5 secrets for southern crappie fishing

A lot of the time, catching any fish depends more on what you know, than luck. Crappie are no different. There are many tricks-of-the-trade involved in fishing. Learning them can go a long way towards helping you fill your creel.

The first trick I use is a double-rig (also known as a fish-finder rig). It evolved from commercial longliners in their search for Bluefin Tuna. Scaled down, it is a very efficient rig for crappie. Simply rig two # 4 Aberdeen hooks on 6 inch dropper loops, about 18 inches apart, over a 1/8 oz. bell sinker, or several split shots. You can fish this under a slip bobber, or anywhere from the bottom up tight-lining (or vertical fishing, as it is sometimes called).

You can also omit the sinker and hooks and use two 1/16 oz. marabou jigs under a slip bobber. This is deadly for crappie in heavy cover. It is not uncommon to hook two crappie at a time with one of these rigs. I usually tie a white or yellow jig on above a chartreuse jig. Another trick is to omit the bobber, and tie a small crank-bait on under the jig. It gives the appearance of a small minnow chasing an even smaller one, an irresistible situation for any predator fish.

When minnow fishing slows down, try this trick. Take 6 or 7 minnows and place them in a 2 qt. or gal. glass jar with water in it. Punch a few small hole in the top to let water and smell circulate. Then tie it with a small rope so you can lower it into the water a few feet. Now fish near the jar. The crappie can smell the minnows and see them, thinking it is a school of unwary baitfish.

In winter, when crappies are hitting very light, you can make a strike indicator out of an old guitar low E-string. Simply tie on a 4 inch length of the guitar string onto the last section of your rod, with the ball-end even with the tip. Then bend the string up and away from the tip at a 45-degree angle. Run your line through the ball-end of the E-string, then through the tip guide of your rod. You can now detect even the lightest of hits.

When hooking minnows, you want them to be able to swim, so it is best to hook them through the eyes, jaw or just behind the dorsal fin. Be careful not to stick the lateral line, as this will instantly kill the minnow.

Another one of my favorite tricks that works 90% of the time when crappie get lock-jaw is to rig a bobber, a spilt shot and #4 Aberdeen hook. Then, take a 1 to 1-1/2 inch minnow and hook it through the lips. Take a pair of fingernail clippers and clip a small portion of the minnow’s upper or lower tail fin. Not a very big piece, just a very small nick. This causes the minnow to swim erratically because his tail fin is now unbalanced. Cast this rig into likely places and let it sit.

You can combine the above tip with this one: After casting out a minnow under a bobber, take another rod rigged with a small crank-bait and cast it past the bobber on the other rod, and reel it past the rig continually. To the crappie, this appears as if a smaller fish is going for your bait and is inattentive to his surroundings. This will drive any nearby predator fish insane! Be ready, because many times you will hook fish on both rods simultaneously!

If you like to use maggies, wax worms, earthworms or night crawlers in the winter time, and like them in different colors, here is the secret that bait shops would rather you didn’t know. The night before you want to go fishing, simply put a few drops of food coloring, of the color of your choice, in your bait’s bedding. By morning, the grubs/worms will have turned that color. It is completely harmless to them.

If you want fat, healthy night crawlers to fish with, take your worms out of the bait box the night before and place then in a flat container lined with wet newspaper. Place this in the fridge until morning. The next day, you will have incredibly fat, jumping night crawlers.

If you find you are catching all small crappie, move out to slightly deeper water. The crappie will get bigger. Crappies tend to school by size, with the larger ones preferring deeper water.

Crappies in tailraces below dams are often overlooked. The best rig for this is a double-jig rig under a bobber. Cast the rig upstream and allow it to drift into eddies and backwashes. Gently set the hook anytime the bobber moves strangely.

And last, but not least, remember that a crappie has a very tender mouth, so a hook-set is not really necessary. Simply pull the fish in. And don’t put them on a stringer. They can tear-off easily, hence the nickname, Papermouth Bass.

Happy Fishing

Dan Eggertsen is a fellow crappie fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on crappie fishing since 2004.

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