Time to get ready for spring crappie fishing

Wednesday, February 15, 2017
The author hefts a couple of slabs he caught on an early spring day when fish were in a transition phase.
Photos by Troy Basso

By the time temperatures outside reach the mid-50s most anglers are looking for reasons to get out on the water.

This time of the year the crappie fishing is getting heated up and the fish are very willing to eat, if you can find them. They are not ready to spawn but they have vacated their deeper water winter holding areas.

So where does that leave the aspiring crappie angler? Well it leaves us catching just as many fish as we will during the spawn. Normandy, more specifically the creek arms, have been giving up some rather large crappies. Percy Priest has also been giving up regular limits of crappie. Being mobile is the key on both lakes. Move from creek to creek until you locate a school of active fish. Deeper fish are still not as active, but the crappie you see schooled up over deep water at about 10-12 feet are going to be the schools you want to target.

Spider rigs are a common sight on boats after crappie.

Location

This time of year, the fish are in transition areas. All that means is they are somewhere between their deep-water haunts and the spring spawning flats. The good news is they are never far from the spawning flats. Something as simple as a creek channel with a little deeper water will hold fish. Pay close attention to the inside of those creek channel turns all year, but especially in the springtime.

Lures

Grubs with curly tails are prime baits for slabs.

Although the old standard minnow and bobber will always catch fish, this time of year a moving presentation is more productive. Curly tailed grubs, small soft plastic shad imitations and paddle tail grubs are going to catch your dinner this time of year. Productive colors are going to be gray, pearl, chartreuse, and black/pink.

Presentation

Trolling is the most effective method, as you can cover more water and locate feeding fishing in an efficient manner. Spider rigging also works well, but in this time of transition I want to be able to move around until I find aggressive fish. The best speeds for trolling this time of year have been around .8 MPH. This will allow your jigs to get down to where the fish will be holding. My bread-and-butter jig head is an 1/8-ounce, but I never leave the house without some 1/16-ounce heads in case the fish are suspended over a deep channel, rather than near the bottom.

Water

Temperature

Even though the weatherman says itís going to be 60+ all week you must pay attention to the water temperature. Crappies will go on the move when the lakes start getting to 50 degrees and higher. Once we get a week or more of warm water temperatures the fish go into the pre-spawn feeding mode. When mother nature hits us with a cold front and the lakes drop below 50 the normally active fish will move back out to deeper water.

Troy Basso is a freelance writer and fishing guide from Chapel Hill, Tenn. He can be reached through his website and blog at www.troybassooutdoors.com.