For many anglers, it all started from the bank with a small ugly stick with a baitcasting reel. Staring at a small bobber dip deeper into the water, waiting for whoever took you fishing to tell you to set the hook.
Angling for crappie from the bank is how most of us get our introduction to the fishing world. Fun, low stress, and requiring very little gear, it’s the perfect segue into kicking off a lifelong addiction to fishing.
In this article, we cover the basics of how to angle for crappie from the bank and some tips to help you fill up that stringer in no time.
Crappie are an incredibly popular fish both for the ease with which they are angled for and their strong population in the most fertile bodies of freshwater throughout the United States.
Learning a few key features about these fish can help you elevate your game when angling for these small but delicious fish.
Tale of Two Crappies
There are two major species of crappie. The white and the black crappie are some of the most caught fish in the United States.
With a body shape similar to a flattened hand, these fish range in color from bronze to olive and usually have varying shades of the main color running in bands along the length of their body.
Telling them apart can be incredibly difficult for an untrained eye, so the following are a few distinguishing features.
- The black crappie has a mouth similar to the largemouth bass, meaning it is just behind the eye, while the white crappie does not.
- The black crappie has between 7 to 8 spines on its dorsal fin, while the white crappie has six.
- The white crappie always has the same number of spines on its dorsal and anal fin. The black crappie does not.
These fish are rarely found in the same location as they prefer different habitats. However, each species travel in schools, so anglers can often catch more than one at a singular location.
Crappie prefer structure as it provides a sanctum from many predators ranging from birds to other fish. Sunken stumps, aquatic grass, drainage pipes, and docks all constitute locations that crappie might use for cover.
Black crappie prefer cooler water, usually deep in clear and rich with aquatic vegetation. Locations such as these are usually sand or rock bottom lakes, streams, ponds, or sloughs.
White crappie, on the other hand, prefer shallower and warmer water, usually filled with aquatic structures or vegetation. They can often be found on salt or muddy-bottomed lakes, ponds, and rivers.
Crappie consume a myriad of creatures and have one of the most diverse diets of any sort after gamefish in North America. They are voracious predators despite their unimposing size, consuming insects, amphibians, crustaceans, minnows, and even the young of other fish species.
Throughout the south of the U.S., crappie are often found to consume shad as a staple of their diet, while the northern portions of the U.S. find that insects make up the vast majority of their prey.
Crappie can be angled year-round, but there is a specie that is very susceptible to changes in the weather.
The best time of year to angle for crappie is in the mid to late spring, which is during spawning season. The crappie activity level will have reached a crescendo at this point. The water is rich with recently spawned insects, larvae, other small fish, and crustaceans, making it a target-rich environment for these fish.
Additionally, late summer into early fall can be an excellent time for crappie fishing when the water is cooling and transitioning from the long day to shorter night cycle as fish begin to stockpile calories for the upcoming winter.
Depending on the geographic location of the crappie, the selection can vary. Anglers must select both artificial and natural baits that match the forage of the environment to present a realistic look to the crappie.
When it comes to live bait, there are several choices that are usually successful with crappie:
- Worms/Nightcrawlers: These work well beneath a cork as they make up a large chunk of a crappie’s diet across the United States.
- Crickets: It’s effective because of its ability to continue to move and trigger predatory responses from crappie while submerged. Crickets are cheap and easy to locate both naturally and at a bait shop. They are a cost-effective but surefire way to catch crappie that predates on insects.
- Shad/Minnows: Shad and minnows are incredibly effective when other natural baits fail. Found in almost every waterway across the United States, these can work wonders beneath a cork when left alive.
There are two techniques that are most commonly used to angle for crappie.
Jigging involves a weighted jighead above a hook with a soft plastic lure affixed to the hook. When fishing from the bank, anglers can either cast out and retrieve with a bump stop technique or find a position where they are directly over some sort of structure and jig vertically.
Casting out allows anglers to cover more ground without alerting the crappie to their presence. Depending on both the weight of the jig head and rod, the jig is an excellent rig to cover a pond in a few casts.
Jigging directly over structure alerts the fish to the angler’s presence, but it is far more fun for beginning and novice anglers and can often yield more fish faster. Underwater logs, docks, tree stumps, and other submerged cover provide excellent locations to jig for crappie from.
The simple cork, hook, and sinker is probably the most recognizable setup and one of the most used for crappie fishing. Utilizing an adjustable cork, anglers can fish at varying depths while presenting their bait of choice into the water column and directly in front of the crappie.
While jigging requires a direct interface from the angler, cork fishing allows anglers to set and forget their rods until the cork goes under.
Additionally, if you wish to incorporate some movement into the rig, you can pop the cork a few times to make the bait look alive and wiggling. If you choose this setup, keep your bait fresh as crappie often avoid dead minnows, worms, or crickets.
Find the Hole
Finding the gap in the wolies, the end of a root bowl, or a submerged piece of structure can make all the difference when angling for crappie.
These locations are a departure from the rest of the environment and prime locations for crappie. Particularly if they are rich with small baked fish, these brief openings or blips of the structure are gold mines for crappie anglers.
Crappie like cover, and not just the solid type. Underwater grass, lily pads, reeds, weeds, and other aquatic plants provide some of the best crappie fishing available.
Cast alongside these locations with a corkboard jig past them to achieve the best results.
More than one bait
I’ve seen plenty of days where crappie will only bite on crickets, not worms, or vice versa. This is also true with shad and minnows.
Have both or, if fishing with artificial lures, a multitude of jig colors and sizes to ensure that you aren’t stuck up a creek without a paddle.
Never stay in one location too long if the fish aren’t biting. Just because a location looks promising does not mean that it is filled with the fish you’re looking for. Instead, target likely locations rich with cover and try casting from different angles of the bank.
Where there is one
Crappie can usually be found in medium to large size schools. Because of this, you should not pack up and move after two or three catches. It could be that you have stumbled upon a school.
Particularly around an intersection of both structure and bait fish, the numbers of crappie on location will be much higher. Fishing this location from different angles can help prevent spooking the fish while preserving a high-quality fishing hole.
Crappie fishing is often the gateway drug to many anglers’ fishing careers. From the bank, this can be an easy jumping-off point for kids, significant others, and future fishing partners, as it is both engaging, exciting, and easy to learn.
When fishing from the bank, anglers should look for cover and baitfish to select locations while choosing a bait that fits the ecosystem. Most importantly, crappie fishing is meant to be fun for all.
As always, good luck, and stay safe out on the water.