|(Mar. 24, 2004 - Braham, MN)... Either they’re in or they’re out. If they’re in let the games begin, and if they’re out let the games begin anyhow. It’s just that when they’re in the game of finding and catching early season crappies becomes a whole lot easier. If they’re out they can still be caught but the job of finding them can be much more of a challenge and you may spend a lot more time looking and less time catching.|
Soon after ice-out crappies will start making major moves into shallow water where they become particularly vulnerable to anglers who have recognized this tremendous opportunity. Those that have will be there waiting patiently for the first of the early ice-out crappies to show up.
Where they show up isn’t all that difficult to pin down and usually boils down to a couple of options, depending on what’s available. Options include old reed banks, shallow dark bottom bays, man made channels, fallen trees and even docks, especially if they coincide with a shallow bay.
The attraction behind the shallows is the fact they are the first to warm up and where the food chain springs back to life. Plankton develops, bugs start to hatch, and minnows move in, all of which attracts slab-sided crappies bent on filling up on the easy pickins.
Crappies will often make the shallow move as soon as the shallows open up and it is all a matter of weather and timing. The nicest days have the potential to draw in the heaviest movements and include warm sunny afternoons, especially late in day. Cold cloudy days typically produce less than satisfactory results, all of which helps to make forecasting shallow movements much easier.Â
When they do show up in the shallows they are there for a specific reason, and that is to eat as much as they can as fast as they can. Their aggressive nature affords some cover for less than perfect presentations, but it can pay off to do things right. Doing thing’s right means using the lightest tackle you can, and includes two and four pound test line and tiny baits. Little 1/32oz. jigs like the Northland Tackle Thumper Jig tipped with a small minnow is a great bait for casting as the jig has a little spinner blade incorporated into the bait which slows the fall and gives it some extra flash. Another option is to use a teeny tiny 1/64oz. Gypsi Jig tipped with a small minnow suspended below a Lite-Bite slip bobber. The jig and bobber may be your best bet, especially if the fish aren’t all that charged up.Â Â
A mistake many anglers make is fishing underneath the bulk of the crappies. Crappies feed up, and they do so regardless of whether they’re in shallow or deep water.Â
Professional walleye angler Danny Plautz of Muskego, Wisconsin likes to get the season started by chasing down shallow water crappies and you might be surprised on just how shallow they’ll go. According to Danny; "On the flat dead calm days I’ll look for any kind of surface commotion. Many times I’ve found big schools of crappies by looking for their backs sticking out of the water. I’ll try to sneak up on them with my Minn Kota electric trolling motor and then cast a plain hook and minnow a foot down from a bobber on the inside of the school. Because we can fish with more than one line I’ll cast another on the far side and then work the far bait back through the school. If the approaching bobber and bait spooks the school it will often move them right into the inside bait where they are easily caught."Â Â Â
If you’re there when it happens the action can be fast and furious. If not, well you end up spending more time enjoying the day, or your surroundings, or wondering where they heck all of the fish are. Instead of waiting, anglers may be better off heading for the nearest break or drop off. Here they might find big schools of crappies that have staged but are holding out for the right moment to make a run into shallow water.Â
With a good graph like the Garmin 178C you can quickly scan drop offs and breaks and know whether or not you’re barking up the wrong tree. The 178C is a color graph and
G.P.S. combination that will mark schools of fish, baitfish, or anything else that gets in the way. It will also allow you to mark a school of fish on the plotter with a touch of a button which will help you keep track of where they are or where they went. A school of crappies will show up in brilliant red, making them easy to see and completely obvious to the user.Â
Another great search tool is a flasher like the Marcum LX-3, as it provides instant information and can help you to find and stay with crappies on the move. Crappies seldom stay in one place very long, especially in open water, and you’ll constantly have to be moving and looking to stay with them. Â Â See you on the water.Â