Pre-Spawn Crappie Fishing Tips from The B’n’M Pros
By Phillip Gentry
The time between the first of the year and when crappie commit to a specific spot of real estate to lay eggs and rear young is considered by most anglers to be the best time of the year to catch big crappie.
Pre-spawn crappie fishing is far from easy, however and the results are often feast or famine. Weather, water, and other environmental conditions often play a big part in success, but there is no substitute for knowledge gained over years of crappie fishing in all conditions. This knowledge is what our B’n’M pro anglers bring to the lake every time out and offered the following advice.
Reelfoot Lake’s Ronnie Capps pointed out that one of the biggest mistakes that crappie anglers often make is trying to fish too fast. While he and partner Steve Coleman are fishing during a tournament, he resists the urge to run all over the lake.
“First you have to find the fish first and that means you need to find the structure,” he said. “Fish won’t leave water that has good cover and if there’s cover, there’s going to be food. You just have to give them time to make up their mind.”
Ronnie Capps urges crappie anglers to slow down in colder weather and give the fish time to react to your baits.
Capps said it’s not unusual for he and Coleman to fish so slow during the pre-spawn season that it may take them 45 minutes to cover 100 yards of cover.
“Wind and boat wake are the toughest things on us,” Capps said. “It’s really hard to present the bait right when the boat is rocking back and forth.”
He said having the right fishing rods is a top priority. The pair use 16-foot Buck’s Graphite Jig Poles when tight lining. The poles allow them to fish well out in front of the boat to keep from spooking fish.
“Some days it’s tough to get bites and your struggling to get them. Those poles telegraph when a crappie is even looking at the bait,” said Capps.
Fish New Water
After one of the wettest starts to the year in recent history, B’n’M Pro Staffer Kent Driscoll doesn’t believe that high, muddy water from excessive run-off is a bad thing. Driscoll said above average rainfall may make area lakes a mess, but for the crappie who reside in them, it’s just business as usual.
Kent Driscoll doesn’t find high, muddy water to be a problem. He said crappie love to hold in new water.
“Go find the banks,” he said. “Crappie love new water and they will move up in it and get closer to the bank even if it’s still several weeks away from the spawn.”
The fishing tactic he’s going to use in high muddy water will vary depending on what kind of lake he is fishing and in what part of the country. One of his favorite pre-spawn tactics is single pole jigging. Driscoll will opt for a Sam’s Super Sensitive with the Bottom reel seat and work thick cover with an 1/8 oz jig.
“Whether I’m spider rigging or using a single pole, I want bright colors,” he said. “Jig heads will be pink, chartreuse or orange and a like a glow bait on the jig. I also like a Muddy Water Glo Series body or a Bobby Garland Baby Shad pattern in bright colors.”
Find Heat Conductors
One of Brushpile Fishing TV Show Host Russ Bailey’s favorite early spring fishing spots on any lake is around aluminum boat docks or anchored pontoon boats. He said the aluminum in the water is a good conductor of heat early in the season and crappie will gather under and around aluminum structure as it transfers heat to the water during the day.
“I’ll flip a 1/32- or 1/16-ounce jig with an umbrella or something that flutters and keep a tight line as the jig pendulums back to me through the water,” he said. “I always try to flip the jig past the structure I’m fishing and let the jig swim by the fish holding there.”
Russ Bailey said finding areas where structure conducts heat into the water will draw crappie to that area.
Bailey’s weapon of choice for this style of fishing is the redesigned Russ Bailey Signature Series rod with a new 8-foot model. This rod is made of a high-modulus secret recipe graphite that makes it both sensitive and strong as well as sporting the eye-catching blue and orange color scheme of Brushpile Fishing.
“It’s also a great vertical jigging rod, anywhere you find brushpiles, standing timber, or stumps,” he said. “The secret blend of graphite makes this one of the most sensitive rods on the market. Take one out for a spin and you’ll be hooked.”
Find the Bait, Find the Fish
B’n’M Pro Tim Blackley stated that on some lakes, crappie anglers can expect crappie to be scattered up and down a tributary arm. On other lakes, the fish will be moving but in more of a leapfrog fashion and staging on brushpiles, stake beds, and natural wood cover along the route.
While Blackley has a pretty extensive list of brushpiles and stake beds that are located on his home lakes, he said anglers who are new to crappie fishing or don’t have known specific locations on a lake can locate fish with a decent set of electronics.
“Find the bait, find the fish,” he said. “Then start looking for structure where crappie will be holding and waiting on those baitfish to swim by.”
Blackley’s pre-spawn tactics are mostly single pole fishing.
“Right now, it’s single poling, using a Sam’s Super Sensitive rod and a 1/8 oz Strike King jig head in pink with a tube jig on it,” he said. “I am literally picking the bigger fish on the screen and moving the bait out in front of the boat to that fish and catching him while I watch it all unfold on the screen.”
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