How to Catch a Crappie

Three Methods:Knowing Where to Look for CrappieUsing the Right EquipmentUnderstanding Crappie Habits

Whether you call them crappie, papermouths, strawberry bass, specks, or sac-a-laits, these elusive fish are difficult to locate and incredibly fun to catch. Take time to understand their habits, find the right lure, and be patient when you're out on the water. Follow these instructions to catch the mysterious crappie.

Method 1
Knowing Where to Look for Crappie

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    Look in lakes, rivers and streams with clear water. Crappie are freshwater fish that are abundant in the wild and stocked in many ponds and lakes in the United States and Canada. They're originally from North America, but they can be found in many countries across the world at this point. Black crappie and white crappie are virtually indistinguishable, and many anglers don't notice the difference.
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    Find crappie near submerged brush piles and treetops. Crappie like to spend time around cover, and brush piles and treetops, fallen logs, or other debris piles are a great place to look for them.
    • You can actually build a brush shelter for crappie as a way to attract them to a certain part of the lake. Carry large branches and sticks to an area of the lake with no other shelter nearby, then let it fall to the bottom. Take note of the spot; chances are, next time you visit, crappie will be hanging out nearby.
    • Sometimes crappie like to hang out in the water between branches and sticks, rather than next to them. Some of the largest fish may spend time in the crevices of a fallen tree branch. Skilled anglers can fish in these crevices.
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    Fish around piers and docks. When there's no natural covering in the water, crappie will gather near these human-made structures. This is a good place to look for those who are fishing from the dock, rather than from a boat.
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    Use a fish finder to find bottom breaks with cover. Crappie spend time in deep water areas that have some kind of covering, like underwater brush or sunken wood. Finding a place where other fishermen rarely fish is key for finding large fish.[1]

Method 2
Using the Right Equipment

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    Use a pole or a rod and reel. The simple, old-fashioned pole is used by most crappie fishermen, and it's quite effective. You can use an inexpensive cane pole or a fiber or graphite pole. Lightweight poles are usually best when you're fishing for crappie. If you'd rather use a rod and reel, that's fine, too.
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    Buy a collection of jigs. Jigs by far the most popular lures used to catch crappie. Don't rely on just one, though; the elusive crappie is picky, so you'll need an array of jigs to try on any given fishing expedition. They come in different weights, shapes, and sizes. Crappie generally bite on smaller jigs.
    • Jigs are covered with synthetic soft bodies that are made with many different types of materials and come in all kinds of colors and textures.
    • Some soft bodies are made to look like a particular type of bait.
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    Use minnows as bait. If you'd prefer not to use a synthetic soft body, use minnows as bait. Crappie are attracted to minnows, so this is the most popular type of real bait used to fish them.

Method 3
Understanding Crappie Habits

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    Fish deep in the winter. When the temperature is low, crappie hang out in deeper waters. Since many fisherman pack up the tacklebox when it's cold outside, winter fishing can be a great time to catch the biggest crappie of the year. Be patient and spend time toward the center of the lake, where the water is deepest.
    • When it's windy and cold outside, don't hang out near the banks or in areas where the wind is broken. It may be more comfortable there, but you're more likely to catch fish if you venture into deeper waters.[2]
    • Crappy are more sluggish during the winter, and slower to bite, so you'll have to spend more time out there before you catch one.
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    Move to shallow waters in the spring. When crappie spawn in the spring, they're quite easy to catch in shallow waters. Fish near brush piles and wood structures that are closer to shore.[3]
    • Look for areas where streams meet the lake, since this is where female crappie enter the lake to lay their eggs.[4]
    • Springtime floods often lead to better crappie fishing, since the congregate around other fish that are spawning. Springtime is considered by many anglers as the best time of year to catch crappie, followed by fall, summer and lastly winter.[5]
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    Move to more deeper waters in the summer. To escape the summer heat crappie move to deeper and cooler water at about 8 to 25 feet. It can be hard to locate them in the summer and a fish finder helps significantly. However, good ole trial and error is another good method. Once you figure out at what depth they're at, anchor down and start catching some crappie.
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    Fish in clear water. When the water is muddy, it can be hard for crappy to see the lure. Crappie find their food by sight, not smell, so they may never bite if the water is too muddy. Look for a place where it's clearer and use a big, bright lure.[6]
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    Ask other fishermen what's working for them. Crappie in different areas have different habits. They may be attracted to a certain type of jig color, or they may be biting a certain type of bait you're not using. Before you head out in your boat, go to the tackle shop and ask other people what's working for them that day. Chances are, it'll work for you, too. [7]


  • When using a jig, use a loop knot.
  • Try using brightly colored jigs and lures, depending on the visibility level in the water (e.g. if the water is clear, is the sun out, etc.).
  • Crappie are great for eating, but be sure to check the regulations for keeping fish caught in public places.
  • You may want to try using a 2" sinking Rapala. Mack's Wedding Rings work great too if you put a worm on them.
  • Getting their nickname "papermouth" because crappies have a very thin mouth, anglers must be very careful to set the hook lightly and not too strong. Setting the hook too strong only results in a torn mouth and a lost catch.
  • Also don't oversize your bait or line since crappie are real finicky.
  • Live minnows can be extremely effective as live bait when catching crappie.
  • Keep a tight line, but not too tight. If too tight, you may tear the mouth of a crappie as it tries to get free after being hooked.
  • Choose the right hook set. Some hooks are specifically made for bass fishing. Don't use these.


  • Check the size regulations for fish release in your area. You don't want to destroy the fish population for other anglers!
  • Be careful when using hooks.
  • If you are trolling, check rod regulations. Some states restrict the number of rods you can use.

Things You'll Need

  • Tackle
  • Fishing pole
  • Bait (Small minnows, preferably)
  • A boat (opt.)
  • Bright colored lures/jigs
  • Snacks
  • Water

Article Info

Categories: Fishing