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Spring rains present opportunities and challenges. Here are a few tips to catch more crappie before, during and after a big rain.

spring crappiespring crappie

Most anglers look forward to a good rain in the forecast, only to show up at their favorite fishing spot and find that fishing conditions are tougher than anticipated. All fish take advantage of a good rise in water, but that leaves key questions of “When? Where? For how long?”

On a recent trip to a couple central Arkansas lakes, we got to see the positive and negative effects of heavy rainfall. Most of the country has been dealing with some form of moderate drought for the last two years, making heavy rains a welcomed sight. However, reservoirs are used for flood control, and spring rains can be unpredictable.

Lake operators often draw water levels down when the body of water approaches full pool in anticipation of more rains. Knowing the effects that has is key to a good crappie outing, particularly in the spring when spawning activities are occurring.

Before the Flood

crappie catchcrappie catch

It’s no secret that the bite tends to be pretty good for most game species when a storm system approaches. Drops in pressure clue the fish’s biological senses to seek food and then shelter.

If you have the ability to hit the water often, scout the shoreline before incoming water submerges it. Crappie are spawning across the South, and they prefer stable water levels. When a lake is at full pool and stable during the spawn, crappie are easy to come by close to the bank.

If the water level is low and stable, crappie will seek out the best available spawning habitat. These areas typically have lots of rock and/or submerged timber.

Water level stability is the most important factor when it comes to a consistent shallow water crappie bite during the spring. Fish are aggressive, meaning you have a lot of options as far as what to cast.

Straight tail and subtle actions jigs like The Original Baby Shad, Baby Shad Swim’R, Slab Slay’R and Itty Bit Series are the go-to for most anglers throwing a jig below a float. Slip floats generally are preferable because they offer you quick options to change depth whether you’re fishing from the boat or bank. If the fish are shallow in large numbers a spring pencil float can be more convenient.

Match jig color to water clarity. In clear water, stick with natural, shad/minnow or translucent colors. In stained water, offer the fish a pronounced silhouette with dark and bright laminate jigs.

When the Water Rises

Crappie on Slab Slay'RCrappie on Slab Slay'R

Fish will follow the rising water as long as there is more coming in than going out. Familiarizing yourself with the local water data can be helpful if you’re not on the water every day to see the conditions for yourself.

Crappie will push up into flooded bushes, rock and other areas of dense cover to feed. Some may take advantage of prime habitat to spawn, but it is usually short lived. Crappie will abandon these areas immediately when they sense the water begin to subside.

Your lake’s shoreline will determine the most effective way to target crappie in the thick stuff. Long jigging poles, 8 feet or longer, are the preferred method for most serious crappie anglers. Use a heavy jighead (1/8 ounce is ideal) to help with jig control. You’re typically just dipping the jig in between branches on a short line. The heavier jighead will help with feel and control of the bait’ movement. The Original Baby Shad really excels in this type of scenario.

If you’re fishing from a boat, cast to the outside edges of these areas with a good action bait like the Stroll'R, Hyper Grub or Swimming Minnow. Rising water is usually stained, so look to toss a vibrant laminate color such as Lights Out, Black/Hot Pink, Electric Chicken, Bluegrass or Grenada Gold.

Creek arms should be your focus during rising water conditions. If you stay out in the main lake, focus on flats in areas that create slack water away from the channel. Crappie aren’t much for current so they will look to find some soft water where bait has been forced to. These are great areas to target individual fish with forward-facing sonar. Many large females are spawned out and hungry at this time of the year.


White Crappie CatchWhite Crappie Catch

These are the hardest conditions to fish, mainly because anglers still see a flooded lake with great habitat and spend too much time working the bank.

Crappie don’t have the luxury of a weather man or extended forecast. Their bodies must be completely in tune with their surroundings. Reservoirs take days and sometimes weeks to draw back down to a stable level. Fish know not to get stranded when water levels begin to fall.

A quick look at the shoreline is an easy indicator of whether the water is dropping. Look for a dark straight line running parallel with the shoreline indicating water was recently at that level.

Here are three key areas of a lake to focus on during drawdown conditions:

  • Main Lake Flats – slack water areas that bait will seek off the main channels. These areas are prime for long-line trolling, spider rigging or targeting individual fish with forward facing electronics.
  • Transition Structure – crappie are going to look for cover first when the water starts to drop. As they settle in and get comfortable, they will look to feed, but can be finicky. Brush pile or ledge fish are best approached with unimposing baits. The Itty Bit Slab Hunt’R, Slab Slay’R and Swim’R are ideal for these conditions.
  • Deep Docks – ones that are either over deeper water than the surrounding docks or docks that extended farthest from shoreline. Docks can provide some of the most predictable bites during drawdown conditions.

You should always show respect for the water, but even more so during the rainy season. Always wear a life jacket when running the big motor. Keep your eyes open for floating debris. And go catch some slabs!