Planning For Spring Crappie Fishing

Upstate Outdoors
February 01, 2019 - 9:14 am
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Phillip Gentry

On a walk during a cold, but sunny afternoon this week, it was hard not to notice that spring is not far away. Early robins were ferreting through the grass, the trees are beginning to sprout buds and daffodil stalks are pushing up through the flowerbeds, a sure sign it’s time to get ready for crappie season.

For Rod Wall, a Greenwood County crappie tournament angler, late winter/early spring time signals that it’s time to think about targeting crappie in the pre-spawning stages. Even when he’s away from home on other waters across the country, Wall prefers to target black crappie if the lake he is fishing has consistent sizes of black fish to white fish. He believes that black crappie are easier to pattern and more consistent in their seasonal movements.

“Crappie are my favorite fish to target because they are so much more consistent than other fish,” said Wall.  “They are not as apt to move overnight as fast as other fish like bass and stripers. If you find a good school or group of crappie one day, they’re going to be there the next day.”

Another reason that Wall prefers crappie fishing is his affinity for long line trolling. Wall said even though clear water is what you’ll most likely encounter on Upstate lakes, he prefers to find areas of stained water in a clear water lake for long line trolling. With the amount of rain that has inundated the area over the last year, he said finding stained water should be no problem.

“Long line trolling is a very popular crappie tactic on many lakes and following frequent spring rains when the water gets some color to it, crappie will start to suspend,” said Wall. “Long lining anglers will be catching crappie from mid-February until the fish finish spawning and head back out to deeper water in May.”  

Wall also notes another trait that crappie exhibit during the pre-spawn phase. The fish will transition from tightly packed schools in the winter pattern to a more loosely associated migration of fish into major tributaries that eventually will lead them to their spawning grounds in the shallows.

“As the water temperature rises into the low 50s and toward the middle 50s, that’s when these fish are really going to get into their spawning group and they’re really going to start to search,” said Wall. “They’re going to be feeding heavily.  They’ll be really scattered, so long-line trolling then becomes one of the most productive ways to find scattered fish throughout the day.”

Another piece of the puzzle is depth, which is achieved by a combination of his boat speed, the    weight of the crappie jig he’s using, and how far he trolls it behind the boat. Though he may speed up and slow down to target crappie he’s marking on his sonar graph. Wall baselines at .8 mph measured on his GPS/sonar unit while using a variable speed trolling motor. From there, jig weights fine tune the depth.

“My variety of jig head weights run from 1/64th ounce all the way up to 1/8th ounce,” he said. “Probably, if I had to pick one size jig head for crappie, it would be a 16th ounce with a #2 hook. That’s going to pretty much be a standard size that you would troll with.”

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Phillip Gentry is the host of Upstate Outdoors on 1063WORD. He will be conducting crappie fishing seminars this week-end and next week-end at Cabela’s in Greenville.

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Photo Caption – Crappie fishing season is right around the corner. Start planning now. Photo by Phillip Gentry

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