up to 17 inches.

Habits

Generally speaking, crappies love cover and the type of cover does not matter and they like different temperatures of water at different times of the year. The black crappie is more likely to be found in cooler waters. From personal experience, I have caught most of my crappie fish around objects. I’ve found them on cover such as rock piles, humps, fallen trees, or any other submerged object.

The crappies prey on insects and smaller minnows (this will serve handy for our bait choices next). Crappies spawn in more shallow waters where the water temperature is above 60. The low to mid sixties will be our prime target temperature for catching crappie. Interestingly, crappies will be attracted to any light at nights as they follow the small fish gathering towards the light.

Fishing crappie can be a loads of fun and I’ve always enjoyed watching my friends at Thundermist Tips fishing for crappie:

What Goes In Our Tackle Box?

We now know our prey, let’s find out what we need to catch it.

Bait

The great (or not so great) news about crappie fishing is that there is no set bait that excels from the rest. Every crappie angler has their tried and true experimental methods that work in their particular fishing spot. But the key here is experimentation, if one type of bait is not working, you don’t hesitate to try another.

That being said, here are my top general bait recommendations:

Spinners

These are my go to fishing lures as they can really work on many types of fish, not only crappie. It’s recommended to stick to the smaller spinner (~1/16 oz) and in the gold color (over the normal silver).

Jigs

Jigs are one of those items you can either make yourself or buy online. I’m a little lazy in that respect, as I simply buy in bulk online, however, making something with a feathery tail and furry body is not hard if you have the time. Jigs can be used everywhere from suspending under a bobber, finesse fishing or to pick up those niggly crappie fish that don’t seem to be biting on anything else.

Powerbait is also something to look at with your jig. Some fishing spots don’t allow live minnows for bait, so powerbait can be the perfect answer. The great thing about these is once some crappie take a nibble, the bait will start dissolving in the water, leaving a nice scented trail for the fish to follow.

Grubs

Most of the curly-tail grubs have stiff tails as they are molded in one piece. This may mean some hard jigging to optimize movement through the water. So it’s important to look out for grubs with a natural wiggle.

Floats

Most crappie anglers will tell you to pick up a wood or pencil float, but I’ve found success with plastic floats too. Achieving the right depth for your fishing spot can be key, especially around thick cover and banks. Sometimes though you can skip the float which allows for fast and effective changes in your depth or structure height and therefore more time in the water.

Lines

Your choice in lines is not too crucial here, but for the more serious crappie fishing, the line choice hinges on the method of presentation with your lure and the type of fishing you are undertaking (trolling, vertical jigging, or casting). Generally in the more shallow waters of crappie fishing, a mono line is the optimal choice.

Reels

ReelPerformancePriceOur Rating
Shimano Stradic CI4+ ReelsA-$$$$
Pflueger Purist Spinning ReelB+$$$
Abu Garcia Cardinal Spinning ReelA$$

Rule of thumb is choose a smaller spinning reel from your favourite reel company. For a longer casting distance, the larger spools will come in handy, so do not choose the smallest, but somewhere on the lower end of the scale. Because we chose a lighter mono line above, it’s crucial we have a steady reel performer. You want to avoid interrupting the jig contact with any uneven areas in the reel’s rotation as this could cost you some lost bites. Furthermore, you can reduce your broken lines by maintaining a nice even drag.

Shimano Stradic CI4+ Reel

First and foremost, this is a super light weight and durable reel for the price you pay. This may be a little strange a first, but will definitely be appreciated towards the end of a day's fishing when anything you cast feels like a ton of bricks.

Braid with a tiny amount of mono backing and you will be set for a great day of fishing. Another bonus was the incredible smooth drag that comes when snagging the bigger fish. Overall, great value for money and number one on my crappie "go-to" list.

 

Pflueger Purist Spinning Reel

The brand name itself is a stalwart in the industry for high quality products, and this is no exception to that rule. Especially for the price you will be forking out for such quality is relatively cheap.

From personal experience I found the thumb rest made for easy casting and I especially enjoyed how the bail flips forward without much additional work required on my part. Crappie fishermen should also take advantage of the smaller spool with the reel only requiring around 80 yards for a 6 pound of test line.

 

Abu Garcia Cardinal Spinning Reel

This reel is a fine piece of craftsmanship which was apparent from the moment I took it from it's packaging. The reel spun with a unique quietness and gave off a smooth and balanced feel.

You will not find too much flex on the reel, whether retrieving or laying our the line, but you will feel the comfort. This reel compliments any crappie fisherman with it's easy to handle nature of 7 bearing design.

 

Rods

RodPerformancePriceOur Rating
St. Croix’s Panfish SeriesA-$$$
G loomis Trout/Panfish Spinning Fishing RodA+$$$$

St. Croix’s Panfish Series

Suburb panfishing rod which delivers on weight, balance and sensitivity to increase your casting distance and subtly guides you towards the fish (well, it felt like that for me). Great for shallow water crappie fishing.

G loomis Trout/Panfish Spinning Fishing Rod TSR791S GlX

A favorite of many anglers, it's slightly faster than the St. Croix Panfish rod above and a little more power through the spine. Pick up this rod if you are the more aggressive angler on the jig and enjoy the fishing in the deeper waters.

 

 

Here is a great video of Anglers Escape explaining his crappie fishing tackle box:

Let’s Go Crappie Fishing

Great, so we have the main elements of our tackle box sorted, it’s time to catch some fish. The best way to break up this section is by season as although crappie fish are active all year round, they still have different characteristics throughout the year.

Spring (Pre-spawn Period)

spring-crappie-fishing

Known as the best times for fishing crappie (and many other fish), the fish go on a feeding frenzy as the water warms. They are feeding because they’re are preparing to spawn when the water temperature moves from the high 40s into the high 50s.

Patterns

  • The crappie fish will migrate to the cover of banks and shorelines,
  • Generally shallow waters,
  • Females will be laying eggs like no tomorrow,
  • They will then bugger off to deep waters to feed,
  • Males stand guard and protect aforementioned young ones.

Crappie Fishing Tips & Tricks

  • If you come across a mull of crappie fish in shallow water, double down your bet and head to the closest drop off to find larger females feeding.
  • It’s best to approach the males and their young with a spider-rigging with heavy jigheads.
  • The males are on high guard and will jump at anything that may cause harm to the young ones. This is a great opportunity to nab them while on high alert.

Summer/Fall (Post-spawn Period)

summer-crappie-fishing

In the second half of the summer months, the water is starting to cool and in order to survive the harsh winter cold, crappie fish start fattening up by feeding on all they can.

Patterns

  • Love feeding from cover and structures:
    • Look near fallen trees, submerged bushes, thermocline, and around large schools of baitfish.
    • Create your own structures a few hours/days before by sinking some old trees or wood.
  • They will be harder to find though, so be patient during this time, because once you come across a school of them, it'll be like a gold rush.
  • During daylight hours, they will be in deeper waters (20+ feet), but come back up to shallower waters of 5+ feet during the night.

Crappie Fishing Tips & Tricks

  • First of all, try to move around your area to locate the depth at which the fish are holding, once you have this, your day will be much easier.
  • Use a small bobber to hold the minnow or jig at the depth once you’ve found it.
  • To take on the cover, employ vertical jigging by placing the jig into the brush and moving the line.
  • Employ a 1-ounce weight to assist in consistently moving the baits smoothly and in a near-vertical position.

Winter

winter-is-comingThe water temperature is now dropping back into the high 40s and the crappie will start retreating to 15+ feet and stay there for most of the winter.

Patterns

  • They will continue to feed, but only nibble.
  • Their movements will be minimal
  • Structures are their favourite resting places during this time

Crappie Fishing Tips & Tricks

  • Smaller bait is king here, minnows or the Powerbait I mentioned earlier would be perfect.
  • Glide the bait slowly through the water, the crappie fish will not move much for it.
  • Smaller minnows and jigs are optimal as you basically need to deliver the food right to their mouth (lazy buggers).
  • With less anglers out on the water, the chances of finding large schools of crappie are very high.

Top Crappie Fishing Locations

Where to start? I can’t name them all, we’ll be here all day. Lucky for us all is that crappie fish can be found in many parts of North America, but for now, let’s go through the top 3 most desirable places in North America to crappie fish.

Georgia

Lake-Spivey-gaGeorgia is plentiful with crappie fishing. The locals call the “crappie run” their rite of passage in the spring months. The fish are very easy to locate during this period as they emerge from cover. And the best part is that you can have some great fishing right from the banks of many of the gorgeous lakes.

You will find some of the largest crappie in the major Georgia lakes like Lake Sidney Lanier, Lake Blackshear, Walter F George - Eufaula and West Point Lake. Lake Spivey gets special mention as it holds the black crappie state record for the largest black crappie caught.

Arkansas

crappie-fishing-lake-hogueIt’s known to locals and anglers from afar for having consistently plentiful crappie fishing during all seasons. Just head to Phillips County and down to Old Town Lake where you will find some of the biggest crappie in the state. Generally the lakes and waters hold many 1-2 pounders and you will find the 2+ pounders are growing in numbers across the region.

When you’re in the area, it’s worth checking out Lake Hogue, Lake Ashbaugh, Lake Ouachita, Lake Conroy, The Twin Lakes Area, and Millwood Lake for some top notch fishing spots.

Alabama

Alabama was recently named the best state to catch crappie with eight lakes listed in the Top 50 of an annual anglers survey, you can’t argue with that!  The top spot on the survey was taken by Grenada Lake in Mississippi, however Weiss Lake in Alabama came in 4th and is often referred to as the “Crappie Capital of the World”. The lake has over 400 miles of bank with some perfect cover fishing for crappie.

Fox Sports dropped by Weiss Lake to sample the crappie fishing:

Another notable mention is the Alabama River, that came in 7th on the list, as it’s not uncommon to walk away with a 2+ pound crappie from a solid day's work.

There you have it folks, my ultimate guide to crappie fishing. It’s by no means the complete crappie fishing picture, but there’s enough in here to help any newcomer get started or for a serious angler to pick up some crappie fishing tips. Good luck out there and would love hear your comments and feedback below.

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