Outdoorsmen look forward to the crappie spawn with the same anticipation as opening day of deer season.

Outdoorsmen look forward to the crappie spawn with the same anticipation as opening day of deer season.

Fish move in shallow during the crappie spawn, and while the timing isn’t set on a calendar, it happens pretty much the same time every year.

Two professional Eufaula Lake guides, Barry Morrow and Todd Huckabee, spend most of the spring catching big slabs by boat, but acknowledge that at this time of year the bank-bound guys have just as good of a shot of filling a limit as they do.

The following are tips and riggings that will help you fill your limit:

Rigs, jigs and floats

Key to shoreline crappie success is a rig that can be pitched or cast to targets, and suspend at a proper depth while fish congregate within easy casting range of the shore.
Shore gear is simple. Use light spinning tackle spooled with 10-pound test, an one-eighth to quarter-ounce Watsit Jig or YUM Wooly Beavertail and a Thill Wobble Bobber or Crappie Cork matched to the size of your jighead.

Casting a jig allows you to travel light, with nothing but your rod and reel, a small box of tackle and a stringer, which means you can walk the shore to search for fish. If the fish are fussy, you can fish a minnow under a float; however, a jig often will produce as many fish, and you don’t have to buy minnows for each trip or carry a minnow bucket.

The Wobble Bobber lends itself nicely to the shoreline approach because it can be cast long distances and with good accuracy. As the name suggests, it also dances when it bounces in the waves, adding action to any jig that’s dangled below it.

Good shoreline areas for spring crappie fishing typically include riprap banks, especially those along bridge crossings, coves and pockets lined with downed trees or the edge of stumpy flats.

“The most important thing is that an area is out of prevalent winds,” Huckabee said. “Crappie will spawn on all different types of banks and will use almost any kind of cover, but they won’t even try to spawn where waves crash every time the wind blows.”

Fish specific pieces of cover and the edges of the rocks or weed lines by casting or pitching beside the cover, letting the jig settle beneath the float, leaving it still for several seconds and then working the rig with alternating twitches and pauses. If that doesn’t prompt strikes, try following the initial pause with a slow, steady retrieve.

If you catch mostly males around shallow cover, try making long casts out away from the bank and working the deeper water away from the cover, but with the jig set at the same depth as when working shallow cover.

According to Huckabee, for the most part, big females only move tight to the cover at night. However, during the day they will stay at the same level in the water column, suspended over deeper water just out from the bank.

Pitches and casts
Huckabee and Morrow normally pitch float rigs instead of casting simply because it’s faster and more efficient if the water in a lake is even somewhat stained. Both have learned  that the muddier the water, the closer you can approach spawn-time crappie, and the shallower they will “do their stuff.”

Morrow commonly uses a Watsit Spin during the spring for the added flash that triggers non-aggressive crappie. For Eufaula’s chocolate-milk-colored water he pegs a Thill Crappie Cork about two feet up the line to keep it suspended at the proper depth.

Huckabee, who favors a Wooly Beavertail or Wooly Bee, leaves the rig motionless beside the cover at first and then reels the rig slowly and steadily away to trigger fish.

Both anglers cover a lot of shoreline this time of year as they search for active fish. When crappie hit, they set the hook with a flip of the wrist, swing the fish back into the boat without touching the reel, unhook the fish, and then pitch the rig back to the same spot.

Bank-bound anglers should do the same. Work a productive spot thoroughly before moving on.

If the water is clearer than expected, bank-bound anglers need to stay back farther from the target and cast to it, but with the same rig and presentations. The only difference may be to set the jig to ride a little deeper than in muddy water.

This is the one time of year when bank-bound anglers have just as good of a shot at catching a limit of big slabs as the guy in the $40,000 bass boat, and it’s great to get outside after a long winter.

The sunshine, light breeze, the best shallow crappie fishing of the year and a skillet-full of the tastiest freshwater fish you can catch make the crappie spawning season something to look forward to all year long.

Kenneth L. Kieser is a local outdoor enthusiast.