Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Thinking ahead for ice-out crappies

By Jeremy Smith

Angling Buzz

As we head into the last part of the ice-fishing season, it’s not too soon to start planning for open water. Now is when I start looking through my gear and making a list of what’s missing and what I want to try this season. Supply chains have been tight; if you see something you want, it’s best to get it now.

Something you should definitely put on your list for spring fishing is small X-Raps, a suspending jerkbait. Not for bass or walleyes, but for crappies. There are a few things that come along in fishing that blow your mind regarding how effective they are. Jerkbaits in the spring is one of them. I’m telling you, this is absolutely amazing for spring crappies. 

The bite starts as soon as the ice leaves, as crappies head into bays and other areas where water is warming. A thermometer is the best tool this time of year. When the water is in the low 40s, crappies tend to be in 6 to 12 feet of water, and most often near cover.

As the water warms into the 50s they often will move vertically in the water column and farther back into shallower water. Their location in spring can change quickly. Regardless of where they are, when they see this, they’ll want some. 

Here’s why I believe a suspending jerkbait is more effective than, say, a jig under a float. If you’re fishing a jig under a cork in wind, the bait is moving up and down with each wave. It can make what seems to be a sit-in-place technique quite erratic. With the X-Rap, it doesn’t matter how windy it is; the bait will sit perfectly still on slack line. A bait that’s sitting still in cold water is the key to more bites. 

Technique is important for this presentation. Get it wrong, no bites. Get it right, and it’s lights out. The cadence is short snaps and long pauses.

Don’t pull the bait; snap it and put a slight bow back in the line. The colder the water, the longer the pause. The bites come on the pause, so focus on watching your line for bites. You rarely feel them; you just see your line straighten out. 

Equipment for this is important. This is my setup for fishing the tiny size 4 X-Rap. The rod is a 7-foot, light-power, extra-fast-action Legend Elite Panfish or Panfish series from St. Croix. The line is 6-pound Sufix Nano Braid in Aqua Camo with a 6-pound fluorocarbon leader. The reel is a size 2000 Daiwa Revros or Fuego. 

Each element is part of a system to make this presentation work best. The rod’s power and action allow the bait to “jump.” The mainline nearly doubles the casting distance (compared to mono) and makes the bait responsive to rod snaps.

The fluorocarbon leader helps keep the bait down and keeps the braid from getting caught in the split rings. The reels we use are larger than most panfish reels and help pick up the slack line quickly. And they have the most incredible drags on the planet, so even if you hook up with a giant pike or bass, the line won’t snap. 

If you’re dreaming of open water like I am, now is a good time to get this gear set up for spring. I promise you, once you figure it out, you’ll be absolutely stunned by how deadly this is for springtime crappies!

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