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Chasing Those Slab Crappies

Matt Johnson

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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...


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.


  • 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.


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.
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

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

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