The seemingly endless varieties of crappie fishing presentations produce good fishing in the Prairie State. Here are some to help you boat more crappies this year.

Early season crappie fishing is highly dependent upon weather conditions in Illinois. In the southern areas, water warms sooner on average. Warming water stimulates crappie activity. The unusually warm 2011 surprised anglers when the crappie became more active earlier than normal. A lack of water due to low winter snowfall resulted in reduced levels in lakes.

March’s passing weather fronts also change crappie activity by affecting water temperatures. A few blasts of cold weather can stall normal fish activity this time of year. March crappie anglers need to be aware of the weather to gage fish activity.

Generally the further south you go the more likely you are to find fish moving into shallows and feeding hard prior to spawning. A passing thunderstorm can scatter them making the angler have to work harder. Between storms begin your exploration shallow and move to deeper water. The larger fish will probably be in deeper water.

Fish locating electronics are helpful in finding fish in deeper water. The new side imaging units are popular as they give three-dimensional views of sub-surface water. Structure and suspended fish are visible.

Fickled March crappie activity may require flexibility in technique and tackle. To that end here are some choices.

SLIP BOBBERING is probably the most popular fishing technique for crappie. A small knot is placed on the line above a hook and bobber to prevent the bobber from sliding up the line. It keeps the hook and sinker from moving too deeply in the water. The line goes through the bobber and a hook tied at the end. A split shot sinker aids the bait in sinking to the desired depth.

The bobber slides up and down the line from the knot to the sinker. By moving the knot location, you control the depth of the bait presentation.

DROPSHOTING requires an ultra-light spinning rod that is bendable but still has a stiff backbone. The angler finds a comfortable stance and points his rod at the spot where he believes fish to be hiding. This can be under overhanging limbs or under man-made structure such as a dock or pier.

He holds the lure in one hand and bends the rod down in an arc before letting go. It sounds simple but does require some practice and skill to master.

JIGGERPOLING has its origins in the early history of crappie fishing. Modern fiberglass poles of 12 to 14 feet length have replaced the old cane pole. The trolling motor has replaced sculling the boat along the shore.

Hold the pole in one hand and rest it across the opposite knee. Gently shaking the pole causes the jig to move slightly in the water representing a crippled baitfish. Shake the lure or bait along the edges of weed lines and buck brush as well as in and out of small pockets. It works well in visible wood such as brush tops, lay downs and stumps. It is particularly effective in shallow water.

SPIDER RIGS coupled with crankbaits are deadly for crappie. Their use depends upon how deep the fish are located. One method is to begin by letting out roughly a hundred feet of line. Troll with the trolling motor or big motor at 2 miles per hour. This is “long lining.”

Another use is when the spider rig mounts on the front deck of the boat and holds several rods at a time. The pros stagger their poles with multiple very small crankbaits. The set up includes different colors of crankbaits and lengths of line. At two miles per hour, with six poles, you can cover 12 miles of water. There are many fish approaching those baits in that length of time. It is a very productive way to catch big crappie.

The mini-crankbaits are especially effective in catching spawning fish and those just entering or just exiting the spawn. Keep the bait in the strike zone. The right depth with good boat control puts baits in front of the fish.

As the fish move into their cool water patterns, the spider-rigger plays out shorter amounts of line to jig fish at the same slow speed. The boat and rods can move slowly into shallow water and then back out if necessary.

DIPPIN’ is popular as the water temperatures cool and the fish move shallower. You extend a long crappie pole over the brush or other vegetation. Unlike the popular bass fishing technique of flipping, crappie anglers do not fish past the end of their pole. This way you are fishing a vertical jigging presentation.

You do everything in slow motion including moving into and out of the brush.

The presentation allows you to hold excess line in your hand and to drop in and out with minimal hang-ups. Once a fish is on the hook you lift it straight up so it is free of the brush.

VERTICAL JIGGING involves two basic rigs. The most popular is a line with a sinker at the end and an 18-inch drop line about a foot above it. Tie a jig or plain hook, with a minnow attached, to the drop line. The line drops straight below the boat until it hits the bottom. Then raise it into the crappie strike zone. This is usually about 6 inches off the bottom.

The second rig is to tie a jigging spoon to the end of the line. These spoons are usually silver in color and heavier than most spoons. Drop the spoon over the edge of the boat and allow it to sink. Raise it into the strike zone of the fish as with the above rig.

With both of these rigs gently jig them up and down very slowly.

SLAB DADDY RIGS, also known as Reality Shad Buffet rigs, are an adjunct to the new umbrella rigs popular with bass anglers. Slab Daddy rigs present two jigs on a wire rig less than 4 inches in length. It has a similar configuration to the umbrella rig with fewer hooks and lures. The idea is baitfish hide among themselves. Yet it is this safety in numbers that makes them an easy meal according to rig inventor TJ Stallings of TTI Fishing Group.

Stallings refers to the rig as a buffet rig. He has produced a streamlined two pronged rig with minnow-profiled 3/16th ounce Road Runners. The blades add flash, sound and vibration to appeal to crappie senses. There is also a version with two jigs of various colors.

TJ recommends a medium-action rod with light line. Tie the rig directly to the line, then cast, drift, or troll it very slowly. There is no need to set the hook.

FLOAT-N-FLY rigs are popular on colder days when fish suspend in deeper water. A 1/16th ounce hair jig is on a line about 5 feet below a float. Long spinning rods and 4 to 6 pound test monofilament line are used. Lob the rig to areas off of points or current breaks and allow it to settle. Wait 3 minutes. Allow wave action or take action with the rod to jiggle the line. If no response, sweep the rig about 6 feet and allow it to settle again. Repeat the action back to the boat.




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  1. When it comes to live bait, some of the best combos that I’ve tried was a small minnow, fathead if possible, hooked by the tail, on a small marabou jig (black with chartreuse). Also, found a couple of nice recommendations, here:

  2. Thank you for thinking of us Don. Five field testers fished those buffets last year for six-weeks. Of all the fish caught, only one was taken on the top lure. That’s proof that fish look “up” and seize the first opportunity. 🙂

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