Just read this on another site about crappie. Thought it had some good information:
Perhaps no species of fish is more indicative of the arrival of spring than crappie. They are the first of the warm-water panfish to head for the shallows and, quite frankly, that's about the only time many anglers pay any attention to them.
The reason for that is simple. Much of the year, crappie inhabit deep water, often suspending off bottom, making fishing for them a lot more difficult than when they move into the shallows. And being relatively soft-fleshed, crappie are best eating when they come from cold water.
But crappie have one attribute that makes them especially attractive to some anglers: They are suckers for jigs. Although probably more commonly pursued with live minnows, jigs -- the simplest of artificial baits -- are as effective, if not more so, than live bait.
And that's what spurs Jim Horn to get after them.
A talented angler who fishes for everything that swims, Horn has made a name for himself as a competitive bass fisherman in the Michiana area. He calls crappie fishing "spring training," for bass season.
"If you can catch crappie on a jig, you'll have no trouble catching bass,'' says Horn, a postal worker who fishes almost daily. "By the time bass season opens, you're tuned up if you've been crappie fishing."
I met up with Horn twice recently -- one week apart -- to prospect for pre-spawn crappie on Diamond Lake. Both times we had quite a bit of success using small plastic grub-bodied jigs, though we had to change techniques on our second outing to make it happen again.
Our first meeting, the end of the second week of April during that unbelievable span of June-like weather, we boated about 40 crappie (along with a couple of perch, a dozen bass, a bluegill and a pike) by tossing tiny jigs at weed beds in 9 feet to 11 feet of water. The trick, as Horn explained it, was to swim the jig as slowly as possible right along the tops of the weeds. But, even then, there was a little more to it than met the eye.
Horn had me down something like 10 to 0 when he suggested I was using gear too heavy for the task. My 6-pound test line and 1/16th ounce jig head were like shark gear compared to his 2-pound mono and 1/32nd ounce jigs. As soon as I set down my rod and picked up Horn's spare, I started boating crappie, too.
Horn prefers small jigs with tentacle tails. Curly tailed jigs are of no advantage when fishing slowly, he said, whereas the ripped skirt-ends of tube-style jigs will undulate seductively under water, even with no retrieve.
"Hair jigs are good, too," Horn said, "But the trouble with them is if you want to change color you have to retie. With these tube jigs you just pull off the body and put on another one."
Our second trip began like the first (we started earlier in the morning and the mercury read a frosty 34 degrees, though it would warm to nearly 70 by mid afternoon). We pitched our jigs at weed beds, which were quite visible in the ultraclear water under a sunny sky, and caught a few fish, though it was generally slow.
We made a move to shallower water, thinking perhaps the crappie had shifted into spawning mode, but came away empty handed. So we went back to the deeper weed beds and changed techniques. And we were back in business.
Horn clipped a small bobber on his line about 6 feet above his jig so it would just tick the tops of the weeds. With just enough wind to push the cork across the lake surface, the jig moved ever so S-L-O-W-L-Y. And that's how the crappie wanted it.
Despite a week of solid warm weather, the fish hadn't moved up, or become more aggressive. They were right where we left them but biting much lighter than they'd been. Often, the take was betrayed by only the most minor movement of the bobber. By quitting time in early afternoon, we'd boated about 50 of the pisciverous panfish (though fewer non-target species than a week earlier).
To Horn, the fish are right on schedule now, though they started a little later than last year.
"Last year, we were catching them like this in the middle of March," he said. "This year, people were still ice fishing in the middle of March."
Last year, Horn said, he found the peak of spawning activity occurred early in the first week of May. This year, he said, he expects about the same thing.
(As an aside, I kept a handful of fish for the fryer. The females' egg sacks were still quite firm, indicating the spawn was still a ways away.)
So things should be ideal right now in southern Michigan lakes.
As for parting advice, Horn said anglers who want to sack up the crappies might be well advised to leave the minnow buckets at home.
"I'd say 90 to 95 percent of the time, jigs will outfish minnows," he said. "They're just more versatile. You can do more things with a jig than you can with a minnow."