By Tim Lesmeister
If you were born in the upper midwest there is a strong possibility you are well versed at setting up live-bait rigs for walleyes. If your life was spent growing up in the northwestern United States you know how to read every riffle in the river and understand what insect hatch drives the trout into a feeding frenzy. Southern anglers, well, they love the largemouth bass. Yet, there is one species that every angler across the country cannot resist. It is the crappie.
From the reservoirs in Idaho to the shallow potholes of Florida you’ll find anglers casting jigs on lightweight spinning rigs, fly fishing with five-weight rods, and even spreading out a dozen 12-foot rods in a couple of brackets on the front and back of the boat just to find and catch this popular species.
Even the pros that fish the gamefish species fall under the spell of the crappie. Mr. Walleye, Gary Roach once joked to me that if people knew how much he fished for crappies they might try to change his name to Mr. Crappie. Some years back, after a major bass tournament ended, I spent a couple hours with Ron Lindner and Roland Martin discussing the subtle presentations that result in more and bigger crappies.
Some may think that catching a panfish is easy, and they would be correct. But, catching big crappies consistently all year round, well that is a much tougher proposition.
Sure, the crappie bite can go gangbusters in the spring when they are moving into the shallower water that has warmed and where the minnows have migrated. This is when catching panfish is easy. But once those crappies begin to school in tight groups and move out to suspend in deeper water they get harder to find and tougher to catch. This is when skill is better than luck.
At a writer’s conference on a chain of lakes in Alexandria, MN a few years ago a pro-angler who specialized in crappie fishing came to the event to showcase his custom crappie rods. The convention was in mid-September and none of the local anglers had caught a crappie in weeks.
The first couple of days on the water this angler searched and experimented and used all his knowledge to try and discover a pattern that would produce crappies. By day three he was onto crappies and loading the livewell with big fish. I saw this as proof that crappies can be a challenge during certain periods of the season, but they are always an option for the angler who understands their patterns.
Some of the best information on crappie techniques is coming from the competitive end of this species. There are a few major national crappie tournament circuits dedicated to providing a venue to compete in for crappie fishing. The wealth of knowledge being shared by the pros that are targeting this species is readily available on a wealth of web sites.
From border to border crappie fishing is at its peak right now no matter where you live. It’s a species that spawns well in most waters and there are a lot of reasons this is one of the most popular species in America. Not the least is that it is one of the tastiest fish that ever graced a fish fry. We should all be thankful for crappies. To many of us, they are more than just a panfish, they are the reason for being on the water in the spring.