A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO CATCHING CRAPPIE
Crappies are a North American freshwater fish species in the sunfish family. They have an excellent reputation for putting up a hard fight for their size and being extremely tasty. Many freshwater anglers consider them to be the best-tasting freshwater fish out there.
The crappie, also known as speckled perch, strawberry bass, white perch, and papermouth, has flaky white meat suitable for various delicious recipes.
Catch crappie by choosing your preferred method, looking for structure or deep over, then quietly presenting your bait. Jigs and minnows are often the best baits when fishing for crappie.
Because of the diverse diets of crappie, they can be caught in many different ways, making them an excellent species for almost any angler to experience using their favorite technique.
There are two different types of crappie fish, white crappie and black crappie, but fishing techniques are the same for both.
Catching crappie may seem simple since many techniques can work, but it can get a little challenging, specifically when it comes to catching enough crappie for a full-on fish fry. Luckily our local experts are here to break it down step by step so you can hook more crappie in less time.
Step One: Choose Your Method
Some methods require different gear, so it’s best to know how to prepare for each one ahead of time. Different depths, structures, and conditions may produce better results when an angler switches methods. Many successful fishermen will have the essentials for multiple techniques, so they can adjust their baits and tactics based on the conditions they face on the water. Although overall, anglers can often be successful by either sticking with one preferred method and perfecting it or switching up tactics when crappie fishing based on the day.
Bobber and Minnow Rig
The classic bobber above a small minnow setup is often the most straightforward and effective method throughout the year.
It’s often best to use a fixed bobber set a foot or two above the minnow attached to a number one to two Aberdeen hook. Anglers can either use the minnow without weight to let it swim freely or add a split shot to keep the minnows they operate at a certain depth and prevent it from floating around too much or hanging up in the cover.
Typically a longer rod ranging from 7 feet for casting to 10 or 12 feet for flipping into cover works best for this bobber and minnow method.
The spider rigging method allows anglers to troll minnows or jigs with multiple 14-16 inch rods off the front of the boat. Rod holders are necessary for those who use the spider rigging method to hold the numerous long poles.
The most common setup for spider rigging is two minnows and two jigs on a number 1 or 2 hook tied at different lengths above a heavy sinker. The sinker is typically 1/2 to 1 ounce, depending on the wind, current, or depth.
Jigs can be used for catching fish in many different situations, making it an excellent technique in most cases. Casting and Vertically presenting your jig to crappie is a superb method for some lakes. Other times especially when the fish are more aggressive near brush piles, it’s best to cast past your target and then retrieve a 1/16 ounce jig with a soft plastic body over the top of the brush pile.
Another method to try for those fishing from a boat is to position the boat over the brush, then drop your jig down into the cover, letting it sit in the strike zone until it gets bit.
The most common gear when fishing jigs is a 6 1/2 foot medium action rod and a spinning reel with a 4-6 pound fluorocarbon line.
Another technique for jig fishing is known as shooting or skipping. This method requires similar materials as regular jig fishing explained above but is best for when crappie are tucked up under overhanging tree limbs or docks. It’s essentially when you deliver your jig set up like shooting a bow and arrow to tuck your bait into the hard-to-reach places.
The best gear when using this technique is a 6 1/2 to 7-foot rod with a limber rod tip for loading up a jig to propel with a 4 to a 6-pound line that will swirl freely off a spinning reel as the bait shoots towards your target. A 1/16-ounce jig is often best for shooting bow and arrow style because it will skip well when it hits the water. However, the jig size can be critical when using this tactic because a 1/8-ounce bait will usually plow hard when it hits the water, and a 1/32-ounce bait won’t be heavy enough to pull the line off the reel and reach your target.
To use this method, open the bait of your spinning reel, hook the line with your index finger, then grab the bend of the hook and pull to arc the rod tip. Be sure to aim your rod slightly down, then release the line from your index finger to shoot the bait towards the target.
Fishing With Crankbaits
Fishing with a crankbait is often the best way to catch big crappie suspended in the open water. First, use your electronics to find schools of crappie, then use a 2-inch medium diving crankbait to troll through the school of fish. To make the crankbait dive 10-12 feet, use a 4-6 pound fluorocarbon line. Depending on how many fishing rods you want, anglers can either hold a rod for trolling a single bait or use rod holders to troll multiple lures or baits.
Step Two: Gather Your Gear
Back in the day, a cane pole with some line was all that was used to catch crappie. Today, anglers fishing for crappie can choose 14-16 foot trolling rods, 9-10 foot jig poles, or ultralight spinning outfits to enjoy catching crappie. In addition, numerous line choices could work, ranging from a 2-pound test fluorocarbon or monofilament for pressured crappie in clear water to a 20-30 pound braid for crappie fishing in timber and other thick structure or deep cover.
So step two is gathering your gear based on the method or methods you have chosen above.
Baits For Catching Crappie
While a small minnow may be the most known method and can undoubtedly enable you to catch crappie in decent numbers, there are so many different tactics that can be used that some anglers may find more exciting.
Crappie is often susceptible to biting various artificial lures ranging from crankbaits to soft plastics.
The most common method for catching crappie is the spider rigging method, which is done with many popular baits. Some of the most common and effective crappie baits are live minnows, crankbaits, or plastic jigs with lead jig heads. So grab your favorite lure or multiple different ones for your spider rig, or be prepared to switch it up under challenging conditions.
Also, some anglers like to dump live bait or chum the water to attract the crappie to bite their lure, so if that’s your style, then prepare your chum bucket too.
Step Three: Know Where To Look
Most of the time, deep structures or woody cover areas are the best places to catch crappie. Crappie tends to like any place they can feel protected, so standing timber and weed beds are all fair game. If you find a submerged log or brush pile, that would be a great spot to drop an anchor and cast out your minnow set under a bobber.
Anglers often find more fish near the shoreline cypress trees, stickups, weed beds, blowdowns, or cover-button willows. The big crappie tends to be in shallow water near channel edges next to shallow flats or main lake humps. It’s usually the cold fronts that drive crappie into deeper water from the shallows.
Crappie usually spawns when the water temperatures reach 62 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The depth that they generate will depend on the water clarity. If there is stained or muddy water, the crappie will likely spawn in shallow water areas of 1 to 2 feet. In clear water, the crappie may be in deeper water areas of 20 feet or more. During the spawning period, most anglers have luck fishing quietly close to the shoreline. Some people like to use the trolling motor to move slowly along the edge and flip a small jig into the coastal shallows.
To have the best luck with the post-spawn crappie, it’s often effective to fish the mid-morning, preferably at times with a light chop using a fathead minnow.
Crappie is caught throughout the year, and many techniques will likely work all year. However, there are some seasonal habits to be aware of that may help anglers catch more crappie in a shorter amount of time.
Winter crappie will usually congregate in large dense schools near structures rather than loose schools over a large open area. During this time, cast on all sides of the structure, as one side may yield nothing, but throwing on the other may have you landing a tasty panfish on every cast. In addition, when crappie fishing in cold water, smaller minnows fished with a tiny hook can be more productive than a jig.
Docks are the hot spot for catching Fall crappie, where they are usually hanging out in the upper 10 feet of the area’s water column. Night fishing is also highly productive in many areas for catching post-spawn crappie.
Many techniques mentioned above can be effective, whether on a boat or fishing from the shore. However, one of the other positives about crappie fishing is that many of the best fishing spots are accessible by land. In addition, many of the most productive, less pressured areas are only reachable from the shoreline. Therefore, a good starting point to fishing the shore is to identify boat ramps, parks, bridges, and recreational areas near you that offer fishing access from the shorelines. Bridges are incredibly productive since they provide funnels for the panfish and excellent cover with pilings that usually border both sides.
Step Four: Catch Crappie
Use your favorite technique, look for structure, then be ready for an unexpected tug. Catching crappie is a lot of fun for fishermen of all ages and skill levels. Stay on top of the conditions that can change the habits of the local fish by becoming well versed in multiple techniques and knowing what to do when the water temperature changes or you try fishing in a new area.
Experience Florida Crappie Fishing
Crappie can be caught in Florida throughout the year, but anglers will get the ultimate crappie fishing experience from the late Fall to early Spring. Often this calmer time of year is when the Florida crappie is thriving.
Florida has a strong reputation for its incredible fishing, and the crappie trips don’t fall short. The sunshine state has endless water systems and lakes that hold the enormous amount of crappie in the nation, yielding slab-size fish. This fish is considered both a sportfish and a panfish because of the fun of catching them and the tastiness involved if you choose to take them home.
Our local panfishing experts are the best in the business at knowing how to read these fish, allowing visiting anglers to take home a tasty meal and often multiple meals. During the prime crappie season, anglers will have a blast catching numerous crappie in suitable sizes using various methods. Crappie fishing trips are ideal for fishermen of all ages and skill levels, making it the perfect family outing.
Our professional guides cover all the top fishing spots in the state, and every location has something unique to offer. For example, if you and your group are looking for a strict crappie trip, we have great spots for you. But if you want to catch largemouth bass and crappie, we recommend a different place. There are locations throughout Florida full of our favorite fish; let us help you choose the best spot based on where you live or stay to have the ultimate sportfishing/pan fishing adventure of a lifetime!
The crappie season will start picking up in November and continue to get better through the winter so reserve your spot now!
Check Out Our Top Florida Crappie Lakes
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