Catch More Crappie From Shore
By Steven Johnson
The crappie spawn brings an invasion of slabs into shallow water and puts some of the best fishing of the year within easy reach of bank-fishing and boating anglers alike. It’s the one time of year bank-bound crappie anglers may have the advantage.
“Four cars at the bridge yesterday,” a co-worker said with a grin. He knew I understood. With the sun shining warmly and the redbuds blooming, four cars suggested feeding crappie within casting range of the bank. Of course, we would have to see for ourselves, and we both had spinning tackle and boxes filled with jigs and floats in our trucks. Turned out the crappie had indeed strayed shallow and were quite willing to bite.
Spring conditions draw crappie shallow to spawn, putting huge numbers of fish in predictable places where they are generally easy to find and catch. Timing varies by region, with March and April being prime months in the southern half of the country. The actual spawn doesn’t last long for any given fish, but the movement to shallow water is staggered, so good opportunities typically last a couple of months.
Lindy pro staffers Todd Huckabee and Barry Morrow spend their spring days guiding on Oklahoma’s Lake Eufaula, which is a wonderland for crappie fishermen and attracts thousands of anglers throughout the spring. They both fish by boat, pitching jigs and floats to shallow cover. However, anglers also line Eufaula’s banks to enjoy the season’s hot action.
The best angling approaches for working shoreline cover involve a rod in hand and an offering that can be cast or pitched to targets and suspended at the proper depth beneath a float. Casting and pitching allow for mobility and efficiency and for targeted placement of offerings, and work well whenever the fish are close to shallow cover.
Casting from Shore
One of the best things about spring is that fish congregate within easy casting range of the shore. That means you don’t need a boat to get in on the action. Even if you own a boat, the shore-fishing approach allows for quick stops after work and lets you lake-hop or move from spot-to-spot along a lake’s shore without long boat runs.
Shore gear is simple. Use light spinning tackle spooled with 10-pound-test, a 1/8- to ¼-ounce Watsit Jig
or YUM Wooly Beavertail
and a Thill Wobble Bobber
or Crappie Cork
matched to the size of your jighead. Casting a jig allows you to travel light, with nothing but your rod and reel, a small box of tackle and a stringer, which means you can walk the shore to search for fish. If the fish are fussy, you can fish a minnow under a float; however, a jig often will produce as many fish (or more), and you don’t have to buy minnows for each trip or carry a minnow bucket.
The Wobble Bobber lends itself nicely to the shoreline approach because it can be cast long distances and with good accuracy. As the name suggests, it also dances when it bounces in the waves, adding action to any jig that’s dangled below it.
Good shoreline areas for spring crappie fishing typically include riprap banks (especially those along bridge crossings), coves and pockets lined with downed trees, and the edges of stumpy flats.
“The most important thing is that an area is out of prevalent winds,” Huckabee said. “Crappie will spawn on all different types of banks and will use almost any kind of cover, but they won’t even try to spawn where waves crash every time the wind blows.”
Fish specific pieces of cover and the edges of the rocks or weedlines by casting or pitching beside the cover, letting the jig settle beneath the float, leaving it still for several seconds and then working the rig with alternating twitches and pauses. If that doesn’t prompt strikes, try following the initial pause with a slow, steady retrieve.
If you catch mostly males around shallow cover, try making long casts out away from the bank and working the deeper water away from the cover, but with the jig set at the same depth as when working shallow cover. According to Huckabee, for the most part, big females only move tight to the cover at night. However, during the day they will stay at the same level in the water column, suspended over deeper water just out from the bank.
Pitches & Casts
If the water in a lake is even somewhat stained, Huckabee and Morrow normally pitch float rigs instead of casting simply because it’s faster and more efficient. Both indicated that the muddier the water, the closer you can approach spawn-time crappie, and the shallower they will “do their stuff.”
Morrow commonly uses a Watsit Spin
during the spring for the added flash that triggers non-aggressive crappie. For Eufaula’s chocolate-milk-colored water he pegs a Thill Crappie Cork about 2 feet up the line to keep it suspended at the proper depth. Huckabee, who favors a Wooly Beavertail or Wooly Bee
, leaves the rig motionless beside the cover at first and then reels the rig slowly and steadily away to trigger fish.
Both anglers cover a lot of shoreline this time of year as they search for active fish. When fish hit, they set the hook with a flip of the wrist, swing the fish back into the boat without touching the reel, unhook the fish, and then pitch the rig back to the same spot.
The clear-water casting approach is essentially the same as the pitching approach. When clearer water requires you to position the boat too far back to allow for accurate pitches, switch to overhead casts to the same cover, but use the same basic rigs and presentations. Crappie also tend to spawn a bit deeper in clearer water, so you might need to set a cork 3 or 4 feet deep.
By: Lindy Team