The crappie spawn has passed and now it’s time to fish brush and structure. For years many of us have dropped minnows or different types of jigs down to schools. But there is another tactic that appeals to large crappie and is seldom used.
Smaller spoons generally used for trout fishing in our region have a lot of flash for vertical jigging. These are typically gold- or silver-plated metal often shaped like the business end of a spoon. However, my favorite is an Al’s Goldfish because of how it slowly drops sideways, twisting and throwing crappie attracting flashes.
This specific spoon has a high grade of plating added for a unique shine. The polished metal picks up existing light at most levels in a lake.
We first tried vertical jigging these spoons in the late 1960s before graphs or any kind of fish locator existed. What levels the crappie was suspended were determined by a counting system. In other words, we would count until the spoon was hit or at least tapped to determine at what level the fish were suspended. Then we dropped more spoons or minnows to the approximate levels. Often both at the same time.
I caught my first 2-pound crappie on this unique vertical spoon system on an early summer day. We were fishing over submerged crappie beds made of Christmas trees. This time the crappie only wanted our spoons and would not touch a minnow. The gold flash looked appealing and we had almost limited out when a bigger strike came. I thought it was a bass, but it turned out to be a 2-pound crappie, the biggest anyone had ever seen in that lake.
PLACES TO TRY: Minnows eat insects, insect larvae, smaller fish, tiny crawfish, algae, phytoplankton, zooplankton, fish eggs and even tiny bits of dead animal matter or, in other words, bridge pillar forage. Crappie find the minnows. Brush or any debris caught on a bridge pillar creates an ecosystem of food for various creatures, including fish, while allowing adequate cover for hiding.
Post-spawn crappie love good cover with plenty of depth. Crappie fishermen fish bridge pillars with great success because crappie feel safe in this brush and there is plenty of depth to make a quick escape. Predators move to these areas to dine on crappie, bluegill or whatever happens to cross their paths. Find a productive pillar and you will likely catch fish.
Docks over deep water are another source for finding post-spawn crappie. Many dock owners drop big bundles of Christmas trees to the bottom, generally weighted down by concrete blocks and catch crappie throughout the year.
This is a good way to lose lots of lures, so be careful not to constantly let your spoon drop deep in the trees. Crappie may be suspended above the Christmas trees or even to the sides.
Lakes with standing timber are always key spots, if you determine which trees. Before sonar, finding tree crappie took hours, sometimes days. Anglers took notes of productive trees, mostly located in deeper water. Some trees were marked with metal tabs.
Sonar is useful in determining how many branches are on a submerged tree or even how many fish are suspended around the trunk. Determining fish productivity around a tree is easy with sonar. Circle the tree while making sure your transducer, the submerged part that sends signals back to your screen, passes within a few feet of the trunk. This will allow you to find where branches are thickest and where fishing will be the best. Then anchor off close to the tree and continue watching your screen.
Then let your spoon rub down the tree trunk and on the branches. Crappie may hit that, but pass on one a couple inches off the wood., depending on their feeding desires. You will likely lose more spoons, but more crappie will be caught.
Crappie occasionally locate close to cliffs and submerged rock islands. Small pockets of brush around these long, rocky expanses attract crappie and are easily located by sonar. I discovered this years ago when a cold front dropped the temperature to about 30 degrees. The fish changed our tactics.
Crappie disappeared from the beds and a friend’s depth finder found fish scattered in groups along a long, rocky flat. We cruised back and forth, watching the depth finder and caught a crappie every time we stopped over a spot that showed fish on his screen.
Vegetation lines and lily pads are possible places to find suspended post-spawn crappie. Drop your spoon down the edges of these areas and crappie plus almost any imaginable predator may slam the dying minnow. This is a great tip for bass fishing.
Vertically dropped spoons may resemble a wounded minnow to big crappie that love an easy meal. This, too, is a great way to occasionally catch a big walleye, bass or any predator fish. The flash off these highly plated lures really draws attention.
There are many ways to catch crappie, but try vertically dropping spoons and you might be surprised at the results. You might even join the 3-pound crappie club.
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.