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Matt Johnson

Chasing Those Slab Crappies

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Matt Johnson

Fishing for crappies can be both frustrating and rewarding, and its not unlikely that you can experience both in the same day. Crappies are gaining popularity among fishermen, whether its open water or ice fishing. Some fishermen just want constant action, but others are chasing that trophy... the slab crappie!

Since open water is here, and crappies are heavily targeted, I thought I'd throw out a few tips on catching those slabs. Location and presentation...

Location

Crappies will stage in deeper water throughout the midwinter months, and the term "tight-lipped" will be used from time to time. During midwinter, crappies change their directional movements. During early ice, you will find crappies moving more horizontal throughout the water column, chasing baitfish and aggressively feeding. Midwinter brings upon a change in crappie behavior. During midwinter, you will find crappies more keen on making vertical movements, especially at lowlight periods when the "drifting debris", better known as plankton/organisms, go to work. The term "chasing crappies" begins to diminish during midwinter, as locating them can be more structure orientated.

As late ice approaches, some of the crappies will relocate in slightly shallower water, while others will still remain deep. Sometimes you will find a school of crappies in 5 feet, while another school is still out in the 35 foot hole. I like to search for primary breaks off the shallow bays, these areas tend to hold those crappies "on the move" and roaming, and they are eager to bite.

Once open water begins, crappies will seek out similar areas, but you will find them more sporadic. Crappies in the spring will often times school up, and search for warm water. Locating these first open water crappies can be tough if you are trying to intercept them on their migrating routes. Mid-depth crappies will become prevalent at this time of the year. As the deep water crappies slide up you can find hot action if you can pinpoint them while they are on the prowl. Rivers and lakes will experience two different patterns. Rivers will open up a lot earlier then lakes, and locating warmer water will come a lot sooner in rivers as well. Lakes will call for a different approach which asks for a slightly deeper concentration. There are exceptions though, as fishing can never always be promising or concrete, its an ever changing process.

Locating crappies during the first parts of open water in lakes can be very frustrating. I first start by looking for areas where I found the crappies at late ice, these areas will typically hold crappies at first open water. Mid-depth structure and flats are good spots to look for, areas where you think crappies might hold migrating from deep to shallow water. Mouths of shallow bays are another good choice. Once those dark bottom shallow bays open up and the sun starts beating, you will find crappies moving in. The water in those bays will warm up the fastest, especially if you can find any inlets, runoff, creeks, etc, in the area. Those features only add warmth to the water, and in return, they attract crappies. Not all shallow, dark bottom bays will produce, but if you notice any algae or aquatic blooms then you may be on to something. Crappies are eager to feed once those shallow bays begin to develop.

The options for locating crappies during spring can seem endless once the water starts cooking, but until huge sections begin to warm, locating them can take a few trial and error outtings.

So...

  • Search out the late ice locations
  • Try to plot a path where you think the crappies will use as they move from deep to shallow
  • Mid-depth structure
  • Check primary breaks and shallow mouths of bays
  • Inlets, creeks, feeder streams....
  • Shallower dark bottom bays with any aquatic growth/debris

Soon you will begin to fine tune your efforts and figuring out a pattern will become easier and easier. Time on the water can be important, but a little preparing before hitting the water can make your time on the water more rewarding.


Presentation

Finding the crappies is the hard part, but sometimes what you do once you locate the crappies can dictate the amount of success you have.

When I'm chasing crappies during the spring I think plastics. With all the new tackle innovations out there today you can find plastics to immitate just about anything, whether it be a certain color, size, style, sound, texture...you name it, we've got it. Using plastics can be intimidating to a lot of fishermen, but by building a little confidence you will find that catching fish with plastics gets more productive everytime you tie one on. I like to throw 1-1.5 inch plastics for springtime crappies.

The 1.5 inch Kick-n-Craw by Catch-N Tackle is an excellent choice for spring crappies. It immitates a lot of what drives crappies into striking, with its creature-like appeal and awesome action.
You can find the Kick-n-Craw at www.catchn.com

Another option that has accounted for numerous fish is the PaddyTail by JR's Tackle.
paddytail.jpg
The PaddyTail comes in all different colors and is a dynamite bait for crappies.
PaddyTails can be found at www.jrstackle.com

I also like the line of Southern Pro plastics. Small beetle spins are a good choice too.

I'm not a heavy live bait fishermen when it comes to chasing spring crappies, although crappie minnows are another preferred method by a lot of people. Other live bait options include maggots, insects, grass shrimp, mealworms, crawlers, etc.

Bio-Bait is an alternative to live bait which has changed the way I ice fish and will also have a dramatic effect on open water fishing too. Bio-Bait is made with real bait parts, whether it be crawfish, larva, crawler, minnow, etc. Its live bait that you don't have to keep alive.
Bio-Bait can be found at www.catchn.com

I like to use floats a lot when targeting crappies during the spring, as well as throughout the open water months. The Wave Buster bobber by Todays Tackle is a good choice for crappies. The Wave Buster is similar to the always popular Ice Buster but geared towards the open water fishermen. With the ability to adjust to the weight of the jig for fine tuned performance, it makes fishing a lot easier and effective. Wave Busters and crappies go hand in hand.
You can find Wave Busters at www.todaystackle.com


Color can play a key role somedays. I prefer colors like chartreuse, white, pink, red and yellow for early spring fishing. Colors like purple, brown, blue and green have their place too. Some of the most off-the-wall colors that you think would never work might be the hot item on any given day, so don't count anything out. I've had days where I'll throw 25 different colors only to find out that two are producing.

There is no magic presentation that will catch crappies everyday, but you can develop an arsenal to cover all the bases, for all conditions.


I've touched just a small part of the whole crappie picture, and as we all know, fishing can change from day to day, hour to hour. I guess the only thing we can do is just keep casting smile.gif


Good Fishin,
Matt Johnson

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[email protected]
Iceleaders
Catch-N Tackle and Bio Bait
MarCum
Stone Legacy
JR's Tackle

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BDR

Nicely done Matt. You sure know them Panfish. Maybe someday we will have to fish together. I have used those Paddy tails from JR's and they produced very well.

------------------
I'd rather be skunked than follow the crowd!

Brian Rogers

JR's Tackle

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slick814

Matt-

I must say thanks for all the information, especially since I'm pretty new to the whole panfishing thing, especially Crappie. I caught a few thousand sunnies from my cousin's dock up North when I was a kid, but never actively fished for panfish as an adult.
I've recently (last year or so) started to pursue Carppies, and have been frustrated, elated, angry, and happy all within a short period of time..
Only one questiion for you..
Is there any way to get that long post of your to print?

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Fishin' is life
The rest is just details

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BDR

Skick- you should be able to hight light with a left click and hold, then right click select print

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I'd rather be skunked than follow the crowd!

Brian Rogers

JR's Tackle

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slick814

BDR - Thanks...
didn't even think of that old trick.. should've known to try it..

Again, Matt, thanks for the info. I know I honestly appreciate it!

------------------
Fishin' is life
The rest is just details

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  • Your Responses - Share & Have Fun :)

    • fisherjmb
      My parents were up yesterday and Wednesday and they did pretty good. Out in the mud in about 33-34 feet. Lots of boats were trolling but they did well looking for pods of fish and then spot-locking over the top of them and jigging with leeches and frozen shiners. 
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      If the water is that clear and you can see 17-20 feet down, the fish will be very spooky.  And if the sun is out, they will be looking for relief from the sun in the form of shade.  Night time might actually be a better option.
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      Not terrible.  But they can be merciless, I will tell you.
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