By Mike Frisch
Walleye fishing is just about here! That means lots of anglers who have kept busy fishing crappies during early spring will shift their attention to walleyes. While opening day of the “walleye season” certainly is an exciting time, fishermen should not forget about fishing for crappies, as the month of May is still a great month to chase crappies.
Spring crappie anglers usually think of shallow water and finding the warmest shallow water is often the key. Warm water, at least relatively speaking, usually attracts crappies as the spring’s first signs of life often occur in the warmest of the shallows, drawing hungry fish. These fish are there to feed first, and soon will be invading many of these same areas to spawn.
Classic spring crappie spots are shallow, dark-bottomed bays. Marinas, boat channels, and pencil reed patches are other shallow spots that draw panfish now as well. Regardless of what spring crappie habitat your chosen lake features, staying on the move and searching various shallow spots for fish is sound advice.
Small panfish jigs tipped with crappie minnows and fished below small bobbers are long-time presentation favorites when targeting crappies. My favorite crappie jig has long been a 1/32-ounce Gypsi Jig in the pink/white or chartreuse patterns. This bait features a crystal flash tinsel and a teaser tail that shallow crappies usually can’t resist.
Fishing the jig/minnow combination a couple of feet below a slip-bobber, and casting it around shallow cover -weeds, brush, and timber – usually results in bites pretty quickly if fish are present. One key is to fish the bait up above the level the fish are holding at as crappies are notorious for “feeding up.”
Another tip is to use a small bobber, as a small bobber that slides easily underwater on the bite works better for finicky fish that are often spooked by a bigger, more buoyant float.
Jigs and crappie minnows go hand-in-hand for spring panfish. Recently, however, soft baits on tiny jigs have really produced good catches for me and other anglers as well. A small jig tipped with an Impulse Water Flea gives a tantalizing, quivering action that even the most tentative crappie can’t seem to resist. I keep my bait color simple, going with white or pink on both the jigs and plastics.
Not only have soft baits proven very effective for triggering crappie bites, but they are a lot more durable when the bite is fast and I don’t have to mess with rebaiting after each catch! I often add a small split shot weight or two between the Lite-Bite Slip Bobber and the jig/soft bait to keep the bobber riding low in the water, and to again avoid spooking tentative biters. When you are using a slip bobber, you’ll want to make sure you have some Slip-Knot Stops, these will allow you to set your bobber at the right depth to target these fish.
The walleye opener is about here, and that’s good. However, don’t forget about crappies as they offer some outstanding fishing during May as well. In fact, following some of the tips just provided can probably help you get it on some fast fishing action right now
As always, good luck on the water, and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoor adventure!
Mike Frisch is a western Minnesota fishing guide and co-host of the Fishing the Midwest TV series. Follow Fishing the Midwest on Facebook for more “fishy” information!