Understanding how crappie see things can help you make better lure selections and more effective presentations.
Reprinted with permission from In-Fisherman, the following excerpt about a crappie’s vision is taken from “Making Sense of Crappie Behavior,” an article written by Steve Quinn that appeared in the In-Fisherman 2015 Panfish Guide. We feel the timeless knowledge is a real eye-opener as to just how much crappie depend on sight for their feeding preferences, and therefore wanted to share the information again here.
(Text is exactly as it appears in the article. Photos courtesy of Bobby Garland Crappie Baits)
Making Sense of Crappie Behavior
Biological Keys to Triggering a Hot Bite
By Steve Quinn
Watching crappies move under water demonstrates their cautious deliberate style that makes, at times, for the fastest fishing imaginable. Other times they leave us baffled, wondering where they went or why they won’t bite.
Learn how four crappie guides target deep-water crappie during late winter.
The evolution of electronics with live sonar has changed how many anglers catch crappie during winter. Now crappie anglers with live sonar chase roamers as they scan for the larger crappie scattered over deeper water.
Before you stop reading this article because you don’t have live sonar, Bobby Garland Pro Barry Morrow is going to explain how to catch crappie this time of year without those tools, but first let’s talk about catching roamers.
Learn the value of a float and a jig used together for mid-winter crappie fishing and how two guides use float strategies to put more fish in the boat.
“Often they won’t pull it under,” Lee Pitts said about the float portion of his Float and Fly rig. “It’ll just tip a little or start easting sideways.”
Pitts knows. As a crappie guide on legendary waters of Weiss Lake, Pitts spends most winter days on the water. Winter delivers some of the best action of the year, and one of his most productive crappie fishing techniques when the water gets cold is the float and fly approach, which refers to fishing a jig beneath a set float for slow, subtle presentations at a prescribed depth.
Beaver Lake crappie guide Greg Robinson also relies heavily on floats for winter crappie fishing. That surprises many people, Robinson noted, because they only associate bobbers with extra shallow water. However, Robinson and Pitts are commonly presenting jigs 6 to 10 feet deep. The key is that the float suspends an offering in the strike zone and allows for the extra slow and subtle presentations that are sometimes needed for winter crappie fishing success.
Very small jigs can make a very large difference for winter crappie fishing, whether you fish through the ice or fish open water. Learn how.
With a sub-zero forecast for a mid-winter Sunday, services were cancelled at Chris Edwards’ church. So what did he do? He went fishing, of course, and that turned out to be an excellent decision. Using double rig of Electric Chicken Itty Bit Swim’Rs on 1/48-ounce heads, the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma angler caught more than 100 crappie that day.
Winter crappie fishing offers definite challenges. Chilled fish won’t expend much energy to feed, and they can be pretty picky. Edwards has learned, however, that by downsizing jigheads and baits and using decidedly subtle presentations, he can continue to enjoy excellent crappie action through the coldest part of winter.
Learn to locate crappie-holding cover and the best techniques for making those fish bite.
Crappie are interesting little fish who bundle up tightly around cover in the coldest parts of the year, making them easy to locate using your graph. But how do you fish for crappie vertically? From technique to equipment, I’ll tell you how, with four helpful steps from start to finish in this blog!
1. Locating cover
This is by far the most important part of learning how to fish for crappie vertically and seems pretty simple. But, it’s not! Crappie tend to look for certain types of cover, be it free standing timber you can visibly see, or brush that has been placed in depth zones by other fishermen. The easiest finds are obvious trees sticking out of the water in the right depths. Typically, crappie dwell in the 10-20 foot range in the winter, so finding timber that exists in that zone can be very productive. The hardest kind of timber to find is sunken timber or brush piles. For these you need to use the electronics on your boat. Preferably structure scan, but regular sonar can find brush piles as well. The best places to check for sunken brush are off the edges of points, flats, or near boat docks. Identifying crappie on top of the brush is not always the easiest task, but they can be differentiated from most other fish. Crappie tend to bunch up tall on top of the brush or around it, so there will be several small dots tightly packed together.
Crappies tend to gravitate toward deep structure in the winter months, and an excellent stronghold for them is manmade docks, which are prevalent on several bodies of water throughout the South and Midwest. These docks offer ample cover for winter crappie fishing and offer easy opportunities to simply drop small plastic lures down to them without the need for an expensive boat and accessories.
Why are docks good crappie holding structure in the winter? Man made docks often feature posts that root them to the lake or river floor and provide structure for crappie to relate to. Also, most docks have boat owners who like to fish, so it’s no science figuring out that they occasionally toss brush and other structure pieces out by their slips, along the points and other various spots along the docks.
How to find the right docks for winter crappie fishing
• This is the most important part of fishing docks, because if you aren’t around the crappie – how will you catch them?
• Try to identify docks with enough depth under them. Crappie tend to gravitate deeper over structure in the winter. A good rule of thumb is to find docks that maintain a depth of over 10 feet under them. You can find the depth by counting down a jig head to get approximate measurements.
• Look at a map or use Google Earth to find docks in a creek arm or adjacent to deep water. These typically hold the highest amounts of crappie.
• Most important rule: Always have permission to fish the docks you are on, ask the owner or marina in charge before stepping foot on a dock.
Once you have found an appropriate dock you can begin to look at the slips inside and around the dock to survey for any brush or structure laying underneath. A good tip is to find old docks that aren’t frequented and be aware of any indicators of sunken brush such as pieces of wood or pipes lying around the slips.
The right equipment for winter crappies
For this presentation you don’t necessarily need specialized equipment, just a short medium light action rod, light line and a small capacity spinning reel. Winter crappie fishing doesn’t have to be difficult.
Lurenet team pick: 6-foot medium light action rod, 1000 size spinning reel, 6- to 8-pound test line
For lures you can use a large variety of plastics, but I will narrow it down to the best three available.
1. Bobby Garland Baby Shad w/ Bobby Garland 1/16 oz. MoGlo Jig head • Colors: (Clear water – Monkey Milk, Threadfin Shad, Blue Ice) (Stained water – Lights out, Devils Grin, Black Hot Pink)
2. Bobby Garland 2” Slab Slayer w/ Bobby Garland 1/16 oz. MoGlo Jig head • Colors: (Clear water – Double Silver Rainbow, Blue Ice, Eclipse) (Stained water – Bone White Chart., Junebug Pearl Chart., Cajun Cricket)
3. Bobby Garland Slab Hunter w/ Bobby Garland 1/8 oz. MoGlo Jig head • Colors: (Clear water – Live Minnow, Threadfin Shad, Coppernose) (Stained water – Bluegrass, Cajun Cricket, Bone White Chart.)
These three options are primary picks for the dock fishing technique because they have a very subtle action, and when dropping straight down to suspended fish you need as real looking of an imitation as possible.
The first two picks are small options that appeal to crappie of all sizes, but the third pick is built for going after giant slab crappie that pass over smaller baits.
Our favorite dock fishing crappie techniques & locations
Now that you have identified the right dock to fish and gathered up the proper lures, it’s time to actually start winter crappie fishing! The technique used to dock fish is just like any standard brushpile fishing from a boat. You simply want to identify where to drop down and let your bait fall to the bottom. Once it is on the bottom, lift slightly and hold the bait steady to detect any bites. If the lure sits for a period of time with no bites slowly, begin to pull it up. I like to implore a few cranks of the reel handle and hold the bait steady at multiple zones in the water column. Often crappie will sit in a certain zone all over the dock.
Below are a few tips on finding the right places on the dock to drop your baits down. • Inside corners of slips (typical place for brush to be dropped)
• Outside corners of slips • Along walkways (look for signs of brush or cover)
• Under boat lifts
• Dock posts These are simple places to find on all docks, but always be creative and check multiple areas.
Almost anywhere that casts shade can be a primary spot for winter crappie fishing! Also, be sure to try multiple colors. I listed several above, but crappie are notorious sight feeders and love bright color patterns so don’t be afraid to try a wide variety. Often times bright patterns work well even in clear water, especially under the shade of docks.
Ready to go hit some docks? You find all the lures, jigs and accessories you need at Lurenet.com.
Be sure to use code MERRY15 for an extra 15 percent off your order!