Casting jigs for crappie is an exciting alternative to spider-rigging, vertical jigging, or watching a floater. The one aspect of fishing that bass anglers have over most of us panfishermen is being able to feel the thump from a distance, and getting to set the hook hard on a short rod. There are times when this method works great for crappie though, and although we will not get as much fight, our supper will taste so much better!
Casting and retrieving jigs can be effective on various types of cover and at different times throughout the year. Modifying your lure’s style, weight and size, as well as how you retrieve the bait, are minor alterations that can help you find major success through all four seasons.
Here are the things you need to consider to catch crappie casting jigs:
- The gear
- The countdown
- Seasonal changes
- The cover
Gear up for casting jigs is easier on the wallet than most other tactics. An inexpensive spinning reel and 6- to 7-foot rod can be found at any tackle store for under $40. Add a spool of 6-pound line and a small assortment of jigheads and plastics and you’re ready to go.
Stepping up from a prepackaged rod and reel combo is a good idea if you intend to fish with it more than a few times a year. A light, graphite rod like the 7-foot B’n’M Sam Heaton Super Sensitive will allow better bite detection than a fiberglass rod, and a smoother reel like the Pflueger President 6920 will last longer and make casting and retrieving over and over again a snap. This setup will run around $100 and is hard to beat, but there is a plethora of more pricey options for those destined to break the bank and cheaper options as well.
Countdown to success
Casting a jig and counting it down is a tried and true method to consistently putting your bait in the strike zone. Crappie that are in or suspended over cover may require an exact depth to elicit bites. Casting out and counting “one Mississippi’s” from the time the lure hits the water will give you an indication of the depth.
Some anglers believe a 1/8-ounce jig will fall 1 foot per second, while others believe a 1/16-ounce jig will fall at the same rate. The truth is, the size and thickness of your plastics, the type of line, and even the water can vary the rate of fall. I’ll even let you in on an industry secret, if you take a 1/8-ounce jighead from five different manufacturers and hang them all on tiny culling beams, you’d be lucky to find two that were the same. The best way to figure how fast your particular jig will fall is find an exact depth, cast to it, and note when you hit the bottom.
Making simple alterations will allow you to catch crappie in all four seasons.
Spring tactics - During the spring, crappie are either preparing for the spawn or spawning, and depending on the cover or structure they spawn on, casting jigs can be an excellent way to pick them off. Gravel banks are ideal places to find spawning crappie, and casting a jig to the banks allows you to probe an area while staying off the bed.
A 1/8 or 1/16-ounce Roadrunner with a 1 1/2-inch black/chartreuse or pink/chartreuse curly tail is hard to beat for spawning crappie. Casting as close to the shore as possible and “tickling” the bottom with a medium paced retrieve is very effective for spawning fish. If crappie are staged a few feet off the bottom, as will often happen during changing weather patterns in the spring, tying a second, 1/32-ounce jig on a leader a few feet up will pick off those fish as well.
Summer patterns - Hot water crappie are often harder to catch, but by speeding up your retrieve and causing more water disturbance and sound, along with a bigger bait, you can find success during the warmer months.
A 1/4–ounce Roadrunner or a 1/8-ounce Rockport Rattler with a larger, brightly colored curly tail or paddle tail, retrieved quickly and high in the water column is a good place to begin.
Summer time crappie are shallower than other times of the year due to the lack of oxygen in the deeper water, and fishing below the oxygen line or thermocline is futile. Crappie are also more scattered during the summer, so fan-casting is a preferred tactic.
Fall crappie become more cover related and begin to feed more aggressively as the water cools. This is the prime time for finding schooling crappie on ledges or cover and casting out and counting down to the top of the cover or until you get bit. A slow to medium retrieve is the best speed in the fall, and any number of jigs can work.
A good starting point is a 1/16-ounce jighead and a 1 1/2-inch tube jig in a solid color and chartreuse, depending on water clarity. Casting and letting the bait fall slowly will garner more strikes, and adding a scented attractant like a crappie nibble will help when the bite is slow.
Winter fishing challenges casting crappie anglers more so than the other seasons. While crappie are actively feeding through most of the winter, they are extremely lethargic and will make little effort to chase a bait. The positive side of winter crappie is that they are often found in tight schools, and catching one often leads to catching many more.
Minimizing your bait’s size and weight is the most important factor to catching cold water crappie. A 1/32 to 1/24-ounce jighead with a 1 to 1 1/2-inch stinger-style jig in natural colors will entice most crappie. Retrieve the bait as slow as possible once you find the strike zone, and be ready for extremely light bites. During the other three seasons, 6-pound test monofilament is adequate, but in winter going to a 4-pound mono or a 2-pound diameter braid can really improve your catch.
Picking apart cover
Brush piles or stake beds are classic cover for crappie, but casting a jig into the middle of them can be hazardous. Although there are weedless jigs out there for crappie, the most common tactic is to retrieve just above the brush, occasionally bumping the top. Actively feeding crappie will come out after the bait.
Heavy vegetation is impossible to cast into, but working the edges can be very productive. B’n’M Poles and Hydroforce/Lucas Oil Pro Matt Morgan catches a lot of crappie casting and retrieving on the edges of lily pads and grass mats.
“Crappie will hang on the edges of vegetation,” Morgan said. “Casting and retrieving jigs along the outside of lily pads and grass will bring those aggressive fish out.”
Standing timber is best fished vertically, but during an active bite, you can cast beyond and retrieve through timber and catch crappie.
Casting jigs for crappie is an easy way to search for fish, and once you find them, you will have a blast feeling the bite, setting the hook, and pulling them in!
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