One of the most targeted species of panfish in North America is the crappie. Referring to black crappie, white, and hybrids alike, it is also called a speckled perch, strawberry bass, calico bass, papermouth, or sac-a-lait. For a long time, anglers would use live minnows to target them because they are effective, easy to use, and almost foolproof. They would take an aberdeen hook, pierce the minnow, and reel in fish after fish. That was the old way of doing things. Minnows certainly still work and they are hugely effective however, they can be very hard to keep alive, especially on hot days. Minnows are extremely fragile. They need loving care.
Learning how to catch crappie with jigs is an essential part of anyone who would like to target the species. Jigs are the absolute best lure for targeting the species. Thankfully, you do not have to use live bait again unless you just want to. You can be successful using small jigs as your bait. You can catch all the fish you want as long as you know how to do it right. All of the professional crappie guides agree that miniature jigs are the way to go if you want some catches. In this article, we will go over how you should use small jigs to catch your crappie. They just work.
Use Ultralight Tackle If You Want To Catch Some Crappie
When it comes to the equipment we are selecting when targeting them, everything we will be using is going to be in the ultralight range. Absolutely nothing about this type of fishing is heavy at all. They are extremely small in size. The equipment we use to catch them should be as well so that it is very efficient in doing what we want it to do. You want it to be smaller rather than larger. Smaller equipment makes for a much more efficient and cost-effective approach when after fish this size. An effective and near-perfect setup is a good ultralight setup with light line, a spinning reel, and a small jig as the lure. That setup is ideal especially when the rod is long.
Choose An Ultralight Spinning Rod With A Fast Action
First thing you need to start catching some good fish is an ultralight, spinning, panfish rod. It is the best rod available to panfish anglers regardless of how good you are with larger tackle. Fish of this species are best caught on rods that are made to catch them. In other words, specific rods or poles work best because they are designed for it. They are sensitive, durable, and will catch just about any good fish you could ever hope to hook into. The length of these rods can vary quite a bit. The length of a good rod can be anywhere from six feet which is the standard size.
For a spinning rod all the way up to twelve feet in length, that is a pretty substantial difference and a very long fishing rod. The reasoning for this length is for a couple of reasons. For one, you can use it for reach. Quite often, you are throwing very light jigs into brush and snaggy areas because they are structure fish. If you try to cast a light lure on a regular rod into the sunken tree beside you on very light line, there is a high chance it can break very easily if you do not do it perfectly. Casting is not the only way to present your lure or get it into the right spot.
The length of the rod helps you set the jig down into the water without fear of your line snagging on a branch only inches away from your rig. Always make sure to use a spinning rod instead of a baitcaster. A snagged line means a tackle box full of lost jigs and no fish. If you are after any species of papermouth, you should have a longer rod. Why would you choose a ten-foot rod over an eleven footer then? Well, simple. Sometimes, a very long rod just isn’t as effective for a certain environment. The rods vary in feet because terrains do as well.
There will be times when you want a rod long enough to reach a spot but not so long that it gets in the way of the angler trying to use it. Some people just don’t have the strength to carry a twelve-foot rod with them every time they go fishing. That is a fine reason. Second, the longer rods assist you greatly when you are spider rigging. The length of the rods keep them away from the boat and also can serve as a depth finder when the rods are sitting in a rod holder. If you are a fan of casting your jigs, don’t worry about getting a longer rod. You can still catch fish.
You can still do that without much problems to worry about. The problem arises when you want to enter that higher level of fishing and you want to fish where they love to hide. Most commercial fishing rods are in the ultralight class. That simply means that it is much smaller and lighter than your average fishing tackle such as those used in bass or catfishing. This is helpful in detecting bites from finicky fish and also aids you in your ability to successfully hook and fight the fish when it bites. Something too heavy will rip the hook out of the fish’s mouth.
This is because they tend to be very fragile around the lips. Also, most commercial rods also have a fast action. That simply means that the tip of the rod bends very easily and the rest of the rod is stiff for the most part. The fast action tip will bend even from fish as small as the little ones. This provides sensitivity that is almost impossible to match. Most of the time, you can even see the tip move before you feel a bite. Having a fast action rod will help you detect bites.
Make Sure To Use A Panfish Or Crappie Spinning Reel
The reel you want to select for your setup would be a spinning reel. Spinning reels are much easier to use than baitcasting versions and they are much better for small fish. Spinning reels do not have a complicated drag system that you have to fiddle with every time you retie a lure as baitcasters do. This primarily is the main reason the baitcaster was invented. For bigger fish. With bigger fish, it isn’t an issue. With these and other panfish, it can result in a ton of frustration and may even make you lose hundreds of dollars of line. It will be much harder time detecting bites.
Also, baitcasters do not take lighter line well. This is a problem because the line you need for these small is often lighter rather than heavier. If you are going to be fishing jigs (and you will be), do yourself a favor. Use a spinning version with a spinning reel. You will save yourself a lot of headaches out on the water. Make sure that the reel you are using is an ultralight reel. Don’t use a heavier one. It should nicely complement your ultralight rod and feel well balanced.
Choose Your Favorite Line And Make Sure Its Visible
The line that you should use does not matter as much as it does when after other fish. All line types will work well and it is really up to you to choose which one to use. Always remember though, the lighter lines are very unforgiving. You may find yourself losing fish and lures way more often if you use those because the line breaks so easily. Loosen that drag! Six-pound monofilament is a great line to use. In any case, make sure the line is a highly visible one. You want to be able to see it well. Many species of fish are spooked by fishing line.
These, like most sunfish, are really not. They really don’t care if the line is visible. They only care about the offering at the end. Have you ever baited a hook with a worm right in front of Bluegill, dropped it in front of them, and they still go for it and get hooked? Exactly. These are no different. They rarely ever get over two or three pounds and the average one weighs in at one or less. As a result, many choose to use two, four, or six-pound test for them. It is for this reason that people use heavier line sometimes for the added visuals. So they can see the line.
Lines like Spiderwire Stealth braid are perfect for this. They are sensitive and visible. The high visibility of the fishing line helps in detecting bites because you can see every little pop or wiggle. They are also notorious for hitting lures very gently. If you cannot see the line well, you will miss much fish because you won’t see it move. All of the line types can be used to catch crappie for this reason. Monofilament is usually the most common for crappie because it stretches and is easier to hook the soft-mouthed fish without ripping it out of them. As a result, it makes a great line for beginners to hook into a few more fish. Monofilament is just better.
Fluorocarbon and braid will still work too, although they are not near as popular. Many anglers get started fishing for the species using mono and just never make the decision to switch. Once you get experienced enough, I recommend using a very light fluorocarbon line with a very loose drag system. You will hook more fish with a setup like this because your lure performs better and your line isn’t constantly stretching. Fluorocarbon and braid will allow you to feel much more bites than mono at the cost of unforgiving hooksets. Proper hooksets or less sensitivity in detecting bites. You will have to decide which one you are willing to give up. Both are important.
Tie the Jig To The Line
In order to tie a jig to the fishing line, you must first be familiar with which knots are good to use for your jig situations. Usually, a loop knot is the best way to connect a jig to the line if you are vertical jigging. It allows the jig to sit horizontally in the water and it also allows the bait to be free moving. This means that the lure moves a lot easier than if it was attached with a knot that is tight against the eye. With a loop knot, you can jig it extremely well. As for which loop knot, that doesn’t matter to much. As long as the lure sits vertically in the water, you should be golden. The triple surgeon’s loop is a very strong loop knot and its very easy to tie.
Many try to use a knot that fits snugly against the eye of the jighead. While this can work for some, you cannot work the lure as well and it creates problems with the lure sitting vertically especially when you are jigging. Remember, there is no one size fits all fishing knot. You may prefer to use other knots when you are casting or shooting docks for suspended crappie. Knots like the Palomar knot or the improved Clinch Knot work well when you are casting baits. They are some of the strongest fishing knots available. They fit very snugly against the eye.
This makes it very easy to cast lures and retrieve them. The Palomar Knot also works well if you want to attach multiple jigs to one line. Just tie the Palomar knot as you would normally but give it a very long tag end. After it is tied on, tie another jig to this tag end. Now you have two jigs on one line. It is possible to catch two fish with this and depending on how many extra lures you decide to attach, you can easily max out on your limit of fish very quickly.
The Best Lures Overall Are Jigs
When it comes to the lures we want to opt for while fishing, we want small jigs for the most part. Jigs are a type of lure that consists of lead, tungsten, or other metal alloy molded around a hook and dressed in hair, feathers, or soft plastic bodies. They are the best lure type. The best crappie jigs should have a few key characteristics. For these, in particular, we want the lures to be smaller rather than larger. Larger lures can certainly be effective for your bigger ones but most of us don’t want the enormous slab daddies found in certain waters. We want numbers.
Enough for the frying pan. Enough smaller ones that will go well with a tasty side of hush puppies and coleslaw. There are different types of jigs. You have tubes, Marabou jigs, swimbaits, curly tails, split tails, and straight tails. The lure color should show up well in the water and it should change depending on how clear the water is. For example, if the water is very clear, use a lure that is a very natural color like a shad or minnow color. If it is slightly stained, use brighter colors like chartreuse, yellow, bright green, hot pink, and orange. If the water is very dirty, use a dark color like navy blue, black, purple, or brown.
Also, it never hurts to have glitter in a lure regardless of the color. In order to figure out how to choose a lure, consider this. They change what they see throughout the day. What may work in the morning may not work in the afternoon. Show them every jig in your tackle box until you get bit. Show them everything until you figure out what they want. Don’t be afraid to tie on absolutely every jig in your arsenal. As a matter of fact, I actually recommend it. Try tying on a shad or minnow-style body first (such as a straight tail), as they are always after minnows which is their primary food source.
Minnows, shad, and other small fish are their primary targets and as such, imitating those first is your best bet. If minnow-style lures are not producing for you, try absolutely everything else. Try a marabou jig, a bucktail, a spinner, or even a miniature crankbait. Their preferences for food changes throughout the day and even by the hour on some days. If you want to amplify the catching power of any jig no matter the color or style, consider tipping your jig with a Crappie Nibble. Put one of these on the hook of the jig. These baits from Berkley have drawing power for panfish unlike pretty much anything else out there.
Locating Crappie Is The Hardest Part
Many anglers get frustrated when they attempt to track down and find where the fish are. They do tend to be somewhat elusive but the good news is that they are a schooling fish. Once you find one, the chances are high that you can max out on your limit of fish off of a single spot. Many fishermen will often avoid prime Crappie territory. They never think of some places. They will try running their boat to get to a place quickly trying to find them, and they end up moving to fast. This is where a ton of anglers end up failing and having a bad day.
They give up fishing for the species altogether because they can never find them. The hardest part of fishing, in general, is finding the fish, and this frustrates people. Believe it or not, finding them is the hardest part of catching them. They can sometimes be pretty elusive. They are structure fish. They love structure.
You will almost never find one in open water. Great places to look are near structures in the water. Anything abnormal that shouldn’t be there is often fair game but the absolute best place is vertical structures. Vertical structures provide what the fish want most. Protection from the sun. They will often congregate in schools near structure like sunken trees, reed beds, logs, rocks, docks, and pretty much anywhere that provides shade from the sun.
If it goes up and out of the water, chances are likely that Crappie is inhabiting the area. The less sun that makes it through, the better. If you are getting hung up Crappie fishing, chances are more likely that you are in a good spot. Black and White Crappie along with hybrids all inhabit the same territory and where you find one species, you will often find the other two also if they are present in the water body.
How To Fish For And Catch Crappie With Jigs
Fortunately for us, actually fishing for and catching the fish after you have found them is pretty simple. It isn’t really that hard once you master how to do it. After finding the fish, the hardest part is over. Congratulate yourself. Next, tie on a jig if you haven’t already. Next, set your drag according to the pound test you have chosen to use so the line doesn’t break. Then, proceed to start fishing. They may seem hard to catch at first. Don’t sweat it. If you know there are fish there, don’t move. Make sure to stay put and drop your anchor down below the boat.
You can catch them if they are there. Just be patient. Just try another lure or tactic. These particular species are not particularly picky eaters. They are just somewhat selective. They will eat pretty much anything that is colored and fished to their liking. Remember also that eyes of both subspecies are on top of their head. Unlike other popular species like Largemouth Bass and Catfish, they only feed upwards. If you drop the jig below them, they won’t bite it. There are some key ways that you can fish your baits that have proven over and over again to catch them, regardless of where you fish for them in the world.
1. Dead Sticking
To dead stick a bait, it really is the easiest technique to do properly and you cannot do it wrong. Get on top of the fish, take your jig, open the bail on the reel, drop it down to where the fish are, close the bail, and do nothing. It really is that simple. Sometimes, the best method for working your lure is not working it at all. The water current by itself provides all the action you will need. Many times, the fish want a simple, do nothing, type of presentation. If so, give them what they want. Drop it down and wait. Look for hits by observing the fishing line.
If your line jumps suddenly or does anything out of the ordinary, try setting the hook. It is probably a fish. If you are not moving a lure at all, the chances of that lure hanging up are extremely slim. Dead Sticking a grub or tube is particularly effective because the tails will move from the current of the water. This is a great approach for ice fishing and other cold water scenarios although it can still be very effective in the warmer months.
2. Vertical Jigging
Vertical jigging is a well-documented practice that results in a lot of catches. It is is a great method. It catches a ton of fish. Steer your boat until you are on top of the brush pile or other structure. Once you are, drop the lure down near the fish, close the bail on your spinning reel, and give it an upward pop using your rod tip. Do it very gently too. It isn’t a lot of action. You don’t want to work the lure. You want it to be just enough to get the fish’s attention and nothing more. After the pop, let it sit for about thirty seconds.
If you have not gotten a bite after thirty seconds, pop it again and watch your line. Many times, the bigger fish will hit it when it is sitting still. Watch the line for twitches, slight jerks, and abnormal movement of any kind. Repeat this until you get a bite. If you don’t get bit after five minutes, try another jig. If the fish are just pecking at the bait instead of inhaling it, change the lure color to the opposite color. For instance, if you are using a black and chartreuse jig, try tying on a white and chartreuse one instead but keep the lure the same shape.
If the jig is purple, use a yellow. If it is dark red, try using dark green. Matching the lure to the water clarity is a good place to start but is not an exact science. If this doesn’t seem to be working, the fish will tell you which color they want. Sometimes, the water is extremely dirty and they still want a natural color. This rarely ever happens because they cannot see the lure much anyways but if it does by some miracle, tie on something natural and resume fishing. Once again, that scenario is unlikely, yet possible.
3. Doc Shooting
Shooting docks is the process of casting jigs under boat docks. Boat docks are prime territory for them because they can wait in the shade out of the sun, rain, and snow and ambush the baitfish as it swims by. In this kind of territory, they go from being savage hunters to adept ambush predators. They lie in wait so they can ambush the baitfish as they swim by. Once you catapult your lure under the dock, you would start to retrieve. To load up your rod for a cast, grab the head of the jig with your fingers opposite of your dominant hand.
For example, if you are right-handed, grab the lure with your left index finger and your thumb. If you are left-handed, grab the lure with your right thumb and index finger. Use your other hand controlling the rod and put the line under your index finger. Open the bail. When it is open like this, it keeps the line from coming off. After grabbing the lure, point the rod tip towards the spot you want your lure to go, then pull on the jig putting a bend in the rod making sure the bend of the hook is facing your fingers. You could hurt yourself badly if you get a hook in your hand.
This is why it is always important to have some good emergency fishing kit contents on hand when you go fishing. After you have picked a spot and have the rod loaded up with a bend in it, release both fingers at the same time. Your lure should fly to the spot. Now retrieve. It takes practice to perfect but it is worth it.
4. Straight Retrieve
The straight retrieve is a great technique for when you are using bait with a tail or a spinner. You will generally want to avoid this one if the lure has no action of its own. Compatible lures for use with this include curly tails, swimbaits, straight tails and casting spoons. Cast the lure out and reel it back in. This method is effective in triggering both actively feeding fish and aggressive reaction strikes.
This method can also be used by bank anglers as well as those fishing from a boat to produce much the same results. Again, find the fish first and change your presentation to match the wants of the fish. More times than not, a straight retrieve is all it takes to put more fish in the boat for you. It is as simple as it sounds yet it is a pretty reliable technique when you just do not know what else to do.
5. Spider Rigging
Spider rigging is a method of fishing that can be successfully used to quickly figure out what lure the fish are hitting.You use six to eight different rods that jet off both sides of the boat. If you tie on two jigs per rod, you can easily use twelve to sixteen different jigs. Depending on where you are fishing, there may be laws restricting your use of a certain number of rods or hooks. If this is the case, spider rigging may not be a feasible approach. Spider rigging lets you fish many different areas with many different lures.
You can even use this technique while trolling. If one rod has a spinner and another rod has a couple of jigs shaped like a minnow or, you are going to give the fish a lot of different things to look at. Essentially, what you are attempting to do is offer your entire tackle box in front of the fish and letting them pick a lure. It is easy. It is effective. It catches fish. It can even do so in mass numbers.
Catching Crappie Is Not Very Hard Once You Know How
They certainly are a great species of fish and very fun to catch. Using live minnows to reel them in used to be the norm. Now, they can be easily caught without the need to keep fragile minnows alive for days or weeks at a time. Whether it is just to fun fish or so you can have a great fish fry, catching them on jigs is an experience that never gets old for any of us. Jigs are cheaper to purchase, take up less space in your inventory, and they even give you the option of changing your pattern to match the wants of the fish. Many will even argue that jigs are a better way of catching them. Learning how to catch Crappie with jigs will be the best investment you will ever make for targeting the species as a whole. They just catch fish and do it well.
What is your favorite method of catching the Calico Bass? Do you prefer jigs and other lures or live minnows to catch them? Have a good story you would like to share? Feel free to drop a comment below to let us know!