Look for crappie as spring progresses
Don't just head for the exits when the bass bite slows down this spring. Instead, downsize your gear, change your plan of action and go catch some crappie.
Of all the panfish species in North America, crappie are perhaps the most celebrated, and for good reason. They offer a great fight, especially on light tackle. Their relative scarcity compared to other panfish species makes them somewhat of a cool rarity. They make great table fare as well. All In all, the crappie is a great fish, and if you are looking to target them, there's a few things to know.
The distribution of black and white crappie in northern Illinois is wide-ranging. Many ponds, lakes and rivers throughout the area hold crappie, though waterways that experience higher fishing pressure tend to hold less. While crappie can be accessed in many Illinois waters, they are one of the harder species to locate.
Finding crappie schools is truly a game of inches sometimes, which makes persistence a big part of the equation in targeting them. During this time of year, shallow areas where crappie spawn are a good target. If you happen to find some adjacent wooded cover like downed trees or log jams, you are in business. Be mindful though that crappie like to move around, so don't be afraid to leave your spot in search of the schools.
Just as locating crappie is a nuanced affair, so to is picking out the right gear to target them with. In pretty much any situation, a 7-foot, light action rod can help you retain the feel necessary to detect bites while giving you the rod strength needed to fight the fish. When choosing line, anything from 4 to 6 pounds is preferable.
Bait selection is highly variable in the crappie world. It is in an angler's best interest to have many options available, as crappie can be fickle toward some baits and enthusiastic toward others. Live bait like trout worms, wax worms and small minnows are hard to beat, especially when fixed under a bobber. Bobbers help maintain depth control and also help to indicate the light bite of a crappie.
Many anglers have had continued success using artificial baits for crappie. Small plastics and jigs (one-eighth ounces or lighter) are great all-around baits for crappies of all sizes. Inline spinners like the Blue Fox Classic Vibrax or the Mepps Aglia are big crappie killers, as are minnow imitations like the Original Floating Rapala or the Keitech Easy Shiner.
Springtime might be more notable for the bass spawn and walleye runs, however it's hard to argue that the crappie bite isn't better now than at any other time of year.