Experience crappie anglers know that before the crappie hit the bank, they usually move to some form of midwater structure between the bank and creek and river channels. This means you should troll crappie jigs between the bank and the edge of the creek channel if you want success. You might find that the crappie are holding on small stumps, brush, or sticks that may be almost invisible on your depth finder. By trolling, however, you can pick up fish holding in these staging areas.
Being able to read what’s happening on the surface of the water can help you to determine the location of any crappie nearby. Look for water fowl that are diving and feeding, such as ducks or seagulls, along the bank of a point or in a cove before or after the spawn. Where this occurs, you can bet that a school of shad is in the area. Usually crappie will be under or off to the side of the baitfish, feeding on them from below while the birds swoop in from above.
With the snow melting and rain setting in, waters everywhere tend to rise, leading to flooding in some areas. When the weather’s bad, lots of water will come over the spillways at dams, and when the wind’s blowing, the river current is strong, leading to muddy waters. Often times, this means you won’t have any competition for fish in these areas. Also, the heavier current forces baitfish into eddies and pockets behind rocks, below underwater drop-offs, and behind fallen trees. Baitfish will gather in these eddy holes, and big crappie will stack up here while they gorge on shad in preparation for the spawn.
Regardless of the elements, the prespawn can mean the best crappie fishing of the year if you know where to look. Keep the tips in this two-part series in mind and you’re sure to fill your cooler with crappie this season!