How to Find and Catch March and April Crappie
Day 1: Finding Early-Spring Crappie in Kentucky with Malcolm Lane
Editor’s Note: Malcolm Lane of Kuttawa, Kentucky, guides on Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake for both crappie and bass and also catches sauger in March. Because Lane’s on the water every day and has to produce crappie, bass and sauger for his clients, we’ve asked him how to find and catch fish at this time of year.
Question: How do you catch crappie in the early spring?
Lane: I catch most of my crappie vertical jigging with hair jigs and plastic jigs tipped with minnows. I prefer to fish with 1/8-ounce Mister Twister Lightnin’ Bugs because they have a little mylar in them, which gives them a little flash. When the water’s really cold, I like to fish hair jigs tipped with minnows about half the time, because bigger crappie are caught with a minnow on the jig.
Question: What color jig do you use?
Lane: I like chartreuse-and-black, but if the water clears up, I prefer pink or blue. I’m generally fishing these jigs on 4- or 6-pound-test line with a 9-1/2-foot fly rod.
Question: Around what kind of structure do you fish?
Lane: In March, I fish around brush piles on creek channels. I also fish Porcupine trees (PVC pipes that come together in a hub and spoke out from that hub) out in 10 to 25 feet of water. Our lakes are getting a little bit older now, and the bottoms are becoming cleaner. So, anglers are putting out hickory trees and Porcupine Fish Attractors to help rebuild structure in the lake. If the crappie are aggressive in the early spring, they’ll either be holding above or at the edge of the brush. But if they’re not aggressive, they’ll be holding down in the brush. You’ll have to thread your jig through the brush to reach them. When this section of Kentucky is hit by a cold front, the crappie don’t want to bite. That’s when you’ve got to fish the Lightnin’ Bug jig down in the brush. Using 6-pound-test line, you often can straighten the hook on that jig. But even if you don’t straighten the hook, the line will break, and you won’t tear up the brush.
Question: Malcolm, what’s another tactic you use to catch crappie in March?
Lane: In March, the crappie are either extremely deep or shallow. If they’re shallow, I’m still fishing a Lightnin’ Bug jig, but I’m fishing a smaller size under a bobber tipped with a minnow. If the water’s cold, I’ll attract more strikes by tipping the bait with a minnow than if I don’t tip the bait with a minnow. If the water’s a little dingy, and the area gets some sunshine, the warmest water will be right up against the shoreline. So, I’ll set my bobber to suspend the Mister Twister Lightnin’ Bug jig about 2- to 3-feet deep. I’ll cast the jig to the shoreline and work that jig under the bobber. You can move the bait really slowly, or you can twitch it. I’m more of a twitcher. I get more strikes twitching the jig than when I reel it slowly. I prefer the 1/32-ounce jig when I’m fishing shallow water. I like to swim the light jig over shoreline brush and then stop the jig and let it fall on the other side of the brush. If I twitch the jig, I can twitch it over cover and stop it on the other side of the cover. At this time of year, I’m catching crappie that weigh from 1-3/4- to 2-pounds each. To catch a 2-pound-or-more crappie, I wait until later in the year when the female crappie is full of eggs.
Question: How many crappie do you catch in a day?
Lane: If I’m fishing when there’s a bad cold front, I may only catch two or three crappie in a day. But if a warm front comes into the area, or the water’s stable, I generally can catch 20 or more crappie in a day. The legal limit in Kentucky is 20 crappie per person at the first of March.
Question: Malcolm, what other lure do you fish for March crappie?
Lane: Many times I’ll fish a 1/16-ounce jig on 6-pound-test line with a 2-inch Curly Tail Grub and catch crappie all day. I fish a lot of chartreuse, black and even yellow. White is still productive in March. If I only can choose one color to fish, it probably will be chartreuse because it seems to be the best color all day, every day.
Question: How do you fish the Curly Tails?
Lane: I fish the Curly Tail Grubs with a slow retrieve, casting them to the shore and then creepy-crawling them out to deep water. If you don’t know what to do when you’re crappie fishing, put a 1/16-ounce Curly Tail Grub on 6-pound-test line, cast it out toward the shoreline, reel it in, and you’ll catch crappie. I’ll fish line as light as 4-pound test, using jigs as light as 1/32-ounce. I generally keep several-different colors of grubs. So, regardless of the water condition, I can match the color of jig to the color of water I fish. If you’ve got the Twister Tail grubs and the Lightnin’ Bug jigs, you’re prepared to catch crappie in almost any crappie-fishing situation. I catch numbers of crappie at Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake, and I depend on these jigs to produce crappie for me and my customers.
Learn more about catching crappie from some of the top pros, anglers and guides for crappie in the country. Get your copy of the Kindle eBook, “Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and Summer” by John E. Phillips by clicking here. Amazon Prime members can receive the book free for 5 days.