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Crappie Sight and Jig Selection

Image of Crappie Jig AssortmentCrappie can see colors very well and that is why most anglers like to use colorful lures to fish for them. However, like all fish, a crappie’s ability to see is influenced by water depth, light levels, water clarity and water temperature. Also, a crappie's willingness to attack lures of different colors and presentations depends heavily on the fish's activity level.

Water filters colors out of light and certain colors disappear first. Just think of a rainbow that has red hues on one side and gradually fades to blue colors on the other side. The colors on the red side are filtered out first and the colors on the blue side are filtered out last. Consequently, as water begins to get deep it looks green, but deeper water looks blue. Because of this natural law, red lures are visible only in shallow water, orange a little deeper, yellow even deeper, green deeper still and blue lures are visible in the deepest water. Black is also a good deep-water lure color. White is visible at many depths, because it reflects any available light. But there are other vision factors that you must consider before you select a lure.

The effects of water clarity and light levels are not always obvious. The simplest way to remember this concept is that richer versions of any color are most visible in clear water and bright light, while lighter, pastel versions of each color are most visible in stained or murky water and/or low light levels. In other words, red, orange, white, rich green and deeper blue are most visible in clear water with bright light. As light levels fade and/or the water becomes murkier, the best colors become pink, yellow, chartreuse, lighter blue, and black. When the fish seem to lose interest in a lure that was working well earlier in the day, it may be due to changes in light or water clarity. If changes in wind or current have let the water calm down and become clearer, or if clouds have cleared away to allow brighter light, change to richer lure colors or white. If the wind has churned up the water and decreased visibility or if clouds have moved in or the sun is going down, switch to pastel colors or black.

Image of Berkley Vanish Fluorocarbon LineIn some recent studies, water temperature was determined to have a dramatic effect on fish vision. Since crappie rely heavily on vision for hunting, this information is important for crappie anglers to understand. The concept is very simple: the colder the water, the better a fish can see. This is because the lower temperatures help the cells in a fish's eye to function better. This means that crappie, like other fish, may be able to see smaller lures at deeper levels in cold water than they can in warm water. It also means that they will be better able to see fishing line, so an angler may need to use lighter monofilament or fluorocarbon line in cold water.

Finally, a crappie's activity level will determine how it reacts to lures of different colors and presentations. The most substantial difference in lure color is the contrast between lure and background color. Active fish are more likely to attack lures that contrast with the color of the water and structure in the area. Think of red, orange, yellow, white, and sometimes black if the background is light. Inactive fish are more likely to attack lures that blend with the surrounding background colors, like a baitfish would. Try green, chartreuse, blue, neutral colors, and occasionally black if the background is dark. For lure presentation, active fish are more likely to attack a lure with more movement, while inactive fish are more likely to attack lures with less movement. There needs to be some lure movement, though, even if it is followed by a pause, because movement is what tells the fish that the lure may be food, rather than part of the background. Always consider water depth, water clarity, light levels, and water temperatures to help decide which colors to try first. And always be ready to try something different if the first choice doesn't work.


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A type of lure featuring a weighted lead head poured around the top of a hook which can then be rigged with a soft plastic body or skirt.

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