By BOB JENSEN
For many anglers, the first fishing trip of the open water season is for crappies. In some areas, fishing season for walleyes and bass and such is not yet open, but regulations permit us to chase crappies.
In other areas, crappies are just really accessible early in the fishing season. They can be caught from boats, but they can also be caught from docks or the shoreline. Crappies can be easy to catch this time of year, they’re abundant in many areas across North America, and they’re great on a plate. For many reasons, you should be chasing crappies right now.
First, just like any other time of the year, you’ve gotta’ find the fish. Crappies will be around stuff: That stuff might be reeds or a downed tree or a dock.
Next, early in the year, you want to find the warmest water. Find warm water with cover that’s near deep water and you’ll probably have crappies within casting range. Crappies like to have access to deep water. If the weather turns cold, they like to be able to move quickly to the deeper water. They’ll also move there after they spawn.
So, now that we know where they are, we need to put a bait where they are. Several presentations will work, but probably the most popular and effective, when done properly, is to suspend a jig or a basic splitshot/hook under a slip-bobber. Slip-bobbers allow an angler to cast easily and present a bait right in the crappie’s face. Northland’s Lite-Bite slip-bobbers have a brass grommet that enables the bobber to slide easily on your line.
Start with a sixteenth ounce Fire-fly or Gypsi jig: Go smaller if the crappies don’t eat it. Color is one of the things you’ll need to experiment with, as sometimes the crappies can be very selective. Some very successful crappie catchers like a black jig because many of the bugs being hatched early in the year are black. These anglers like to “match the hatch”.
However, I’ve seen many instances when a pink or chartreuse or orange jig is very productive early in the year, and there aren’t very many pink or chartreuse or orange bugs in the water. Keep trying different colors until the fish show you what they want.
Small minnows will work well on the jig, but so will a soft-bait tail that has a quivering action like a Gulp! Fish Fry.
Four pound test Trilene XL, XT, or Sensation are great crappie lines.
A key consideration is where you set the bobber stop. It is very important to suspend your bait just a tad above the fish. If you think the fish are four feet below the surface, set your bobber so it is about three and a half feet below the surface. You don’t want the bait below the fish. Fish of any species are more likely to go up for a bait than down.
If the bite is really slow, tie on a hook with a couple of split shot. Even the most finicky crappie will usually hit this set-up.
Crappie action can be very good right now. Keep a couple for supper and put the rest back. By doing so, we’ll be able to enjoy this early season action for a long time.
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