Pitching for Spring Crappie
Pitching for Spring Crappie
The first sunny days of spring begin pushing slab crappiei shallow, setting up fun opportunities for close quarters fish catching.
A Thill Crappie Cork is the key to Barry Morrow’s fishing strategy when the crappie move shallow to spawn every spring. Detecting slight nibbles is critical to hooking fish that might be warding off invaders and not necessarily feeding, and Morrow knows of no better tool for transmitting every tiny take than a Crappie Cork.
Morrow, who guides on the legendary waters of Oklahoma’s Lake Eufaula, catches crappie year ‘round, and every season has its virtues. Still, there’s nothing he enjoys more than pitching jig/float combinations during the spring. “I think it’s the most fun way to fish,” Morrow said. “There’s just something about watching that bobber go under.”
Morrow’s preferred rig for pitching float rigs consists of a 1/8-ounce or 1/16-ounce Fuzz-E Grub and a properly matched Crappie Cork. He fishes extensively with Fuzz-E Grubs for most crappie applications because the marabou creates such a natural motion in the water. He is also a big fan of Dancin' Crappie Tubes rigged on Lindy Jigs, and often he’ll have one angler rigged with a Fuzz-E Grub and another with a Dancin’ Crappie Tube until the crappie show a preference.
His float of choice is always a Thill Crappie Cork. The bright colors make this well-balanced float highly visible in all conditions. As importantly, Crappie Corks are rated according to the amount of weight they are designed to suspend. By using 1/8-ounce-rated Crappie Corks with 1/8 ounce jigs, he can be sure that that he’ll have just the right amount of buoyancy. A less buoyant float wouldn’t support his jig. A more buoyant float would be less sensitive and would cause Morrow and his clients to miss fish.
Morrow uses 10- or 11-foot poles and spinning reels, which he spools with 8- or 10-pound-test Silver Thread AN40. When the fish first start moving shallow, he’ll typically peg the float 12 to 18 inches above the jig. Through the heart of the spawn, though, the jig and float might be separated by as little as 6 inches. He’s often pitching into less than two feet of water, and he wants his jig to hang right in the fish’s faces.
Morrow noted that there were days last spring when the fish were so shallow that they pushed up wakes with their dorsal fins when they darted over to grab baits. “Even with them so shallow, you’d never see them until you pitched in your jig, but then they’d come racing to grab the bait,” he said.
Morrow generally keeps the boat 10 or 12 feet away from the bank and pitches to shallow buckbrush or to other areas where he expects crappie to spawn. The float allows him to suspend his jig off the bottom in shallow water and to move it slowly along in order to prompt strikes from fish that are protecting nests. He’ll pitch the rig close to the cover and watch for an immediate reaction.
“As soon as it hits the water, be focused,” he said. “Often that’s when they’ll hit.”
If he doesn’t get bit immediately, Morrow will let the bait settle for a moment and then will work the jig by simply pulling the cork very slowly toward him and pausing it. If the bed is a little bit away from the brush, it may take the bait moving into the fish’s territory to prompt it to strike.
“Don’t ever look away,” Morrow warned. “Not even for a moment – or you’ll miss fish.”
The hook-set is not a hard snap. That will actually pull the jig out of the fish’s mouth more often than not. Instead, hooking fish calls for a gentle lift – just a tightening of the line. Although the hook-set is not sharp, it is important. Most fish will drop the jig without ever getting hooked if you fail to see the cork move and to tighten the line.
Morrow actually delivers his baits into the zone with the technique that bass fishermen call “flipping.” Before starting, he pulls several extra feet of line off his reel and holds that line in his free hand, which is outstretched to the side. He releases that line when he pitches the bait to the cover and then grabs it again to work the rig back to him. By controlling the extra line with his free hand, he can quickly take up or release line. Once Morrow starts working a bank, he rarely touches his reel, even to land a fish.
Morrow begins flipping float rigs once the fish begin moving shallow with the first notable warming trends of spring. He looks for surface temperatures in the high 50s or low 60s. That typically occurs during the first half of March at Lake Eufaula, but the timing will vary from location to location, even on the same lake, and the fish will move up and down with changing weather patterns. Once they begin moving up, he usually can catch at least some of his fish that way through mid- to late April.
Prior to the fish moving shallow to spawn, Morrow will target staging fish, which normally situate themselves atop creek channel drops in 8 to 12 feet of water and in the vicinity of spawning areas. He’ll work with one or two poles in hand, hanging 10 feet of line off the tip of his rod and a tandem jig rig straight beneath his rod tip. He’ll move the boat very slowly, following the channel edge as he goes and always watching his graph for interesting cover and for fish. Morrow’s two jigs, which often include a Fuzz-E Grub and a Dancin’ Crappie Tube, probe slightly different levels of the water column, and both stay in the strike zone all the time.
During the first strings of warm sunny days each spring, Morrow often will begin his days fishing for staging crappie along the channel edges. Late in the afternoon, though, after the sun has had time to warm the water, he’ll test some shallow spots. If he finds shallow fish, he’ll look for more, and he’ll return the next afternoon.
The fish will move up and down during the day and from day to day with changing conditions, and the males will spend time shallow before the females move into the shallow water. Eventually the shallow fish will bite better than the deeper fish, and Morrow will turn primarily to pitching jigs under Crappie Corks for a few fabulously fun weeks.
To learn more about fishing with Barry Morrow, visit him online at www.barrymro.com, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or give him a call at (660) 723-2667.