Catching Crappies During the Spawn
Bob McNally 03.24.16
Cover and spawning crappies go together like grits and butter. Brush piles, flooded timber, dense weed bed edges, and boat docks are well known prime cover for attracting and holding big numbers of slab-sided spawners. Many crappie fishermen seeking spawners use live minnows and floats. But such fishing is slow and methodical.
So long-time crappie guide Sam Heaton of Stuart, Florida says casting jigs while moving his boat quickly in prime backwater spawning areas until he locates fish is his favorite method. He’s found that casting to cover and “swimming” a jig is among the most deadly and efficient tactics anglers can employ for spawning slabs.
“But ‘swimming’ a jig takes a deft hand and good ‘feel’ to do correctly,” he explains. “No float is used, just an ultralight spinning outfit, light line, and a jig of just the right size and weight.”
Heaton likes a 6 1/2- to 7-foot graphite rod with a soft tip, matched with 6-pound test braided line (Power Pro preferred) and a 1/8-ounce jig.
“The key to properly swimming a jig is that when you touch weeds or brush, you merely jiggle the rod tip and slowly ‘swim’ the lure free,” he explains. “This is the time most strikes occur because spawners hold so tight to cover in spring.”
Crappies are well-known deliberate feeders. They rarely chase lures and baits far, instead preferring a jig or minnow that suspends in front of their noses for long duration. “This is where a swimming jig shines,” says Heaton.
Swimming jigs with wide heads that create a lot of lure wobble also are excellent “swimming” lures. Many such lures are made for the walleye and ice fishing market, but Sam says they shine for spawning crappies. With a wide-head swimming jig, it’s possible to work a lure easily in the water column where crappie hover near cover.
“I prefer fishing this style jig without a float because I have better lure ‘feel,’” he explains. “When retrieved slowly, these style jigs ‘plane’ or swim off weeds and cover and have outstanding action. They’re especially enticing when tipped with a whole live minnow. The addition of a minnow to such a jig also makes the lure even more water resistant and buoyant, so it’s easier to swim snag free through weeds, flooded brush, pads, and other snags where spawning crappies live.”