Tips for Catching Pre-Spawn Crappie Jul 31, 2019 23:19:16 GMT
Post by Ghost Comanche©® on Jul 31, 2019 23:19:16 GMT
Tips for Catching Pre-Spawn Crappie
by Warren Cotton
Photograph by Jeff Samsel
Spring and crappie fishing go together. Right?
When the crappie move shallow to spawn, anglers show up in numbers to tap into the action.
That’s understandable, but guide, tournament angler and Cabela’s Pro Staff team member Warren Cotton suggests not waiting for the spawn.
“Well before they spawn, crappie begin moving out of their deeper winter areas and move toward shallow areas within a reservoir,” said Cotton, who likes targeting crappie at that time because their movements are predictable, the fish are often congregated and angler numbers are smaller.
Cotton, who guides on Mississippi’s Grenada, Sardis, Enid and Arkabutla lakes, typically begins targeting pre-spawn fish in early to mid-February, when water temperatures hit the 50- to 55-degree range. He focuses on creek channel edges, especially where there is standing timber or isolated wood along an edge.
“Look for areas that provide cover for the crappie and offer access to deep water,” Cotton said.
Early in the pre-spawn period, Cotton primarily looks for crappie in 10 to 12 feet of water. As the season progresses and the spawn draws nearer, the fish work gradually shallower.
Just prior to spawning, some crappie in the lakes where Cotton guides will only be a few feet deep.
Of course, not all crappie spawn at once, so fish can be in various stages at the same time, and the males and females behave differently.
“Males move up first to form beds while the females hang around in pre-spawn areas, waiting for prime time to spawn,” Cotton explained.
If Cotton tries fishing shallow in the back of a particular creek and catches a bunch of males, he’ll then move to the first break into somewhat deeper water, which is often the creek channel edge, to look for the larger female crappie that likely are staging nearby.
Because fish stay on the move during the pre-spawn period, electronics are important to Cotton’s approach. He uses sonar not only to find crappie, but to see where the baitfish are concentrated and to look for specific pieces of cover along channel edges.
“The two main techniques I use at that time are vertical fishing with jigs around structure and spider-rigging,” he said
Cotton chooses the vertical approach to target specific trees or pieces of cover, such as brush piles. He generally uses a 1/8-ounce jighead, matched with a soft-plastic jig, a live minnow or both.
Spider-rigging, which Cotton does with double-minnow rigs that he hand ties, allows him to search and fish at the same time.
Pre-spawn crappie move frequently, so figuring out how far back in a creek or bay they have migrated and how deep to fish sometimes takes a little searching.
After you find them, though, you get to enjoy some of best crappie fishing of the year.