Video: Sight Fishing for Early Spring Crappies

During early spring, crappies will visit shallow-water wood and other cover well before spawning season to feed. Here’s how to capitalize on this brief window of opportunity.

Video: Sight Fishing for Early Spring Crappies

Tony Roach is a well-known multi-species fishing guide in central and northern Minnesota. He also competes in professional walleye tournaments across the Midwest. In the 1:44 YouTube video below from Angling Buzz, he passes along tips for targeting early spring crappies in shallow clear water.

The term “sight fishing” is usually used when talking about targeting shallow-water bass, but as you’ll see below, Roach says it works well for crappies, too.

For the technique to work, you can’t have dark-colored water or too much wind. It doesn’t have to be crystal clear, but you have to be able to see down into the water at least 2 feet and 3-4 feet is better.

As Roach explains, the sight-fishing bite gets rolling when an early spring cold front passes and is quickly followed by a couple of really warm spring days (think air temps of 65 degrees or higher). During this time of the year, crappies are staging near shallow-water spawning bays and shorelines, but this first push shallow isn’t spawning related, it’s food based — very simply, the crappies are hungry!

The key to finding the best spots is looking for objects (wood, cattails, etc.) in the water that will hold heat, especially on sunny afternoons. Find these objects in a bay with a muddy bottom and you’ll find the most crappies because water temperatures will be higher.

To be successful in this scenario, you must avoid spooking crappies. Remember, the shallow water will be relatively clear with light to nonexistent wind. Use your trolling motor sparingly and only on low power. You’ll be casting to specific targets that you can see with polarized glasses, which are a must. Experiment with polarized lens color for best viewing. I find that amber lenses often allow me to see into the water better than standard gray lenses.

If you do spook crappies away from cover with your boat approach, wait a few minutes before moving on because the fish will often work their way back provided you are quiet. Be patient.

Tackle Tips

Most often you’ll be making medium-length casts, but at times a longer cast will be necessary to cast well beyond a target and then slowly bring your lure over a spotted crappie or a likely looking ambush spot (underwater log, etc.). I prefer a light- or medium-light-power spinning rod measuring about 7 feet. My favorite is the St. Croix Rods Panfish Series 7-foot 3-inch, medium-light power, extra-fast action (PNS73MLXF).

Depending on cover thickness, you can choose between monofilament or braided line. I use 4-pound test if the cover is light and move up to 6-pound test if the nearby cover is heavier, or if the lake has big fish. For mono, I like Berkley Trilene XL, and my No. 1 choice for braid is Suffix Nano Braid. I tie the braid directly to the jig; the fish usually aren’t so finicky that I need to go with a mono or fluoro leader. In addition, the water is usually so shallow for early spring sight fishing that there’s not much room to add a leader. The biggest advantage to braid over mono in this scenario is it cuts through vegetation like a knife.

Z-Man Micro Finesse ShroomZ jig and Tiny TicklerZ soft plastic. The author typically starts with pink glow (above), then changes to white glow or green pumpkin if necessary.
Z-Man Micro Finesse ShroomZ jig and Tiny TicklerZ soft plastic. The author typically starts with pink glow (above), then changes to white glow or green pumpkin if necessary.

For lures, you can usually catch all the crappies you want without messing with live bait. A 1/16-ounce or 1/32-ounce hair or marabou jig will work well, as will a jig tipped with a soft plastic. My favorite is a Z-Man Micro Finesse ShroomZ jig matched with a Z-Man Tiny TicklerZ soft plastic. The Tiny TicklerZ is made with Z-Man’s crazy-tough ElaZtech for maximum durability, which is great when the fishing is fast and furious and you don’t want to waste time re-rigging.

One key to this presentation is the use of a small casting bubble or bobber. It can be difficult to cast a tiny jig a longer distance, and the weight of the bubble or bobber makes this doable. Also, you need to let the lure hang in front of the fish, and a bobber works perfectly for this presentation.

Because the water is shallow (less than 5 feet), there’s no reason to use a slip-bobber. However, I don’t like to use a clip-on style bobber because the clip mechanism itself will damage lightweight mono. To solve this problem, I’ll use an A-Just-A-Bubble casting bubble, which has a rubber tube core, or a slip-bobber matched with bobber-stop knots on the line above and below the bobber, making it a fixed system.


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