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Top Bank Fishing Strategies for Spring Crappie

Spring brings some of the year’s best opportunities for crappie fishing from the bank. Learn how to find and catch more crappie with a shoreline approach.

Everything looked perfect for bank fishing for crappie. The water color, bottom makeup, bank slope and cover mix all seemed ideal. The only thing missing was the crappie – at least any crappie that were willing to bite!

So, I began walking and casting, targeting scattered laydowns and stumps and making “search” casts between pieces of cover. Maybe 100 yards from my starting point the chunk rock along the lake’s edge turned to gravel and the bank got a little flatter. Scattered wood a modest cast’s distance from the shore seemed shallow but looked inviting for crappie fishing.

I clipped a spring float about 18 inches from my jig and cast tight to the first piece of wood. The float barely got upright before racing sideways, and I set the hook into a solid crappie. Repeating that cast produced the same result. Twice. The next piece of wood produced a repeat performance. I had found the right set up, setting the stage a fun day of bank fishing for crappie.

Bank Fishing Seasonal Opportunities

Spring delivers some of the best opportunities of the year for crappie fishing from the bank. The fish move shallow to spawn and relate predictably to cover that’s close to shore. It isn’t hard to know when the best action is underway. Just look at parking lots and pull-offs near bridge crossings or scan the riprap for anglers. You’ll know!

Crowds will lessen as quickly as they appeared when the best shallow bite wanes later in the spring. Don’t follow the crowd’s example at this point! Many crappie remain within easy reach of the bank long after the spawn. As long as the crappie have food, and the water doesn’t get too warm, they have no reason travel far. By simply casting a bit farther and selecting steeper slopes or even banks that are within reach of a channel edge, you can keep catching crappie from the bank right through the summer.

Summer also offers the best night fishing of the year, and with a portable light, you can find great bank fishing for crappie beneath a bridge most summer nights. That’s probably another story for another time, but still an opportunity worth noting.

Fall pushes a lot of fish very shallow again as crappie and bass alike follow shad up creeks and into shallow water. It’s sort of a second “crappie run” with many of the virtues of spring crappie fishing but without the crowds of other anglers.

Spring Bank Fishing Locations

bridge bank fishing areabridge bank fishing area

A lake map is beneficial for identifying likely spring areas. Given options, crappie spawn in protected pockets and creek arms that are out of the main current or heavy spring runoff areas. Find those on the map and identify public access areas within those areas. Bridge right-of-way, parks and recreation areas associated with boat ramps commonly provide significant public access and have long areas that are sufficiently maintained to allow for decent walking and casting access.

Bridges that span creeks provide some of the best opportunities because they provide direct access to the creek channel, and many have associated causeways that provide extended areas of public access and good cover from the riprap. Seek areas that offer a bit of variety in a relatively small area and give you room to roam. If feasible, find two or three areas that are within reasonable driving range of one another so you can make a bigger move, just like a boating angler would, if Plan A doesn’t work out or if the bite diminishes.

Once you’ve identified a few potentially good areas to work from the bank, look at the satellite imagery on Google Earth or another mapping program or app. That shows openness of the bank, helps you see depth breaks near the bank and often shows the channel edge and stumps or downed trees that are out from the bank. That helps you devise a strategy at home and allows you to find prime areas that are somewhat hidden when you are out on the water.

Bank Fishing Approach

bank fishing approachbank fishing approach

A traditional way to target crappie from the bank is to pick the spot nearest the parking area and set up with lawn chairs, a bucket of minnows and multiple rods, cast out and wait for the crappie to bite. If floats don’t dart out of sight, it’s simply assumed the crappie haven’t moved in or aren’t biting.

Sometimes this works, but a far more consistently effective approach (and more fun, from my perspective) is to travel light and cast or pitch jigs for crappie, altering presentations according to the water depth, cover and mood of the fish. This allows you to search for fish and experiment with cover types, depths, lure profiles and presentations.

Often, the bank access in an area all looks similar at a glance. When you start walking, though, you realize that the bottom make-up, slope and cover types vary more than it would seem and that subtle points, transition banks or backs of pockets might be notably different from areas that aren’t that far from them.

Traveling light and being intentional about reading the water and searching for patterns can make an outing far more productive. Preparing a stowable type tackle box specifically for bank fishing allows you to carry a variety of jighead sizes floats and mix of crappie baits styles and colors that cover a lot of conditions without having to tote everything your own.

Shoreline Techniques

catching crappie from bankcatching crappie from bank

A few basic fishing techniques will cover most bank-fishing situations during spring and continuing into summer. The nature of the bank typically dictates how I begin fishing, and I’ll often mix up presentations as I work to identify what best suits the situation and the mood of the fish.

If the cover is scattered and some is hidden or I’m looking for fish that are staging shallow or cruising. I like to simply cast and reel back slowly, sometimes adding lifts and drops. This is a great way to cover water and locate fish. For this simple approach, I prefer a bait with an active tail, such as a Bobby Garland Hyper Grub or Stroll’R.

For steeper slopes with the cover close to the bank, often including riprap banks, casting the bait out keeps it out of the effective strike zone for too much of the presentation. For this situation, I prefer to “dip” a bait, fishing it straight down from the rod tip and putting it tight to cover or walking slowly to cover water with the bait swimming slowly as I move. Alternatively, I might make short pitches past cover and allow the lure to swing back as it sinks, passing close to the cover. Either way, I prefer a bait that has less of a swimming action, such as a Baby Shad or a Slab Slay’R for this type of presentation.

If the water is shallow and I want to slow my approach, whether I’m casting to cover that’s away from the bank or pitching it to nearby cover, I’ll add a float to the line. This allows the bait to suspend in place, as shallow as I want it, when fish are more than a rod’s length away from the bank. For a slowed approach over a shallow flat where the fish are not all tight to cover. I simply cast my float rig, let it settle and work it back with slow pulls or rod tip, jiggles and pauses.

A simple adaptation of the same approach for summer, when the fish are deeper but holding in specific places, is to rig a slip float, set it for the appropriate depth, cast to the drop and work the bait by moving the rod tip only enough to jiggle float. A Thill Wobble Bobber works wonderfully for this application because it’s easy to cast accurately and is designed to wobble without moving far.

Tips for Fishing Mobile

bank fishing crappie tacklebank fishing crappie tackle
  • Use a backpack – Having no tackle bag to pick up and set down as you walk a bank makes it far easier to stay mobile to find fish.
  • Stick with lures – Same principle. Nothing makes you less inclined to walk than having to pick up a bucket of water every time you want to take a few steps.
  • Carry only one rod – A 7- or 7 1/2-foot light rod will let you cast, pitch or dip and is long enough to handle a set float rig, even if you need so set it five or six feet deep.
  • Bring snacks and water – You don’t need a feast, but if you put enough stuff to stay comfortable in your backpack, you’ll be much more inclined to walk to the next intriguing looking spot.
  • Wear comfortable, protective shoes – Might seem obvious, but still worth noting.

Bank Fishing Gear

Thill Wobble BobberThill Wobble Bobber