John’s Note: You can catch plenty of big slab crappie all year if you know where to fish for them and what baits to use. Then when your taste buds tingle for those tasty, just popped out of the oven or frying pan fillets of crappie, you won’t have to wait until the spring spawn to catch them. Let’s take a look at the kind of places where you can find and take crappie throughout the year.
Often you can catch some of the biggest crappie of the year in the pre-spawn when the fish are full of roe and heavy with fat from the winter.
On major reservoirs, crappie generally will run up creek and river channels and wait for the warm weather and the correct water temperature to move out on the flats to spawn. Sometimes large schools of big crappie will hold just prior to the spawn in a hole or a deep spot at the very end of a ditch or a small creek channel. “During the pre-spawn and post-spawn times of the year, I usually can find the biggest crappie of the year ganged up along ditches, a cut or a small secondary creek channel close to a spawning area and the backs of little creek channels,” Charlie Ingram, of Eufaula, Alabama, a longtime crappie fisherman, explains. “Many times in the backs of these little ditches, I can sit in one spot and limit out on crappie, particularly where there’s cover.
Often crappie will be very aggressive because they are trying to feed up ahead of the spawn.
To be an effective pre-spawn fisherman, you must be able to read a topo map that will tell you where the small ditches, secondary creeks and little cuts are in the lake’s bottom and a depth finder to get on this structure and show you the cover and the fish holding there.
During the pre-spawn, I prefer to fish either a 3/4-ounce jigging spoon, because I can angle vertically with it. This big spoon produces large crappie. Because of the jigging spoon’s weight, if I get tangled in cover, I can shake it free.”
Also look for large schools of crappie during the pre-spawn in the mid water mouths of feeder creeks where the crappie have moved from river channels. This generally warmer water contains numbers of baitfish. As soon as that creek water warms-up enough to trigger the spawn, the crappie will move up the creek channel and onto the spawning areas. Several methods will catch these creek mouth crappie. Most anglers prefer to troll in the mouths of creeks using1/24- and 1/32-ounce jigs on 2 and 4 pound test line. When you troll open water and don’t have to worry about losing crappie in thick cover, you can fish the lighter line. The smaller the diameter of the line, the faster and deeper the crappie jig sinks. To troll a 1/32 ounce jig 8 to 10 feet under the surface, an angler may have to use 2 pound test line and troll slowly.
Too, you can buoy the schools off in the mouths of creeks and cast to them with either minnows or jigs. However, since these open water schools of crappie constantly move, you’ll have to relocate the schools and move the buoys. Instead, you may want to use your depth finder and trolling motor to stay on the top of these schools. Then either vertical jig or fish a live minnow straight down to the school to catch the crappie.
To learn more about crappie and how to fish for them from the masters of the sport, get “Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and Summer,” and “Reelfoot Lake: How to Fish for Crappie, Bass, Bluegills and Catfish & Hunt for Ducks.” Click here to get these books.
About the Author
John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (AMA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors.