How To Catch Early Season Crappie | Kayak Angler Magazine | Rapid Media
A crappie eating a lure. Photo by Lisa Ballard

Expert tips on filling your freezer.

When I think crappie fishing, I think about fish fries and savoring my secret family recipe. Even though crappie start biting heavy in the spring, you can catch them before the trees bloom.

Most years, there is a small window between winter and spring when the ice has melted but the trees haven't started to bloom. Before most anglers shake the dust off their boats, crappie are staging in deep water before migrating into the shallows. 

A fish finder with downscan imaging is your friend. Look for marks suspended off the bottom in 20 feet or water, that’s probably crappie holding in the warmer water.

Jigs are a easy way to cover water looking for fish. I like a jig with a small willow blade like a mini-spinnerbait. A soft plastic trailer with a split tail will offer a little more movement to entice cold-water crappie. A reflective eye on the jig makes it look like a live minnow.

If jigs aren’t your thing, it’s hard to beat live bait. When I crappie fish, I go old school with a stopper, bobber, weight and minnow on a hook. I don’t think the best jigging techniques could ever beat a frisky live minnow. 

I prefer to use bobbers made from balsawood. The post-winter bite can be subtle and balsa improves sensitivity for the best shot at detecting a fish. For hooks, I use and Aberdeen wire hook. It’s simple, cheap and non-offset. 

The biggest challenge when bobber fishing in deep water is setting the stopper to drop the bait in the middle of the suspended school of fish. Remember, when a crappie bites, don’t set the hook hard, these fish have paper thin lips. 

Getting in on early season crappie fishing is a big secret that gives kayakers a jump on the season. As for the secret family recipe...I’ll keep that to myself. 



Jig head: Mr Crappie 2-inch Spin Daddy 1/16 ounce-yellow

Trailer/soft plastic: Strike King Scissor Shad in Refrigerator White

Live Bait:

Bobber stop: Eagle Claw Rubber Bobber Stop

Float/Bobber: Danielson Balsa Slip Float, ¾-inch X 3-inch

Weight: Bullet Weight Round Split Shot, 3/0 (1/4 Ounce)

Hook: Eagle Claw Aberdeen Hook, Size 6

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