Two-steppin’ Crappies through the Ice

Crappies are definitely the ice angler’s choice each winter. They are a challenge and put up a nice fight, and taste great in the frying pan. Anytime we get a chance at a new crappie adventure we’re in, and then it’s time for a “crappie two-step.”

Today, it’s not like the old days where we braved the elements similar during the third day of the Iditarod. Now, we take it easy, use that thing between our ears to game plan and strategize and have some fun on the ice. Fishing should be fun, and not a struggle. These days, with the easy setups and modern hub and flip-over tents, you are popped up and ready in minutes and can fish in comfort and concentrate without freezing. And we use social media too, so if our buddies are posting good crappie photos on Facebook, we’ll post a private message or pic.

We use all the advantages that are available to us today. With the new Humminbird Helix-7 sonar/GPS ice unit and a LakeMaster map with their microSD card, we can scout out an area of any frozen lake before we even hit the water. Once on the lake, we can then walk, ATV or drive right up to any spot we located on the map or anywhere someone referred us to. We even once drove five hours to a frozen lake we had never been before, found the ramp, went out on the ice, and within 20 minutes had found a buddy’s hole that was marked by a single pistachio shell—now that’s precision. Of course, the fish had moved and the hole was dead, but 20 paces to the right we found the school and the crappie party was on again.

We use our Frabill Recruit 1250 one-man flip-over tents like little iceboats until we find a school. Then, we set up the Frabill Bro Hub once a good spot is found. I use an ION auger; it’s electric, so it’s quiet and smoke-free. You can drill the holes with no problems while in your tent.

Once the school is found, it’s time for that crappie two-step.

Now Poppee’s two-step, which is usually different from mine or perhaps different from yours, is still based on the same premise: attract the fish into your lair, pick off the aggressive ones and switch up to catch the tentative spooky ones and then repeat again. Poppee’s crappie two-step begins with the Demon. Their design is almost as old as he is, and the Demon has caught buckets of slabs for him and for thousands of anglers throughout the ice belt. He’ll have a big one, the size 4 rigged on one rod, and the smaller-sized 6 on another if we are on waters like Red Lake or Lake of the Woods. On smaller bodies of water, the size 6 is the big one and a size 10 is for the “pickers.” You get the idea—pick off the aggressive ones and switch to the teeny one and clean up on the rest.

His other favorite is the size 4 Demon Jigging Spoon, followed by the size 8. And here’s a tip: Always have the same color in both sizes; once you figure what that hot color is for the moment, you can use it.

My crappie two-step is a 1/8-ounce Pro Glow Slender Spoon, followed by the 1/16 ounce. But again, if I’m on the whopper crappie, I’ll use 1/4 ounce to call them in and 1/8 ounce to finesse them. Glow colors have evolved, and we like a red glow or a red tiger glow on Lake of the Woods, a blue glow parrot or blue glow tiger for the Dakotas and a green glow parrot with a nickel back on Lake Geneva or any other clear body of water.

Again, the crappie fishing is so much easier with a Humminbird Helix. Since crappies are suspenders, they can be anywhere from 1 foot off the bottom to 5 feet below the ice in over 30 feet of water. Without a locator, you are fishing blind. This is fine in 6 feet or less, but in the deeper waters it’s a giant advantage that allows you to find them in the water column, present your bait and watch their reaction. Sometimes they gobble it up; other times they stare at it like your gun dog pointing to a squirrel who wants it but just can’t eat it.

This winter, you don’t need “dance lessons” for the crappie two-step. Just pick your favorite lure in a couple of different sizes made in the same colors and you’ll be dancing the crappies out of that hole in the ice in no time.


Walt Matan and his father Poppee are the chief lure designers for Custom Jigs & Spins. For more information on ice fishing and to see all of Custom Jigs & Spins tackle log on to or call 800-831-5535 for a free, all-new catalog. You can also log on to to check out the Ice Hunter Series rod and reel combos and the Sentinel one-man tents.