A small thing may be a big deal for luring crappie

A typical fisherman might weigh 200 pounds. It takes a pretty big crappie to weigh 1 pound. So it just stands to reason that something barely noticeable to fishermen might be glaringly obvious to crappie.

Several years ago while fishing for crappie at Chautauqua Lake, after hours of fruitless fishing my partner started catching crappie on a chartreuse jig. Fishing conditions were poor. A cold front had moved into the area bringing with it stiff winds. We anticipated that it would be necessary to get our jigs right in front of their noses. We, or I should say my partner, found crappie with their bellies on the bottom just off a small point.

We were using the same jig head, and we both were using chartreuse jig bodies. The only difference was that my jig body was translucent while his was opaque. We fished for a while, he catching a few nice crappie, me not getting even a tick. Finally I switched jig bodies, matching what my partner was using. It did not take long for me to start catching fish.

The change I made was slight, but it made all the difference. We were fishing the jigs very slowly, keeping them close to bottom, so the crappie has plenty of time to get a good look at the jigs. Maybe that was at least part of the reason they seemed so picky.

Certainly crappie are not usually that picky, but they usually are picky to some degree. Most crappie anglers have run into situations when crappie displayed a distinct preference for certain colors. Recognizing this, and recognizing that sometimes they are very picky will improve crappie fishing success over the long haul.

Small differences come in many ways. Another crappie fishing experience at Chautauqua Lake under similar circumstances, though not as windy, a friend and I found that the shape of our jig heads was the difference between our success. This time I was the one who was catching crappie while my partner was not. We used the same jig bodies and the same weight of jig heads. The only difference was that my partner used a round jig head while my jig head was shaped like a fish head so that it cut through the water with less resistance.

The reason my jig head resulted in better results than his was easy to figure. It was easier to keep the pointed head close to bottom. As before, after a while my partner tried one of my jig heads and immediately his results improved.

Differences are not always easy to recognize. But unless you recognize differences you lose the chance for repeating. Repeatability is one of the most basic and most important fishing factors. Fail to recognize what it was that made a day of fishing successful and the only way you can repeat the successful factor is to stumble on it again. This is a poor way to go about fishing, if you are at all serious about fishing.

Several years ago while fishing a walleye tournament at the Allegheny Reservoir, my partner and I trolled with nightcrawler harnesses. Unexpectedly we caught several large black crappie.

Later I returned with a different fishing partner to target those big crappie. Since I had found them by trolling nightcrawler harnesses, we used nightcrawlers for bait on a couple lines, and used shiners on the other two rigs. That day of crappie fishing was one of the most enlightening crappie fishing experiences of my life.

We modified fishing tactics to what we thought was more appropriate for crappie. Rather than trolling nightcrawler harnesses, we tipped jigs with either nightcrawlers or shiners. Rather than trolling, we took advantage of a breeze that paralleled the shoreline and wind-drifted.

To focus on just one point, we found that the difference between shiners and nightcrawlers had a large influence on which crappie species was caught. White crappie did not appear to be at all interested in nightcrawlers. Black crappie hit either nightcrawlers or shiners, and maybe showed a slight preference for nightcrawlers.

Some differences that mean a lot are mysterious. Through many years of fishing for crappie from the deep south to Canada, I have found that either trolling slowly with an electric motor or wind-drifting results in catching larger crappie than still-fishing with bait or casting from a stationary position.


My best guess is that the answer is speed. Any experienced crappie angler knows that retrieve speeds when jigging for crappie should be very slow. Trolling or wind-drifting keeps a jig moving significantly faster that it normally would.

But then it should stand to reason that increasing retrieve speed should accomplish the same thing. But it does not.


Beats me. Sometimes we just have to accept a gift and leave it at that.