Crappie are fun to catch, but they also pack their share of unique challenges. Here are three ways to improve your crappie-catching game.
Get a Feel
Crappie are notorious up-feeders and hits can be difficult to detect, even for veteran anglers. Avoiding slack line and keeping a feel for the lure at all times are two tricks that will dramatically improve your catch rates. It takes practice with ultralight baits, but honing this skill is worth the effort. Keep in mind too that it's not necessarily the strike that you feel, but rather a lack of vibrations or weight after a fish has sucked-in the morsel. Any time that things feel abnormal or different during the retrieve, don't hesitate to set the hook. Often you'll be rewarded with a fish. This is an area where using a quality rod and line can make a big difference in the number of crappie you catch.
Learn Many Presentations
One reason I enjoy fishing crappie so much is because they are adaptable to a range of habitats. From hiding under arrowheads in knee-deep water to suspending out over a lake's deep basin, these fish can be anywhere. Given this, there is no magic, do-it-all tactic that will always catch them. A jig is extremely versatile, but your bag of tricks should include other methods. Being able to retrieve sinking minnowbaits and crankbaits for fish suspending near drop-offs, weedlines, timber and other cover has helped me out a lot over the years. The same goes for knowing different trolling and drifting tactics using spinner rigs, small hard baits and jigs. These are just a few useful presentations that can help you boat more crappie.
Today's fish finders are incredibly sophisticated and can really make a difference in locating and then being able to stay on crappie-holding areas. I had a major "ah-ha" moment the first time I used Humminbird's Side Imaging to scan the nuances of a deep weedline's edge on a small pothole lake. Fingers and other irregularities in the greenery stood out plain as day, but the goldmine was locating small weed clumps growing just beyond the main weed bed as these isolated plants held several quality fish. I saved the clumps' locations as waypoints and continue to catch fish from them regularly.
Fish finders/GPS combos are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to innovative tools that can be used to catch more crappie. Precise boat position and trolling runs are easier than ever with the latest trolling motor innovations, such as Minn Kota's i-Pilot Link or MotorGuide's Pinpoint technologies.
Improving sensitivity during retrieves, being skilled at many presentations, and using the latest electronics are three ways to slide more slabs into the landing net.