By: Blake Tollefson
Each and every spring, crappies seem to occupy the minds of nearly every fisherman in the Midwest. Springtime crappies pile into the shallows with intentions of creating the future generations. These mass schools of fish are followed closely by schools of fishermen with intentions of obtaining a few meals of fish.
As the season progresses, the drones of crappie fisherman quickly transition their efforts towards the toothier varieties of fish species. The challenge of mid summer crappies can be a lot more rewarding than one might think. Based on personal experience, productive days during the the summer months will often yield much higher catch rates than those in the spring.
Rods, Reels, & Gear
If I could provide one piece of advice for summer crappies, or panfish in general, it would be, “Don’t waste your time with live bait.” Soft plastics, such as the Eurotackle B-Vibe and Fat Assassin, will out produce live bait applications throughout most of the summer months. Fish are extremely active during this period. Rigging plastics on a 1/32 or 1/16 oz jig head will cover almost all fishing conditions, depending on depth and weed cover. Opt for the former in shallow locations, or if there’s the likelihood to encounter thick weeds. Hard baits, like Eurotackle’s Z-Viber are also effective baits during the timeframe. The single hook and small profile of the 1/16 Z-Viber makes it a great choice for fishing in the thick stuff.
Fast to extra fast action rods are preferred for this type of fishing as they allow for quicker hook sets than typical moderate action panfish rods. Longer rods (6’9” to 7’3”) also have an advantage as they make casting light jigs a breeze. Opt for an ultralight to light power rod as they’ll help keep fish pinned on their way back to the boat.
Rods of this type should be paired up with a comparable 500 to 1000 size reel. Lines in the three to four pound class are preferred. Line type for this method of fishing is truly up to the discretion of the angler. Microbraids, monofilament, and fluorocarbon all have their advantages and disadvantages for this style of fishing.
Location, Location, Location
Anglers often question where crappies move to after they wrap things up in the shallows. In all honestly, they likely didn’t move that far. Start near the areas they were located during the spawn. Day in and day out, lush, green vegetation adjacent to those spawning areas will typically have the highest productivity.
Certain vegetation types will be more productive than others depending on a given body of water, but all weeds in general have the ability to hold fish. In this part of the country, everything from coontail to cabbage to lily pads are all fair game. Don’t be surprised if you find a rogue largemouth or walleye in your ventures, as they tend to roam these same areas.
Focus primarily on the weed edges during the summer months. Tools like side imaging technology help to pinpoint the edges, pockets, and changes in a hurry. You likely dropped some serious coin on that new unit, so it’s best to make sure you are using it to its fullest potential.
Once you’ve located some quality vegetation, start pitching the plastics to the weeds edges. Slowly roll the plastic over tops and edges of the weeds. On the initial casts, start reeling as soon as the lure hits the water. After a few casts let the lure sink a little before reeling. This method can help pinpoint the depths at which the fish are located.
If you start getting bit, anchor up or spot lock, as there are likely more fish nearby. If you aren’t finding fish, keep moving along the weed lines.
Crappies are located in a wide variety of locations during this time of year, including deep water and submerged wood. However, experience has shown that vegetation is often best for focusing your fishing efforts.
Good luck out there!