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Crappie For Bass Training

Pro bass angler Jason Christie fishes for crappies to stay sharp for his bass efforts.

Crappie For Bass Training

There was a time when Jason Christie considered crappie fishing a “free day”—a break from his off-season bass fishing. That’s no longer the case; and not for any declining commitment. Rather, it’s just the opposite.

The veteran Bassmaster Elite from Welling, Oklahoma needs a good dose of R&R after a demanding tournament season, but recent years have seen a shift in focus that bespeaks an insightful approach to his ongoing improvement.

“I have to have a break from bass fishing and October-December, I’m deer hunting,” Christie said. “After that, I’m coming out of cobwebs and need to get back into fishing mode, so crappies are a good way to get back into the swing.

“Fifteen years ago, I thought if I went crappie fishing, it was a lost day, but not anymore. Anytime you’re looking at Livescope you’re helping yourself.”

Compare/Contrast

He spends much of January-February looking for crappies, but while his yearly schedule typically limits him to the late winter period, he points out the year-round training value available to any who’d seek it. And it’s not comparing, say, catfish and bass. Crappies have their particulars, but they’ll often occupy the same neighborhoods as bass.

jason christie crappie fishing
Elite Series pro Jason Christie stays sharp between tournaments by chasing crappies.

“Crappies are similar to bass in that sometimes they get on structure like brush piles and stumps, and they’ll get on bait,” he said. “They act similar to bass, but they look different, in how they group to each other.

“A lot of times, you’ll see that they intermingle. There’ll be a brush pile and the crappies will be high and the bass will be low, or vice versa. One of the big differences is that, with crappies, a small school is seven to nine, but some of them will be 30-40. With bass, that’s kind of a bigger school.”

As with any species, crappies have their moods. Observing the differences, he said, tells him a lot about requisite positioning and presentations.

“A crappie is a fish that can be very picky,” he said. “One day, they’ll travel 15 feet to get your bait and the next day, you can bump their nose and they don’t bite. Bass can be the same way.”

Practice Makes Perfect

During a recent Florida event, he used Livescope to spot and catch fish in 2 feet of water. While crappies don’t spend a lot of time that shallow, there’s plenty of real estate where their presence can offer that all-important practice scenario.

“A lot of times, you can pattern bass quickly,” he said. “With crappies, once you get them dialed in, like they’re in 15 feet over brush, you can go throughout the entire lake and they’ll be in the same (zone), or pretty close.

“Once you find ‘em, you find ‘em. It’s like offshore fishing for big schools of bass.”

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Even if he only needs a dozen or so for dinner, Christie said the benefit of locating crappie en masse is repetition.

“You get to watch your bait, you get to watch (several fish), you get to follow the fish,” he said.

Crappie fishing also offers a great opportunity to “play” with your electronics settings, so experiment with distances and sensitivity. A closer setting’s generally best for those tiny crappie jigs, but the principles of observation and adjustment are no different than watching a bigger species respond to larger baits from a greater distance.

In fact, probably the most important point of this conversation involves the fine tuning that inherently follows a more tightly focused effort. Case in point, Christie’s 2022 Classic win on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell:

“I had spent a lot of time crappie fishing that previous off season,” he said. “Being dialed in, I was able to pick them out of structure.

02-crappie-basstraining-support
Not only a formidable opponent, the crappie makes a fine meal.

“You’ll have a straight up and down stump and those crappies will be so close to that stump, they’re like bark. If you get those settings right, you’ll be able to see that separation and it’ll be a lot easier to see them and catch them.”

Put In the Time

Christie, a high school and college basketball standout, compares crappie fishing to a pick-up game. You use the same skills, and you see a lot of the same looks you’ll see in a competitive situation, but there’s really nothing on the line but your time and a little gas.

While that’s a functionally efficient premise for professional anglers, it’s also a good ice breaker for beginners and/or kids. Lots of bites equals lots of opportunities to evaluate, adjust and improve.

“All the times, when I’ve taken people fishing to teach them, I like to take them, crappie fishing, because the action’s (typically) fast and furious so you can really dial everything in,” he said. “With bass, there may be two or three in a brush pile, you catch one and you move; but we can pull up to crappie and really walk them through the process.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s the first time they’ve seen Livescope or the 50th time and they just want to get better, we can sit there and adjust our settings.”

Looking at his annual process, he makes this conclusion: “We get new boats every year and I may sit on one school of crappies for an hour and really dial in my Livescope settings. Plus, or minus one here, try different color palettes, and all that stuff.”

Regardless of experience level, everyone can benefit from a relatively dependable live-action classroom. Lessons are easy to follow, and the go-at-your-own-pace vibe minimizes the performance pressure often attached to the bass game.

Best part about it: Successfully completing the day’s course sends you home with a tasty dinner.




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