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Spring Crappie

“When the red birds are whistling, the crappies will be biting.”

Wally Marshall shared that piece of wisdom with me in a recent phone conversation. Wally is better known by his trademarked nickname Mr. Crappie. Mr. Crappie is the best-known crappie angler in North America and the world. For good reason, he’s won numerous crappie tournaments and created many, many outstanding crappie baits, rods, reels, and line used to catch crappies. Right now, in some places and soon in other places, crappies will be in the shallows looking for a place to spawn. Following are some ideas that Mr. Crappie has employed to catch early season crappies.

There are several reasons that crappies are so popular this time of year. In some places, the fishing season isn’t open for some game fish, but in most locales, crappies are fair game. They can be willing biters and dock or shore fishermen can be just as successful as anglers in boats. In fact, back in the early days of crappie tournaments, anglers had the choice to fish from shore, while wading, or from a boat. Wally went the wader route and won several important tournaments fishing in shallow water in those waders.

Early in the year, it’s often best to find the warmest water. Find warm water with cover that’s near deep water and you’ll have crappies that are willing to bite. If the weather turns cold, they like to be able to move quickly to the deeper water. They’ll also move there after they spawn.

When the fish are shallow, an angler needs to be quiet. Shallow water fish are spooky. When fishing from a boat, Marshall likes to move quietly into a suspected fish holding area. When he’s reached the area that he wants to fish, he secures his boat so that it doesn’t move. Shallow water anchors allow him to do this. His choice of rod is one of his own Mr. Crappie rods in the ten-to-twelve-foot length. With this rod, he can dabble a jig in a hole in the rushes, or next to a dock, log, or any other piece of cover that might hold a fish. Quietly lower a jig into a fishy-looking spot, jig it a couple of seconds, then move it to another near-by spot. Fish all the way around the boat. You’re going to get bit.

Fishing the Midwest television host and fishing guide Mike Frisch and I have used this same technique in Midwest waters with success. A long rod and some Mr. Crappie Crappie Thunder jigs were all we needed to get in on the action. Mike and I used Bream Sticks. These are inexpensive rods that don’t have reels. We just tied a six-to-eight-foot length of six-pound test line to the eye at the tip of the rod and swung the jigs around shallow rushes. We caught crappies, perch, and bluegills with regularity. Quite simple and very productive.

Mr. Crappie and Mr. Frisch agree that color can be an important consideration. They both have their favorites as most anglers do, but in stained water both will reach for a bright jig, something with orange or chartreuse, and in clear water, both like something that looks more natural.

Now, back to that thought from Mr. Crappie about “When the red birds are whistling, the crappies will be biting.” That’s good advice. Somewhere near where you live the cardinals are whistling or will be soon. You should get ready to catch some crappies. But Mr. Crappie was quick to add that “anytime you get the opportunity to go fishing, that’s the best time to go fishing.”

– Bob Jensen of

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