Timing the Bite for the Best Crappie Fishing of the Year



One of the most-asked questions relating to crappie fishing is about timing the peak of the best bites of the year. As fishing pros running a guide service and outfitting operation, we’re on the water all the time and have favorite times of the year to target different kinds of fish. Like anything else, the hottest bites for crappies can vary a bit from year to year depending on the weather. But once they really get rolling, the fishing can be literally incredible on top waters.


Peak timing

For most of our favorite lakes, and many others across the lower Midwest and central United States, crappie fishing peaks typically run from around late March through mid-May. April is a glorious month for specs—probably the best month overall—but sometimes when waters warm fast, the last half of March is better. In cooler springs, the first half of May has been truly incredible. Still, anytime during these three months is a great time to wet a line for this species.

Fall can also produce great spec fishing in some places. Where ice isn’t much of an issue, winter crappie fishing continues through the season. And while the hot waters of summertime usually mean slow crappie fishing in many places, two of our favorite home lakes produce good to excellent crappie fishing.

But compared to all other seasons, spring is it. No matter how great the crappie fishing can be, at any body of water, in any region, it’s still not likely to be any better than it is there in spring as big crappies flood the shallows to feed and spawn.

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Weather and tactics

Weather affects crappies, as it does all fish species. In fact, while things like moon phases, fishing and boating pressure, sun conditions, water levels and other factors affect the quality of fishing, good or bad, weather conditions affect fish more than anything else. In spring, we like to see gradual warming trends and long periods of stable weather. Cold fronts slow fish activity more than anything else, and different tactics are required as conditions change. This is where the advantage of having a large team of guides comes in so handy. We’re able to work together to narrow down changing fishing patterns much faster and get back on hot bites.

The general rules of thumb are to fish faster, with larger artificial lures, in shallower waters when conditions are good in spring. With poor weather, it’s to progress to deeper water, while fishing slower, employing smaller lures or even live baits if need be. Dropping down a little bit in line weight when crappies get finicky can be effective. Lighter lines are thinner in diameter and harder for fish to see, and they really add extra action to small lures employed in these situations. While things can slow down at times with bad weather, most days during spring produce excellent crappie fishing action, plus a great shot at a trophy-caliber specimen.

Get out there

Spring is a welcome relief after a long cold winter. The fishing is better than at any other time of year for many species, including crappies. This is the time of year for catching both numbers of these beautiful fish, and giant slabs worthy of the wall, too. Springtime also offers excellent fishing for other species and is a great time for targeting many species at the same time—one of our favorite kinds of fishing. The only real mistake is not taking time to venture into the great outdoors.