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How to Find & Catch Pre-spawn Crappie

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"In early spring when the water temperature reaches the mid 50s, the crappie will go into their pre spawn mode. To find crappies this time of year look for the warmest sections of the lake. Generally shallow areas on the north side of the lake in the backs of protected coves."

   The ideal spawning areas will consist of a sandy or semi soft bottom. If the bottom is hard, it is difficult for the crappie to fan out a proper nest. If the bottom is soft such as a soft muck it will not hold the shape of the nest very well and will be difficult to keep the nest clean. The best spawning areas will also be in close proximity to cover such as tree stumps, brush piles, fallen logs, or standing timber.

   Another consideration is wind. Crappie prefer to spawn in areas protected from excessive wind and wave action. Extended periods of high winds and cold weather will force the crappie to move out of the shallows and back out to deeper water. , usually they will move to the first drop off or edges of the creek channels.

   Crappie tend to spawn in the same areas as largemouth bass. The bass will spawn before the crappie so if you find an area in which the bass are spawning. Move out to the first deep-water drop off and scan the area with your electronics. Once you find a concentration of suspended crappie cast past the school with a 1/16-ounce jig on 4-lb test line. Count down as the jig sinks to the same depth as you found the crappie. Once your jig reaches the depth they are holding begin your retrieve through the suspended crappie. It is better to keep your jig slightly above them then below them. Crappie have a tendency to feed up rather then down.

   Another strategy is to position your boat directly above the crappie. Lower your jig down while counting until your offering is directly above the fish and hold it there with very little movement.
In the early stages of the crappie’s pre spawn movement, they are not very aggressive. However, they will take a jig presented directly in front of them but will not chase the bait. Once you catch the first crappie make note of the depth you caught the fish. Then repeat the count down until you reach the same depth where the first fish was caught.

   When a fish is caught, play the fish for a few seconds at the depth it hit. This will sometimes trigger the competitive instinct in other crappie and they will become more aggressive. A bobber setup can also be effective at keeping your bait at the right depth, however only when the crappie are holding at 8’ or less. Any deeper then 8’ and the bobber setup will be ineffective. Crappie tend to bite very softly at this time of year.

   As the weather warms, the crappie will start their movement to the shallows. The shallower they are holding the more aggressive they will become. Move your boat shallow in a position where as not to cast your shadow on the area you are fishing. I like to use a 10’ – 12’ rod when the crappie are holding in 3’ to 4’ of water. Lower jig down into the cover or along the side of stumps. Hold there for a while and if you do not get a bite lift the rod, move a little and lower it back down. Fish the piece of cover from all sides and very thoroughly.

Author: Dan Thomas

Dan Thomas has been an successful angler at both the recreational and tournament levels for many years. He has spent countless hours studying fish and wildlife behavior. For more fishing information like this visit or for information on hunting visit 

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