For starters, make your first priority water temperature. This will help you develop a pattern by which you can then try and replicate from spot to spot, also considering depth, structure, and how the fish are holding.
This time of the year, in our general Midwest area, the pre-spawn stage at which the fish are at is likely to vary from one fishery to the next, and even within a specific lake, one will find varying temperatures.
I’ll use the weekend past as an example. Three of us Olathe, KS slab chasers committed a weekend to full pursuit of ye olde paper mouth, and selected one of MO’s finer reservoirs as our destination.
Day one launch put us “on the river” where we knew warmer water would likely prevail. By seeking out the warmest water we could find, along with marking fish at consistent depths, we set to our task of spider-rigging a specific area to try and cover a maximum amount of water at a variety of depths to make our hunt as “efficient” as possible.
With three guys spider-rigging a small area that shows marks on the Garmin, it doesn’t typically take too long to find and establish a pattern that can be replicated.
For us it was rigging up and down a 20-30 yard general area, following over a 10-12’ break where the fish were stacked 8-10’ down, and in 61 degrees water temp. Utilizing both/either Capps and Coleman Rig or a Double Jig/Minnow Rig - using minnows on your basic gold hooks (or I use the red Mr. Crappie hooks) the three of us limited in a little over 2 hours once we nailed the pattern.
The next day, we launched further down on the lake where the confluence of several “rivers” left us with a water temperature quite different than the day before. Varying anywhere from 52-56 degrees, a fairly serious swing, by our expectations, we set out to find a whole new pattern.
While finding schools of fish a bit deeper and a bit tighter, we found with each spot that these fish were simply not as active. We set our mind to motoring up river in search of warmer water temps, and settled in a cove where we marked fish more “loosely” scattered in 56-57 degrees. After rigging a couple areas of this wind protected cove, we started to consistently pick them up 10-12’ down on a 12-14’ break. Another 3 hours later we were cleaning 3 more limits, out of water that was unproductive enough that no other boats were around all morning.
Again, working together in the boat, everyone working different depths and rigs and scenarios, and covering lots of water, will eventually help you nail a pattern, leading to more fun – and more crappie – for the whole boat. A little “work” to find the first few often makes for a lot of FUN once you find them!
Gear: When we are spider rigging, we typically use 12-14’ rods, and I personally prefer an 8 or 10’ for my inside rod. The Bass Pro Shops crappie gear is top notch, and I own a variety of different Crappie Maxx rods. We use the Crappie Maxx Crappie reel for the longer rods, as there isn’t typically a lot of reeling going on when you are swinging 13” slabs in the boat on a 12-14 rod.
Pay attention to the water temp, and look for those patterns as the fish start to move up into the shallower water in the next few weeks! Whatever you do, be sure to stay out of the woods… leave all those mushrooms for me ;)