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Crappie Crappies & Panfish Fishing

Early-Season Crappie Tactics

February 22nd, 2012 2

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

When water conditions are favorable, springtime fishing for crappie is among the most
enjoyable and productive fisheries for anglers. With unpredictable weather conditions typical of spring, crappie anglers often have to be content with less than ideal situations. At the top of the problem list is poor water condition and it can take many forms. The bulk of the conditions can be summed up as water that is very or unusually clear, water that is unusually dingy or turbid, or muddy water.

Under any of these conditions the normally very cooperative springtime crappie dramatically change patterns and require anglers to do the same to be consistently successful. To regularly catch these fish under these varied conditions, crappie fishermen need a proven plan to cope with each scenario

Let’s take a look at the specifics of how to deal with very clear, muddy and dingy/turbid water conditions. All of these are distinct possibilities during the spring and each requires a different mindset and approach for consistent success.

Jay Bruce is a veteran professional crappie fisherman who has fished tournaments nationally. He has encountered all of the above situations in practice as well as tournament conditions. Bruce has learned specific strategies for coping with these issues.

“Seldom do fishermen go through a spring with what would be considered completely normal water conditions without encountering one or more of these water problems,” he said. “Often, they will just a take a little time off and let the water conditions return to normal. However they are missing valuable crappie catching opportunities when they do. The key is to have a plan to cope with these situations. With a bit of patience and effort, odds are very good they can solve the problem and continue to catch crappie.”

The first issue to deal with is ultra clear water. While some areas flood in the spring, others suffer drought conditions with ultra clear water. Plus, some fishermen simply have to cope with clear water on a regular basis, depending on the specific lake they fish.

“Some outstanding crappie fishing is available on clear water lakes, but fishermen often are not sure how to fish this situation,” Bruce said. “Clear water conditions and clear water lakes can produce some huge crappie. I love to fish them. But when I do, I go ultra light in terms of tackle and technique.”

The key to success in clear water is ultra-light tackle and gear. While many anglers simply do not consider 2-pound-test line as practical, the ultra thin diameter makes it practically invisible to the fish and will significantly increase the catch rate.

“When water conditions are clear, regardless of whether we’re in pre-spawn, spawn or post-spawn mode, I use 2-pound -est line when possible,” Bruce said. “If I’m on a lake where there is an extreme amount of woody cover, then I may resort to 4-pound-test, but that’s the maximum in clear water. There is simply a huge difference in the number of fish you’ll hook.”

In addition the depth being fished has to change considerably. If a lake that is normally dingy is very clear, then you need to fish deeper to be successful.

“I’ve encountered this clear-water scenario in tournaments a few times over the past few years, and a lake where I expected to catch fish in 5 feet of water, was so clear, I had to back off to 10 to 15 feet of water to find fish,” he said. “But that’s a real key to success.

“Even in spawning situations, if the water is ultra clear and you can see the bottom several feet down, expect the fish to spawn 10 to 15 feet or even deeper,” he continued. “I fished a tournament last year where that was exactly what happened. I caught spawning fish in 22 feet of water in a lake that was ultra clear. Fishing deep made the difference in a finishing high in the tournament instead of bombing out, if I had stayed with my pre-trip game plan.”

  • The texas elf

    excellent article and pointers. I got the crappie fishing spring fever just reading this article!

  • Karen K.

    your artical in March 2012 page 24 about catching Crappies in Illinois. I believe you have the wrong guides for Rend Lake. Todd Gessner Outdoors is the BEST, have gone out with Todd and Jason Johns on several occasions. They are the best on that Lake. Never have come off that lake without getting our quota. They are the Best.

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