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Written By: Roland Aspiras, May 25, 2014
For many anglers in Northern California, spring marks the beginning of the season for salmon, striped bass, and other popular gamefish across our great bodies of water. For me it marks the start of crappie season.
Anglers that I meet are always surprised when I tell them my favorite fish to chase, above all the rest - is crappie.
While they may not fight as hard as a Florida Strain Largemouth, they are equally as tricky to catch, and at times are extremely leery when it comes to striking a bait. Like their sunfish cousins, they relate to structure and/or cover at different times of the year, and at different times of the day.
In the spring, the overall pattern for crappie is to fish shallow. Many of our lakes in Northern California feature creek arms with coves which posses the proper depth to facilitate the spawn.
Look for areas in the range of five to ten feet with deep water close-by. If you locate these properties along with cover such as trees, stumps and weeds, you’re golden.. Lake Amador in Ione has many of these properties, along with a healthy population of threadfin shad. These factors create an excellent crappie fishery.
I have found that the best presentation for fishing shallow, springtime crappie is to run bobbers.
Rigging for this method is simple. Start off with a medium action spinning rod and reel with 4 pound test line. Tie on a crappie jig, and finish it with an adjustable bobber.
Good colors for your jig can vary in the spring just like any other time of the year, I like to rotate often to find which one works best. An easy formula is to start with bright colors in the morning, and more natural colors during the day. Lakes like Amador with a threadfin shad population call for blues and silver tones. If you can find those colors with sparkles, you’re golden.
I normally start off fishing a cove by working the points first, then work my way in. Whether I’m in a boat or fishing from the bank, I’ll make long casts so I can cover water. Don’t forget to work over cover like sunken trees, weedlines and overhanging tree branches. Once I start drawing hits in a certain location, I’ll work the same location over and over. Remember - crappie are a schooling fish.
I have several ways of working a bobber rig. Sometimes the easiest and most productive method for me is a very slow retrieve with a couple pops of the rod tip, then a dead stop. Repeat the process. Key in on which part of the motion works. At times, they want a dead stop. Other times they will hit on the pop. Other times, they’ll hit on just a super-slow steady retrieve. Experiment with different things until you find your own groove.
Typically, you’ll know a fish is on when your bobber is slowly pulled underwater. Other times the fish will peck and nip at the jig but the bobber will stay afloat. This usually means the fish are finicky. Try using a different color jig, adding scent (I like Pro-Cure’s Threadfin Shad gel), or you can try trimming down the skirt of your jig so it has a smaller profile in the water.
Crappie typically spawn in the months of April and May, and during the full and new moon phases. Right now is a perfect time to target crappie at your favorite lake. Fishing shallow with bobbers is a highly effective method to target them and is a great way to get the kids to get in on the action.
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