Catch spring slabs when crappie come shallow

BIG CRAPPIE like this can be found shallow in the spring.

Driftwood Outdoors

Crappie fishing is a signal spring is upon us. When “slabs,” as big crappie are called, are found close to shore, you should also expect turkeys to be gobbling and morel mushrooms to be popping. I’ve often said, if I were in charge, we’d have 10 Octobers and two Aprils. In my book, we’re entering the second best outdoors month of the year.

Crappie are a common panfish. They’re fun to catch and great to eat. Using minnows under slip-bobbers is a common tactic for catching crappies, but jigs often work just as well. This time of year, you’ll catch crappie shallow. I’m talking in less than 10-feet of water. You’ll want to find solid bottoms around brush or near drop-offs on ledges. The crappie bite might be strong, but you still must know where they’re at. If you don’t have a boat, there are many options for fishing from shore.

As water temperatures continue to rise, crappie are drawn to the warmer shallow water along the shore and in the back of bays. Standing timber in shallow water should be one of your key targets. Fallen trees, brush piles and man-made structures, like docks or water intakes, are also prime locations to find shallow water crappie.

I’ve been fishing the same lake for a few weeks waiting on the crappie to move shallow. Just the other night, they finally showed up where I’ve been waiting for them. When I pitched my bait to the end of a fallen tree, a beautiful 11-inch crappie slammed my minnow. I couldn’t believe how aggressive the bite was. I dropped the fish in my basket and put on another minnow. A minute later, I was dropping in another keeper.

Personally, I’m a bobber man. Grandpa used to get all fancy with his slip bobbers. He’d use these long, tall pencil bobbers. I believe he thought of himself as some sort of panfish master, making his own jigs and all, but I don’t think one needs to make it so complicated. Just stick with a nice, simple slip bobber.

My preferred bait for targeting crappie is minnows. I usually fish them between two and four feet deep. Many crappie anglers swear by jigs. For me, there’s just something about watching a bobber dance. So, whether you like casting or you like pitching minnows under bobbers, both methods work extremely well when the bite is on.

To find big crappies, even in the spring, you’re going to have to do some exploring. A tip I tend to follow when targeting a big body of water is to break the lake down into smaller lakes. There are crappie all over on big reservoirs, so what you want to do is pick a cove or a finger and dissect it. Learn it. Know it. You’ll be way better off having a thorough knowledge of a particular area than a general knowledge of the whole lake.

While you’re fishing this time of year, keep in mind you may also luck into a find of morel mushrooms. Good areas to look for morels include south-facing slopes, around fallen logs and around the bases of elm trees, especially dead ones. South-facing slopes are prime spots early in the season because they warm up first.

The spring trifecta is to kill a turkey, catch a crappie, and find a morel mushroom in the same day. If you can pull this off and put all three of these gifts from nature on a dinner table at the same time, then my friend, you will be experiencing a meal money can’t buy. Forget eating like a king or queen. Royalty wouldn’t know what to do with a Midwestern meal this good.

See you down the trail….

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