Skip to main content

5 Bad Habits to Break for More Crappie

Maybe the only thing stopping you from catching more crappie is you

5 Bad Habits to Break for More Crappie
5 Bad Habits to Break for More Crappie

“What can I do to catch more crappie?”

Many anglers want a simple answer to that question, but unfortunately, there’s not always one to be found. I’ve been chasing crappie for decades, and I’ve learned that no magic formula will insure success every time we fish for America’s favorite panfish.

One thing is certain, though; when we’re having an unproductive fishing day, as often as not it’s due to our own errors, not because crappie are exceptionally evasive or tight-lipped.

The cure? Do some self-analysis and determine if you’re missing fish because of bad habits. If you are, it’s never too late to change.


Bad Habit #1: Fishing the right place at the wrong time.

When spring arrives, crappie invade shallow-water spawning habitat. This makes them much easier to find and catch than during other seasons and results in more anglers fishing for crappie during this period.


Crappie also feed actively during summer, fall and winter, but during these seasons, they’re less likely to be concentrated in the shallows. Nevertheless, many anglers continue fishing the same shallow-water locales that produced big stringers of fish earlier in the year. They think spring hotspots should be just as good at other times as they were during spring, but this seldom proves true.

You’ll catch more fish if you learn where crappie are most likely to be during each season and tailor your fishing methods to finding them. In summer, warm weather drives crappie to comfort zones in deeper or shadier water. Autumn crappie roam like nomads, often feeding shallow one day and deep the next. During winter, most crappie move to deep cover and structure again. Savvy crappie anglers recognize these seasonal tendencies and follow the fish from one place to another as seasons change.

Bad Habit #2: Failure to focus.

Crappie are light biters. Seldom do they strike a bait or lure with the power of a bass or trout. They’re more likely to inhale the bait with a flare of their gills, then quickly spit it back out if the hook isn’t set. For this reason, many bites go unnoticed by inattentive anglers, and the fish escape before the angler even knows they were there.

To overcome this problem, ardent crappie anglers know they must focus their attention constantly on their line and/or bobber. They watch closely for slight twitches or slackening in the line that signal a taker. And they use small, sensitive floats that detect strikes better than other types. Brightly colored, fluorescent lines are easier to see, so these are considered standard terminal tackle by many hardcore crappie fans as well.


Bad Habit #3: Fishing brush and only brush.

Many anglers think to find crappie you must fish some type of brushy cover such as an inundated treetop, a manmade fish attractor, a willow thicket or other dense, woody cover.

Crappie do frequent brushy cover. In some situations, however, crappie – especially big crappie – may be in areas with no brush.

In big reservoirs with abundant schools of threadfin shad, for example, crappie weighing 1 ½ pounds or more are more likely to be found near schools of shad than holding around brush. Unlike small crappie, which find a safe haven from predators in a brushpile’s maze of branches, these giants aren’t on the menu of many predators. Their own appetite is substantial, however, so they follow roaming shad schools, feasting on these high-protein baitfish.


In this situation, therefore, you’re likely to catch more and bigger crappie if you fish places where shad are schooling, such as underwater ledges, riprapped banks or even the bottom. Use your sonar to pinpoint the baitfish and the crappie are sure to be nearby.

The lesson here is to think outside the box now and then, especially when fishing gets tough. Crappie may not always be where you expect.

Bad Habit #4: Ignoring water clarity issues.

Many crappie anglers use the same baits and presentations regardless of whether the water is clear, muddy or in between. It’s important to change your tactics, however, as water clarity changes.

For example, crappie hold tighter to cover when water is muddy, so it’s important to work your bait or lure right against the cover.

In clear water, you may have to do just the opposite to avoid spooking fish. Back off and cast your lures or minnows from a distance.

The point to remember here is that variations in water clarity have dramatic effects on crappie behavior, and to catch more fish, you must adapt presentations to the conditions you encounter.

Bad Habit #5: Giving up too soon.

If hours pass without a crappie bite, it’s common to assume the fish must have lockjaw and aren’t going to bite regardless of what we do. In fact, the crappie may simply be more finicky in their habits than usual, and the angler has failed to determine a fishing pattern that will garner strikes on that particular day.

For example, if you start fishing around mid-morning and haven’t caught a fish in several hours, it’s easy to convince yourself it would be best to try again some other day. There are times, however, when crappie feed most actively near dawn and dusk. If this is one of those times, you may see feeding activity increase considerably in the hours around sunset. If you give up too soon, however, you’ll miss the bite.

There also are times when crappie are persnickety about the lures they’ll hit. I remember, for example, fishing with a friend on a clear mountain reservoir and failing to get a single bite after trying every color and size of tube jig in our tackle boxes. We couldn’t buy a bite on minnows or spinners either. But when my buddy cast a little deep-diving, minnow-like crankbait and ripped it back to the boat, he nabbed a slab that weighed close to 1 ½ pounds. Over the next hour, that same lure produced 15 more slabs.

Be flexible in your presentations. If one thing doesn't work, try another. Change the color, size or type of lure you're using; vary the speed of your retrieve; fish at different times around the clock; try a variety of cover and structure types. Keep changing up if bites aren’t forthcoming, and sooner or later, you should pinpoint something productive.

Don’t give up too soon.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

Catch More Bass on a Jerkbait in the Cooler Months

This one simple trick will trigger more bass strikes on a jerkbait during the fall months.

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Most fishing rods feature both an action and a power rating, but what do those ratings mean and how do you use them to select the right rod for different scenarios? In this video, outdoor writer and tackle specialist Shane Beilue breaks down the difference between a rod blank’s action and power and discusses what the various ratings of each mean.

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

Hobie MirageDrive 360 Kayak Propulsion: Amazing Control and Power

The Hobie MirageDrive 360 pedal propulsion system is the pinnacle of kayak control with more efficient fin designs, glide technology and allows the boat to be moved in any direction.

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Hunting Elk with the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter in 6.5 PRC

Michael Cassidy and Paul Pluff talk about their elk hunt in New Mexico using the Ruger Hawkeye Long Range Hunter.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

This Elk Venison Patty Melt Recipe makes the perfect wild game sandwich. Elk burger patties are accompanied by melted Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, and Thousand Island dressing and then pressed in between two toasted and golden brown pieces of rye bread.Elk Venison Patty Melt Recipe Wild Game

Elk Venison Patty Melt Recipe

Kristy Crabtree - October 27, 2020

This Elk Venison Patty Melt Recipe makes the perfect wild game sandwich. Elk burger patties...

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing.4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass Bass

4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass

Chris Schneider - August 25, 2015

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing.

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use these proven bait rigs for stripers.3 Proven Bait Rigs for Stripers Striper & Hybrid

3 Proven Bait Rigs for Stripers

J.B. Kasper

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use these proven bait rigs for stripers.

Here are the 10 most common spinning and baitcaster reel performance problems and how to fix them.10 Most Common Reel Performance Problems Fishing How-To

10 Most Common Reel Performance Problems

Anietra Hamper

Here are the 10 most common spinning and baitcaster reel performance problems and how to fix...

See More Trending Articles

More Fishing How-To

Here's how to take it one step further and actually catch bass.October Game Plan: Find the Food, Find the Bass Bass

October Game Plan: Find the Food, Find the Bass

Ken Duke - October 22, 2020

Here's how to take it one step further and actually catch bass.

Quick look at common, easy-to-catch fish species (video).Get On Board: Species 101 for Beginning Anglers Other Freshwater

Get On Board: Species 101 for Beginning Anglers

Game & Fish Staff

Quick look at common, easy-to-catch fish species (video).

Here's what to throw to tempt the biggest fish below a dam.Hit the Tailwater Buffet for Eastern Trout Trout & Salmon

Hit the Tailwater Buffet for Eastern Trout

Jeff Knapp - October 26, 2020

Here's what to throw to tempt the biggest fish below a dam.

A combination of factors can put the walleye bite into overdrive this time of year. Here's how to capitalize on the action both day and night.Searching for a Never-Ending Walleye Bite Walleye

Searching for a Never-Ending Walleye Bite

Dr. Jason Halfen - October 28, 2020

A combination of factors can put the walleye bite into overdrive this time of year. Here's how...

See More Fishing How-To

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now