Crappies: Small Side Crappienomics

Crappies: Small Side Crappienomics

Ok, I lied (again). So what's it to ya? Seems the guy that caught the next world-record eel pout doesn't wanna come clean, see? He's holdin' out 'till it's official. So hold yer horses 'cause it's a porker, see? Nyaa.

Edward G. Loved him in Soylent Green. So we're stickin' with crappies, see? Speaking of which, see the tiny jig on the butt of that classic Thorne Brothers Panfish Sweetheart? It's a TC Tackle Girdle Bug (TC Tackle: 406/683-5485). When crappies switch over to an invertebrate diet (as discussed in the previous post), the little rubber-legged Girdle Bug is one of the first jigs I reach for. The tinier the better when crappies won't respond to standard-sized jigs. The rod above is equipped with 2-pound Sufix Fluorocarbon.


Mary, that dog has my lunch. Crappie retriever. Wise guy, ay? You like fish, Knob? Good, 'cause you'll be sleepin' with 'em if you don't let go of that crappie.


Called him Knob partly because of the golf-ball sized lump on his head. Which I suspect his owner placed there with a 2 x 4 because Knob simply refuses to take no for an answer. At one point he came barreling into me while I was focused on a fish rising to the bait on my locater. Knob got wrapped up in my fluorocarbon line and took off, trailing my bouncing rod along behind him. Later he took off with my plastic scoop when I wasn't looking. It's never been seen since (but I do recall Knob belching profusely).

The rod-and-reel Mary holds is a new Tony Roach signature combo from Wright & McGill we'll be featuring in the 2014 Ice Guide. And, no, that's not a fly reel. This nifty little center-pin-style unit has a 4:1 pickup ratio, for those times when something unexpected and truly fast screams into your panfish jig. But it has the same capability to eliminate line twist that made fly reels so popular for ice fishermen the past few years. I've yet to put a swivel on that setup and the 4-pound Sufix Fluorocarbon has yet to curl up on me. The rod has a thin handle, which I like a lot. It makes the package lighter, more sensitive, and easier to manage.

I hear a lot of complaints about fluorocarbon on ice. It's stiff when it gets truly cold out and starts bouncing off the reel. Well, I only put about 25 yards of it on top of some 4-pound braided backing. And I leave a good half inch between the edge of the spool and the line (don't completely fill the spool). And I stretch the living clarity out of it every morning before I head out onto the ice. Hook the jig or spoon on a small branch, back off until you hit the back-to-back uni knots connecting the two lines, grab the spool so the drag can't give, and stretch it. Stretch it good.

The 4-pound line is for fishing small spoons, like the one Mary's using. Which I can't tell you about, because it's a prototype. (One of these days, quite soon, it will be on the market. Or I'll box Knob up and mail him to the guy that designed it. If there's one thing a writer can't stand it's a gag order.)


Next: Bad stuff happens to good people. Seven of Minnesota's best ice fishermen can't catch a single bluegill on one of the state's finest panfish lakes.

6 Arc of Slabs, Northeast Mississippi

Like the Bordeaux region grows world-class wine grapes, the Arc of Slabs is famous for producing giant crappies. Grenada, Sardis, Enid, and Arkabutla — it's a tossup which of these reservoirs might be best for giant white crappies during March and April. Jigging in brush and spider-rigging are the best bets. Wading, too, at times. Contact: Guide John Woods, 731/334-9669; Guide John Harrison, 662/983-5999.

2 Lake Erie, Ohio

The best opportunities are between Port Clinton and Vermilion, says Ohio fishery biologist Travis Hartman. Many marinas and backwaters have excellent crappie fishing in the spring, peaking in late April to early May, and occasionally in the fall. Good open-water spots are East and West harbors and Sandusky Bay. Check connected rivers, too. Lots of fish to 12 inches, with 14-inchers not uncommon, Hartman says. Craig Lewis of Erie Outfitters says Lake Erie is a surprisingly overlooked crappie fishery, considering the numbers of fish caught, up to 18 inches, as big as any in the state. Contact: Erie Outfitters, 440/949-8934; Ohio DNR, dnr.state.oh.us.

4 Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee

Guide Billy Blakley says the crappie forecast for the 'Earthquake Lake ' is excellent for 2013, with average fish running 1 to 11„4 pounds and catches up to 23„4 pounds. The lake contains both black and white crappies. From March through May, spider-rig and jig around underwater wood, and jig around exposed cypress stumps. The bite picks up again in the fall. Top-notch lodging and food at Blue Bank Resort. Contact: Guide Billy Blakley at Blue Bank Resort 877/258-3226, bluebankresort.com.

7 Weiss Lake, Alabama

The crappie outlook is very good for 2013, reports Alabama district fisheries supervisor Dan Catchings. Samples indicate one, and possibly two, strong year-classes of crappies in 2010 and 2011. Expect good numbers of harvestable-size fish from the 2010 spawn this spring, with the 2011 year-class contributing to the fishing in mid- to late 2013. Fishing picks up in February as crappies move shallow. March through early May is best, with April being the peak. Contact: Guide Richard Green, 859/983-0673, or book through Little River Marina and Lodge (256/779-6461); Guide Mark Collins, markcollinsguideservice.com, 256/779-3387.

8 Kentucky Lake, Kentucky / Tennessee

Anglers look forward to the 'Crappie Capital ' living up to its name in 2013, says guide Steve ­McCadams. Expect numbers of quality fish with a shot at slabs over 2 pounds. While action during the spawn in late March into April is outstanding, don't overlook May and June, when stable lake levels and weather patterns find crappies concentrating around fish attractors at midrange depths, he says. Contact: Guide Steve ­McCadams, stevemccadams.com.

9 Kerr (Buggs Island) Reservoir, Virginia/North Carolina

Numbers of crappies from 1 to 13„4 pounds with a chance for 2- to 3-pounders. Once the spider-rigging bite wanes in shallower creek channels by April, action turns to jigging deeper brushpiles. Contact: Guide Bud Haynes, 434/374-0308; Guide Keith Wray, 434/635-0207; Bobcats Bait and Tackle, 434/374-8381.

3 Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma

This shallow reservoir boasts numbers of crappies in the 2- to 3-pound range, with 37-fish limits common. In spring, the action is shallow, doodlesocking flooded buckbrush in high water, or working rocky banks and brush cover in low water, says guide Todd Huckabee. Crappies move to deeper brush later in spring. Contact: Guide Todd Huckabee, toddhuckabee.net; Guide Barry Morrow, barrymro.com; Blue Heron Bait and Tackle, 918/334-5528.

5 Lake Fork, Texas

Numbers of slabs from 11„4 to 21„2 pounds tend to get overlooked in this lake famous for lunker bass. Mid-May through June is guide Terri Moon's favorite time for crappies, when the fish head to brushpiles and bridge abutments in 20 to 24 feet of water. Pitching Fork Tackle's Live Baby Shads on 1/16-ounce jigs is a top option. Ivan Martin and Rick Loomis also guide clients to Fork's crappies in November and December, when fish are on points and in deeper brush. Contact: Guide Terri Moon, 903/383-7773; Guide Ivan Martin, 918/260-7743; Guide Rick Loomis, rickloomis.com; Lake Fork Marina for lodging, food, and tackle, lakeforkmarina.com.

1 Lake of the Woods, Ontario

The Woods is top-notch for black crappies to 16 inches, says In-Fisherman contributor Jeff Gustafson. Many crappies on this massive water have never seen lures, so once you find them, the numbers and quality are second to none, he says. Action starts in mid-May, with fish moving to shallow areas with cover. After spawning in early June, target them on weedflats in 6 to 10 feet of water. Float-and-jig combinations excel. Also try small suspending jerkbaits and swimming marabou jigs. Contact: Guide Dave Bennett, davebennettoutdoors.com, 807/466-2140; Guide Jamie Bruce, brucescanadianangling.com, 807/466-7134.

10 St. Johns River, Florida

The stretch of the St. Johns River south of Lake George offers outstanding fishing. Crappies from 2 to 3 pounds are caught regularly, with average catches well over a pound. This was the scene of an In-Fisherman television episode that airs this spring. Weedflats hold fish that can't resist tubes fished under a float. Or troll channel edges using jigs or minnows. Contact: Lodging at Castaways on the River, 352/759-4522, castawaysontheriver.com; Guide Steve Niemoeller, 386/846-2861, cflfishing.com.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Largemouth Bass: Tricks of Our Trade

Largemouth Bass: Tricks of Our Trade

The In-Fisherman staff reveals insider swimming jig tips and tricks for big bass.

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

As Pure Fishing's Andrew Upshaw explains, reel making giant Abu Garcia has done it again at ICAST 2019 with a new spinning reel geared towards finesse fishermen.

Lowrance Enters Trolling-Motor Market with Ghost

Lowrance Enters Trolling-Motor Market with Ghost

Lowrance's Lucas Steward shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead what all of the fuss is about in the brand new Ghost trolling motor being brought to market by the Tulsa, Okla.-based fishing equipment manufacturer.

Frigid Water Smallmouths

Frigid Water Smallmouths

Doug Stange swims jigs with precision for frigid-water smallmouths.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a powerplant that best fits your personal needs and preferences. Boats & Motors

2- Vs. 4-Cycle Outboard Motors

Dan Johnson - April 16, 2018

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a...


Spring is prime time for pike. The Prespawn and Postspawn periods offer excellent odds at catching Pike & Muskie

How To Catch Pike In Spring

Dan Johnson - April 26, 2016

Spring is prime time for pike. The Prespawn and Postspawn periods offer excellent odds at...

To guide your carp quest, we've lined up the best carp baits that are easy-to-fish natural baits and commercial options. Carp

10 Best Carp Baits Available Today

Dan Johnson

To guide your carp quest, we've lined up the best carp baits that are easy-to-fish natural...

Everything you need to know about popular catfish species and how to catch them on proven riggings. Catfish

All About Catfish

Rob Neumann

Everything you need to know about popular catfish species and how to catch them on proven...

See More Trending Articles

More Panfish

A dropper line offering a secondary lure has proven deadly on shallow panfish and bass. Panfish

Tailgunner Rigging for Panfish

Rob Neumann with Jeff Simpson - June 25, 2019

A dropper line offering a secondary lure has proven deadly on shallow panfish and bass.

Studies suggest that the largest fish within a group can out-compete smaller individuals of the same species for food. Panfish

Do the Biggest Perch Bite First?

Dr. Rob Neumann - November 01, 2019

Studies suggest that the largest fish within a group can out-compete smaller individuals of...

Deep water has undeniable appeal to the lake's largest specimens.
It's always surprised me that as the spawn season wraps, a lion-share of anglers forget about Panfish

Tactics for Summer Crappie and Bluegills

Cory Schmidt - June 26, 2018

Deep water has undeniable appeal to the lake's largest specimens. It's always surprised me...

It's all about that goliath 'gill living way up under a slimy mat of milfoil; that mega school of Panfish

Shooting Docks for More Panfish

Cory Schmidt - April 26, 2018

It's all about that goliath 'gill living way up under a slimy mat of milfoil; that mega school...

See More Panfish

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All In-Fisherman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now