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How to Introduce Crappie Fishing to Kids

Learn the favored teaching approaches of the author, who is long-time fishing guide, plus perspectives from a professional crappie angler and a fishing industry veteran.

If you want to hook a kid on crappie fishing, you only must do two things: Keep it simple and catch crappie. Sounds easy enough, but where do you begin?

Over the years, as a guide on Beaver Lake, I have guided hundreds of young anglers out fishing with their parents. The key to having a successful day out on the water with young anglers is to keep moving and finding actively feeding fish.

Floats for Fishing

Family fishingFamily fishing
Brad Wiegmann photo


I keep it really simple and use floats to keep the younger anglers interested in fishing. I’m old school when it comes to fishing floats. I like the round ones like Thill Fish’N Foam Round Floats. They come in several sizes, but I always use the smallest one possible so the fish can easily take it under. That keeps them interested longer in fishing when a bobber goes under and there is a fish on the end of their line.

There are weighted and unweighted Thill round floats. When fishing just a minnow on a jighead I will rig one with a weighted bobber, allowing for a longer cast without breaking off the minnow. A weighted bobber also makes it easy to make a longer cast with a nightcrawler on the hook.

Another effective technique is to use a weighted bobber with a jighead and a soft plastic swimming body lure like Blobby Garland Hyper Grub, Swimming Minnow, Slab Hunt’R or Stroll’R. Cast out and retrieve it slowly or cast out and pull the cork a short distance and let it pendulum down as it’s worked back to the boat.

A key to success when taking youth fishing is to match the fishing gear to the individual angler. Some days I’m surprised at how well a young angler can cast and hold a fish. The next day I might have an older youth who has never been fishing. You have to match the gear to the skill level.

Several companies offer affordable pre-spooled spincast combos. Personally, I have five Zebco Bullet spincast reels just for youth and novice anglers. These are high-quality reels with a fast gear ratio and heavy-duty gears, so they last forever. The worst thing you can do is give a young angler fishing gear that doesn’t work.

Pro Angler’s Perspective

Dan Dannenmueller and granddaughter fishingDan Dannenmueller and granddaughter fishing
Dan Dannenmueller fishing with his granddaughter.


“I start by teaching the kid how to cast,” said professional crappie angler Dan Dannemueller, “Cast first, then start fishing is the key to catching fish when you go fishing.”

Dannemueller starts a novice youth with a short 4- or 5-foot rod and spincast reel, especially if they are young, but will switch to spinning outfits as they get older.

“The best time to start teaching a kid to fish is in the springtime. Crappie are up shallow to spawn and aggressively biting. That’s a recipe for catching crappie and lots of them,” Dannemueller said.

To catch crappie Dannemueller will rig a Thill Slip Bobber and Bobber Stop on the line a couple of feet deep to control the depth of his jighead. Dannemueller uses the cork as the weight for easy casting with no added split shot weight. He will tie on a 1/48-ounce Bobby Garland Itty Bit Jighead rigged with an Itty Bit Swim’R.

Using a lightweight size 50 B’n’M Poles Reel and Leland’s TCB rod he will have them cast toward the bank in spawning areas and reel back with a slow, steady retrieve. “The crappie will sometimes bite the jighead as its falling or coming back in. Since crappie are aggressive, I’m just trying to keep them casting and reeling while the boat is slowly moving or sitting still,” Dannemueller said.

“Everything changes when summer and hot weather comes around,” Dannemueller continued, “It’s more challenging to catch deeper crappie in the summertime. I lose the corks and switch them over to casting jigheads towards and around brush piles.”

Boat control and positioning are important to successfully catching crappie, Dannemueller noted. He will target crappie around ledges, drop offs or brush piles in 10 to 12 feet, moving deeper in the hotter part of summer. The best areas will also have baitfish around them.

“The best bite happens in the morning, up to around 10 a.m., so you have to get them out fishing early to catch them,” Dannemueller said, “Crappie will be located more on the top of these target areas, then move to the bottom as the day goes on.”

When fishing brush piles, Dannemueller will have them use Bobby Garland 2-inch Hyper Grubs rigged on a 1/24-ounce Crappie Pro Mo’ Glo Jighead or a Road Runner underspin jighead.

Targeting the brush pile, he will have them cast past it and bring the lure over the top to catch suspended fish early in the morning or tick the brush top later as the crappie move down into the brush. The best bite will be on the shady side of the brush pile.

Industry Expertise

granddaughter's first crappiegranddaughter's first crappie
Oklahoma’s Kevin DeLong and granddaughter Estella, with her first crappie.


Lifelong angler and Bobby Garland Crappie Baits brand manager Gary Dollahon has a history of teaching kids to fish, as a result of his own passion for the sport. While many beneficiaries of his knowledge and patience have been family, friends and neighbors, it’s been his four-decade career in the fishing industry that has put him in front of literally “a few thousand” others for his sharing of how, when and where to enjoy the fun of fishing.

“First and foremost is to make the outing fun, “Dollahon said.  “While ‘catching’ helps with that, realize catching is not the most critical part of the experience in the end for you or them. Youth love being around water, so you always have that in your favor. Often there are minnows, birds and turtles to see. Point them out. And involve the young ones in every part of the experience, from carrying the tackle box, picking out baits to use and getting the hook into the water.”

Dollahon noted that when catches do happen, to make the most of each, regardless of species or size. Catching one also allows for teaching a youth how to handle a fish. However, some kids are not going to want to touch a fish, and that’s okay.

“When you do catch a fish, explain why you’re either keeping or releasing it, including laws, common sense or simply being the right thing to do,” Dollahon said.

Summer Appraoch

Lee Pitts and child with crappieLee Pitts and child with crappie
Crappie guide Lee Pitts and a happy young angler.


“For kids’ first fishing lessons during a crappie outing, I’m going to suggest summer as the period to target and keep the approach simple. The species can be fished for from the bank, from docks, boats, and with a little homework can be accessed without having to move around to a lot of different spots. Weather is usually somewhat predictable, according to forecasts, and cooling off with a dip, where allowed, can be refreshing,” Dollahon said.

For bait choices, Dollahon acknowledged the virtue of using live minnows, but warned minnows are difficult to keep alive during the summer. The option he prefers is soft plastic lures with a lively tail like Bobby Garland Baby Shad, Swimming Minnow or Hyper Grub. All have tails that provide good fish-attracting action, whatever the technique used.

As for color selection he will limit it to just the most popular colors, including Monkey Milk, Blue Ice, Electric Chicken, Lights Out and Bluegrass, as they can effectively catch crappie in any water clarity. He will rig baits on a 1/16-ounce jighead with a weighted or unweighted bobber, depending on how he wants to present the lure.

Dollahon suggested hiring a crappie fishing guide with a big boat or even a pontoon. A good crappie guide will put you on fish quickly and keep the action going; in addition to knowing what baits and presentations the crappie are biting.

Mentors & More

  • My grandmother was the fisherman, and she taught me how to fish. We grew up bank fishing with long cane poles, bobbers and live bait. From grandma, I learned about shade and where to cast my lure. – Dan Dannenmueller
  • My Dad would take me, but so did our family doctor, whose office was across the street when I was younger (probably in between stitching my wounds or incisions!) I remember getting to fish in a private farm pond with him, and while he was sitting fishing, I would be running around casting. Both must have had the patience of Job! – Brad Wiegmann
  • The one rule to remember anytime when taking a kid fishing is to make it fun. If you are successful doing that, you’ll leave with memories to last a lifetime and have a fishing buddy forever. – Gary Dollahon
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Brad Wiegmann photo