After the winter that was not on an ordinary track, you have to wonder what type of spring we have coming. Due to the fact that we have not had a harsh winter, you don’t know what to expect. Hopefully, spring will be early and warm. So, if that’s the case, now would be the time to start getting ready for the open water crappie season.
FINDING FISH IN THE SPRING
Crappie spend the majority of the time in winter in deep water, but, as spring is approaching, they start to make moves toward the shallower water bays. Crappie are one of the last fish in the spring season to spawn, so the move toward the shallows will not be right away. But one thing is for sure – ;the crappie is the first fish that everybody turns their attention to in the early, open-water season.
To find early spring crappie you will have to cover water. Late-winter/early-spring haunts of the crappie are deep holes to deep breaklines. The best and most effective way to find crappie in the spring is to use your electronics. Move your boat over the deep water holes and breaks looking for signs of fish to show up on your electronics. Electronics that you use for this will be your personal preference. My choice is either a Humminbird Pro Flasher or a Humminbird Paramount liquid crystal unit. Either unit will do a great job in finding fish, but use whatever unit you feel comfortable with. When you are using your electronics to find fish, look for fish that are located off the bottom. Fish or crappie that are located close to the bottom are generally inactive fish. Try to look for fish that are higher on the screen of your electronics display. These are the fish that you want to key-in on; these are active feeding fish.
KEEP MOVING, COVER WATER
Once you have located a school of fish with your electronics, now comes the time for some catching to take place. To find active feeding fish, I use somewhat of a trolling/vertical jigging presentation. For my equipment set up I use a Pinnacle spinning rod Tri Wing Ti662SPML teamed with a Pinnacle DLF30 reel. I spool this reel with four-pound Berkley XL line. On the business end of the line I will use a Freshwater Tackle 1/16-ounce Kwik-Set jig under normal conditions. If the wind is blowing or boat control is a problem, I will go to 1/8-ounce or bigger.
I will tip the Kwik-Set jig two different ways according to the mood of the fish. When the crappie are active and feeding, I will use a two-inch Toledo Tackle or a three-inch Double Tail Grub from Reaction Lures. Top trailer colors are chartreuse, white, and yellow. If the crappie are biting slow, or I am faced with cold-front conditions, I will tip the Kwik-Set jig with a crappie minnow instead. The minnow will give your presentation a scent factor that is natural. The scent factor plays a big part in your fishing if you are fishing in cold front conditions.
Once my lure setup is complete, it’s time to start fishing. The presentation I will start with is a trolling method incorporated with a vertical jigging presentation. I will lift the jig off the bottom about one- to 1 1/2-feet. I will keep moving slowly until good fish contact is made. If the fish show up well on my electronics, I will stay and fish this school of fish. If the fish do not look active, or the numbers are down, I will keep moving, looking for a better school of fish.
HOLD YOUR GROUND
Once a good school of fish is found, I will stay on top of these fish until they are shut off. To stay on these fish I will make use of my electronics and trolling motor. It is not uncommon for the school of crappie to move, so use your tools to stay with the fish. Once good fish contact is made, many times you may have to make presentation changes to get the jig to a certain depth if the crappie are suspended, and, in your times of fishing crappie, you know that this is not uncommon. In that situation I will go to a Freshwater Tackle Easy On Slip Bobber teamed with an Angle Jig. With this team you will have a deadly crappie fishing system.
The Easy On Slip Bobber is one of the best choices in a slip bobber system. With just a twist of the bobber you can put the bobber on or remove it from your line. The slip bobber will allow you to keep your bait at a set depth level where the fish are. Team the slip bobber with the Freshwater Tackle Angle Jig, and you have the deadliest crappie system known to man.
The Angle Jig is a small jig with a concave face that, when the jig is on a free fall, it looks so natural it should be outlawed. When the jig falls, it has a slight back-and-forth motion as a dying minnow fluttering its way to the bottom. The reason it is my number one cold front and suspending lure is the slow, natural fall as it travels through the water. If the fish are suspended or are shut down from a cold front, they will be very slow to bite a bait; you will have to keep the bait in front of them for an extended time to coax them to bite. The slip bobber rig will accomplish this with no problem. You will be able to see on your electronics at what depth the fish are at and set your bobber stop according to that depth.
Team that up with a slow fall of the angle jig tipped with a crappie minnow, and you can see how deadly of a system you have. One of the most common problems that people are faced with when the bite gets tough is that they are not using the proper equipment to make the bait and the presentation look as natural as possible.
For the slip bobber system you have to use the proper line size to make the jig fall look as natural as possible. If you use too big a line, the bait will not look natural as it falls through the water. I am a firm believer that you do not need line over four-pound test. If you use line that is bigger, you will not catch as many fish and, in severe cold front conditions, I will drop my line size to use two-pound test. If needed, I am also in favor of a limp line like Berkley XL instead of a stiff line because of the light bites during these cold front conditions. The fish may take the bait in its mouth, feel the resistance of the lure, and drop the bait before you even knew that the fish had the bait.
So, there you have some of the keys to getting some early, open-water crappie. Remember to make your bait look as natural as possible and use your electronics to help you cut down your fish-finding time. This is only the start of the open water fishing season, but it seems to be the best when it’s your first time out after a long winter. So, get to the lake and practice your open water crappie tactics.