Reach Out for Shallow Crappie

Use long-pole techniques to catch more shallow crappie this spring.

Reach Out for Shallow Crappie

When the rig is dropped in the right place the bite occurs quickly. If not, move it to the next target. (File photo)

When spring rolls around and crappie head for the shallows, anglers follow the fish in droves. But just as during the rest of the year, a select group of anglers seem to consistently make the best catches from shallow water.

What is the key to their shallow water success? Their magic formula is nothing more than keeping the role of rigging, underwater topography, cover and lure presentation in proper perspective.

A simple long pole rigged correctly can be vastly superior to casting rigs when presenting your bait to shallow-water crappie. With minimal practice anglers can more accurately drop the bait into tiny openings in brush or next to a log than they can by casting from a distance. The difference between a limit of shallow-water crappie and a few scattered bites is often precise presentation.

Getting the long pole rigged properly is job one. The pole must be light enough to allow you to make hundreds of presentations during a day of fishing but with enough backbone to horse a slab out of shallow water cover. My go-to standard is a 12-foot, light-tip pole with a moderately heavy butt section. The length can be longer or shorter according to specific conditions on your lake.


Rigging is easy: Simply use a length of line approximately equal to the length of the pole with a hook, small splitshot and 1 1/2-inch slip float on the business end. The slip float is crucial because rigged this way the float will ride on the splitshot just above the hook when not in the water. When the rig hits the water the float slides to a pre-set depth you’ve chosen with the bobber stop. Thus you can quickly change depths when fishing various forms of cover.


Additionally, this rig causes the bait to fall almost vertically into the cover, vastly reducing snags if you lift it straight up to begin making the next cast.

To consistently make large catches identify the spots that hold the majority of shallow-water crappie.

Crappies do not evenly distribute themselves throughout the shallows. Specific areas will often hold high concentrations of fish compared to other areas of identical depth. Discerning the difference is the key.

Part of the process is searching by fishing. But first look at the shallow water with “fish finder” eyes. Identify areas that are basically the same for long stretches of the shoreline and eliminate them. Identify and target specific stretches of the shallows that are different, either in terms of structure or cover or both.


Best Fishing Tips Ever-Terry Blankenship

Finding productive areas is often a matter of common sense. One consistently excellent shallow-water crappie pattern I’ve found on many lakes involves cover located near a deep-water drop. It may be where an inundated creek channel bends near the shoreline, which creates a direct route for fish to move from deep to shallow water. Another target is an area with abundant shallow water cover compared to surrounding areas. Points or pockets with woody cover are prime targets. Each lake will have specific patterns— target these.

Bait presentation is crucial. Minnows and jigs are both lethal, so go with what gives you confidence. Typically, I target cover and drop the rig in tight places. Forks of fallen treetops, the dark side of stumps or logs and the middle of heavy brush are all prime targets. Many days I’ll determine a pattern that holds very well, other days I have to fish it all. When you connect, continue to fish that exact spot until action slows, multiple fish are common.

Every one of the highly successful shallow water crappie fishermen I know has a common trait: They do not linger at any given spot unless the fish are active. When the rig is dropped in the right place the bite occurs quickly. If not, move it to the next target.


With the long-pole rig and proper presentation you’ll quickly become one of the most productive shallow water crappie anglers on the lake.

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