Crappie Fishing & Panfish

Improve Fall Crappie Fishing with Subtle Color Changes

Jason Sealock

Fishing in the fall can be an overlooked prime time for crappie fishing. Mostly because anglers get set in their ways for fishing for these tasty panfish. They either want to only spider rig, vertical jig or fish when the fish are shallow and easy to get at. Likewise anglers seem to get set on certain colors. And that's generally because a color has produced numerous crappie for them. But when that color quits producing they seem to go opposite spectrum on colors and never really figure out what happened to the color that had been working.

That was the case for me for a long time. I'm one of those guys who grew up with a father who often quipped that any color was good for bass fishing as long as it was grape with firetail. So for me color was not really a big deal. Now some 40 years later it was still hard to convince me that color really made that big a difference. Honestly crappie fishing is where I have learned more about color preference than probably any other type of fishing I do. Although I do still have a lot of that "any color is good as long as it has chartreuse when crappie fishing" in me.

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Similar but Different Color Mods

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Jason Sealock
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All these colors are the same right? To many crappie anglers, they will most certainly tell you yes. I have caught so many crappie on baits with chartreuse tails, that I definitely lean that way first nearly every time. 

But I have had my eyes opened more times than I care to count now fishing with other good crappie anglers about how color matters when the weather makes the bite slower, the water color varies or the fish are heavily pressured. I have also had Garmin Livescope show me on numerous occasions that they simply do not react to certain colors at certain times. We could spend the rest of our lives trying to figure out why that is. I'll save you the time. It just is. 

But a year ago I stumbled onto something I think might help other crappie fishermen. 

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Change with Water Changes

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Jason Sealock
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I was fishing in the back of a creek, and the water was really dirty. The Refrigerator White Strike King Mr. Crappie Slabalicious was catching them pretty good back there. The bite shut down on the cover back there, so I meander out a bit to the middle of that creek. I was marking crappie, but they wouldn't hit the Chartreuse and White Slabalicious anymore that was so good just 2 miles back. So I went with a more translucent white Bobby Garland Baby Shad in Glacier and dyed the tails chartreuse.

Immediately, I started getting bit one right after the other. I mopped up on a couple piles quick. Huh. That subtle change was all it took. 

So I meander out to the mouth of the creek and main lake. The water was almost completely clear out there. Guess what? The color that was working in the middle wasn't getting bit anymore. It seems odd still that the fish were that particular. I'm thinking these were pressure fish out on the main lake as I have seen other guys fishing around there. 

So I got more subtle and went with a clear silver flake Mr. Crappie Lightning Shad and used a chartreuse marker to lightly added some translucent chart to the tail. It worked again and we were able to fill a 2-man limit of crappie. 

So basically I changed the hues not completely scrapped what was working. The fish were reacting to Chartreuse and White, then when they stopped I went a more muted version of it and got bit again. And then when that stopped I went even more muted and clear for the clearer water.

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Keep Swapping Hues

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Jason Sealock
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I think we give fish too much credit for sure. But with LiveScope I've been able to watch crappie come to a jig and leave it. I've watched dozens swim up to a jig and leave it. It's frustrating. It's also very educational. I would have never learned what I did if I hadn't taken the time to experiment with colors. 

Because I know what colors work for me a lot of the time, I can easily make a small box of subtly different colored plastics in the same general color pattern and keep getting bites as I find varying water clarity, more pressured fish, and just inconsistent behavior with the fish without having to explore 50 different colors. 

Don't get me wrong I will abandon colors and go completely opposite end of the spectrum until I dial in on one that seems to get more bites, but I've seen this subtle change keep them going for a lot longer when you figure out a good color pattern.