It is crappie time, and here are a dozen fishing tips

LITTLE ROCK – When spring approaches, a large segment of Arkansas anglers think of crappie.

It is true that crappie can be caught any time of the year, but spring and crappie seem to go together like ham and eggs, red beans and rice, grits and gravy. Yes, it is natural to use food analogies with the great-tasting crappie subject.

Here are a dozen suggestions from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission for improving your crappie catching skills:

1. Rig up with 4-pound to 8-pound test line whether you are using a pole or a rod. The lighter the line, the easier it is to feel the bite.

2. Use a sensitive rod made out of graphite if possible. If you use a pole, go for a light one. In the spring, crappie hit very lightly so you need to be able to feel them bite. The more sensitive the pole the easier it will be to feel the bite.

3. Crappie have tender mouths and can tear easily. Use sharp hooks. When you set the hook, don’t jerk hard. Crappie are sometimes called “paper mouths” because their mouths may tear out. Set the hook with a sharp twitch. Don't set the hook like you are fishing for bass.

4. Crappie often are around weed beds for cover and to feed. As water warms up, insects begin to hatch, and small bait fish move closer to the banks. Shallow lakes with muddy bottoms warm up sooner than deep, rocky bottom lakes.

5. Considering live minnows versus jigs? Many crappie anglers say live minnows are the number one bait for spring crappie. But take some jigs as a backup. Ask a local bait shop what they are biting on today.

6. Look for drop-offs. Crappie tend to hang out at the same depth, so fish at the same depth while trolling or working this kind of structure.

7. Keep a marker buoy handy when you troll and toss it out any time you get more than one strike in a small area. If you find a hotspot, don’t anchor right over it, especially if the water is shallow. Try to anchor a good cast away from the area so the fish won’t feel invaded or spooked.

8. When you are after numbers of eating size crappie, troll with a variety of small jigs.

9. Go after big crappie with small crank baits or spinner-type lures. You may not catch many but they will likely be larger. Use a variety of colors to find out what works best on a particular day.

10. Combine a jig with a minnow hooked through the lips. This technique often turns an unproductive outing into a good one.

11. Bump the bottom. This is using a minnow with a dropper rig, meaning a swivel with one short line leading to a weight and the other to the bait. Many crappie anglers use this technique in deeper water.

12. Pay attention to the water color. Crappie usually hold shallower when the water is stained, dingy or muddy than when the water is clear.

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