Crappie fishing is in full swing with spring's arrival. The proof lies in the social-media pudding, so to speak, as I've seen dozens of slabs hoisted in online photos over the past few weeks. Here are some of my go-to tactics for honing-in on large crappie.
Work Outside, Then Go In
Avoid getting too close to fish-holding cover, like brush piles or standing timber, when first arriving in an area. Instead be sure to start by saturating the periphery of the zone with casts. Crappie like to mill around areas and my experience is that on occasions big, active fish will suspend out and away from cover. Once you've combed through the fringe and caught fish, move in and use short, precise casts to pick apart the cover to see if any slabs are within it.
Horizontal & Vertical Position
I fish a lot of clear water lakes for crappie and have seen big fish lingering on the edges of a school. They're at the front edge or top of the pack when they're aggressive and feeding. Fan cast the school to pinpoint the whereabouts of the big 'uns.
Neutral or inactive slabs are another story altogether. They often hold at the bottom of a pod or sometimes within the center of the school. In this position, slabs seem content letting smaller fish be in a better position to attack forage. These big fish are catchable but you need to get in their face.
One tactic is to use a heavier jig or add a few split shots to quickly bypass the band of smaller fish and get into the strike zone of slabs holding at the base of a school. Sometimes big fish will come after you've caught a few smaller ones. While the commotion of catching fish can spook a school at times, I've also seen it have the opposite effect and stimulate big crappie into a feeding frenzy.
Increasing lure size is another reliable strategy. If 1.5-inch jigs are producing average sized fish, try a longer one, or try a small bladebait or jigging spoon as these lures are bulkier and make more of a ruckus than jigs. The same goes for crankbaits and minnows. Increased commotion caused by a bigger bait has a knack for piquing the interest of a brag-to-your-buddies sized crappie.
Give these tactics a try this season and you'll amplify the size of papermouths you catch.