Editor’s Note: “If you are hunting the shallow water in April, don’t bet that the big crappie will be there,” the late Dr. Tom Forsythe, a fisheries biologist at Land between the Lakes in Golden Pond, Kentucky, told me some years ago. “As a matter of fact, don’t plan on the big crappie being in shallow water on any particular day that you want to fish during the month of April. I realize this information will surprise people. But it’s the truth.”
Dr. Forsythe gave some tips for catching the big crappie when the spawn is in the spring. “First of all, you have to remember that deep crappie will be less affected by weather and water conditions than will shallow-water crappie. Deep crappie will have to move less to stay in their comfort zone than the fish in the shallow water. Therefore, if you are looking for regular catches of good-sized crappie in April, the deep-water fish probably will be more reliable than shallow-water fish.”
However, even when the spawn was on, and there were plenty of big crappie being caught in shallow water, Dr Forsythe believed an angler’s chances of catching big crappie still would be better in deeper water than in shallow water. According to Dr. Forsythe, “Even if there were a large number of big crappie going to the bank during a week or two of the spring, not all the big spawners would be bank-bound at the same time. And, the fishing pressure in the shallow-water cover would be much higher than the fishing pressure on deep structure. For instance, you might pass by a buck bush at 8:00 am and cast a minnow into that bush to try and take a crappie – not realizing that that same bush already had been fished 15 times by other anglers before you arrived there. I also believe there are larger numbers of crappie in deep water than there are in shallow water – especially the last two weeks in April when the shoreline areas get fished hard by so-many anglers. Therefore, the odds of catching bigger crappie would be better in deep water then.”
When I asked Forsythe some years ago about what types of baits would take bigger crappie, he paused, hesitated and finally answered, “No, I can’t really choose which baits will take the biggest crappie. I can’t say that jigs will catch more or bigger crappie than minnows will. I do know however, that some crappie guides only will allow their customers to fish minnows because they get aggravated having to re-tie jigs on for the fishermen who try to fish jigs. But, I’ve also observed that when the guides come in, oftentimes the jig fishermen will have bigger catches of large crappie than the minnow fishermen will. I think the best plan would be to not fish exclusively with either minnows or jigs.
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“One of the reasons that I think that the jig fisherman may tend to catch more and bigger crappie is because the minnow angler has to fish close to or right over the fish. A jig fisherman can cast out to the structure, stay farther away from the cover and the fish and retrieve his bait back to the boat. I believe that crappie can spook in clear water that’s even 20-50 feet deep because I have found that crappie are more skittish and spooky than most anglers want to believe.”
Dr. Forsyth explained about a friend who was a district biologist for the State of Kentucky and fished for crappie using a tube jig and a fly rod, a type of angling similar to minnow fishing with a cane pole. But instead of minnows, this angler substituted a tube jig and fished mostly over brush piles. Forsyth said that his friend noticed when he was fishing in 5-6 feet of clear water over a brush pile, he didn’t catch many crappie. He found out however, that if he backed-away from the brush pile, cast the jig out and retrieved it over the brush pile, he consistently would catch more crappie. He deduced that he wasn’t catching crappie in clear water due to his getting too close to the fish where they could spot him.
To learn more about crappie fishing, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “Crappie: The Year-Round River Fisherman’s Bible” at https://amzn.to/2mxWIt4, available in Kindle and print versions and in Audible at https://adbl.co/382m0SR.
Tomorrow: Know More Tips for Catching Big April Crappie