Not every angler owns a boat, and if you’re planning on fishing from shore this spring, don’t be discouraged. As the water warms and the days lengthen, there’s no better time to try for crappie with your feet planted firmly on the ground.
In fact, think of spring as the season when the fish come to you!
During the spawn, crappie migrate from deep holding points to the shallows, giving land-locked anglers a chance to hook monster slabs. And the cover they look for during the spawn is often within feet of the bank.
So if you’re curious about how to fish for crappie from shore, new to fishing, or just want to deepen your technical know-how, keep reading!
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During the winter, crappie look for deep holes, sheltered basins, or channels where they can wait out the colder months in a state of near torpor. In shallow lakes and ponds that don’t offer these opportunities, they’ll hunker down in the deepest water they can find. Slowed by the cold water, they sit sluggishly, conserving energy for spring.
Once the water starts to warm, reaching a comfortable 56 to 60 degrees, they’ll begin to migrate to the shallows. The exact timing of this migration varies by region, so keep in mind that the spawn might begin in January in southern Florida but wait till March in Ohio.
But once it begins, males will be the first to move. They’ll head for the shallows, starting with creeks and backwaters where the water will warm first. They’ll look for good places to create spawning beds, often returning to the same spots every year. Once the spawn is truly on, the females will follow, and together, they’ll cluster in very shallow water to breed.
That puts them within reach of the bank, and that’s where they’ll stay until the spawn is over. Fishing from the bank, especially during the spawn, is a first-rate approach to catching crappie.
This is something experts know, and pros like Joe Bragg prefer to ditch their boats and fish from shore when the spawn is on. As he explains, “I’ve got a bank that I fish out at Milford where I can almost guarantee it’s going to be great. I’ll try to be there all five nights.”
Once you’ve found a good spot, he recommends that you watch the moon phase carefully, looking for full moons that coincide with the spawn.
Those will be the hottest days and nights to fish all year.
Catching spring crappie from the bank demands a combination of technique and timing. Keep in mind that slabs are liminal feeders, preferring the 90 minutes around dawn and dusk, as well as full dark, to ambush their prey. But in spring, when the water’s still cool, they’ll be more active at dusk and early evening, when the water has had a chance to absorb heat from the sun.
Crappie will also want to get near any rock that’s been sun-warmed during the day, and rock beds or rocky banks can be awesome locations once the sun dips below the trees.
If we’re not being clear enough -- don’t let the dark run you off the crappie!
As many experienced slab hunters can tell you, dusk and dark are prime time. When I night fish from the bank, I’ll throw brighter colors on lighter jig heads. 1/32 is my go-to option. I think the more delicate action and smaller size entices more crappie to bite at night -- but give it a try and let me know what works for you!
Plenty of folks on boats like to use a 12V light system to attract crappie, and there’s no question that it works. But it’s just not practical to lug a heavy battery around on the bank.
Instead, why not tie up a few glow sticks and toss them in the water? They’ll have the same effect, weigh almost nothing, and won’t break the bank!
In this video, you’ll see two anglers ripping crappie at dusk from the bank. Let them show you how it’s done!
When I fish for spring crappie from the shore, I know they’re shallow. In fact, you can get bites in water that’s as little as eight inches deep! But I also know that the females may be holding in slightly deeper water and that all crappie love brush piles, downed trees, weed beds, and vertical cover like stumps and trees.
Before I turn to short-range techniques, I’ll start with medium to heavy crappie jigs rigged with Bobby Garland Slab Slay’rs and Zoom Fat Albert Grubs or spinning lures like the Johnson Original Beetle Spin and Worden's Original Rooster Tail. For longer casting, I like to tie on a 1/16 to ⅛ ounce lure, and let ‘er rip! If the wind is really up and my line is blowing, I might even step up to a ¼ ounce jig head.
Whatever I choose to throw, I’ll target visible cover, points, and slopes, working a large area quickly until I start getting bites. Then, I’ll stick to that spot, hammering crappie for as long as I can.
I generally recommend ultralight tackle, but this is one technique where a longer, slightly stiffer rod can be an asset. Whether that’s a 7’ St. Croix Premier with a medium-light action, or a 7’ Bass Pro Micro Lite in light action, that extra stiffness helps me get the longest casts I can.
That said, if you already own an ultralight rig and cast well with it, I’d just stick to that. I know mine can launch a jig a country mile!
Check out this gentleman demonstrating how it’s done on a stream:
But catching crappie isn’t all about casting distance, and sometimes, the old ways are the best. In fact, if you’ve never fished with a cane pole, you don’t know what you’re missing!
Dipping is a tried-and-true technique that’s as effective from the bank as it is from a boat. Using a long rod, you gently drop a jig into heavy cover, using the reach afforded by its length to place your lure with precision. This allows you to fish pockets in brush piles, downed trees, and other impenetrable cover you’d never hit with a cast.
A gentle motion of your wrist is more than enough to set the jig dancing, and if there’s a hungry crappie there, you’ll know pretty much instantly!
Best of all, if you don’t have an expensive crappie rod just for this technique, a simple cane pole works wonders--no reel required! Everything from this 13’ B'n'M BW4 Black Widow to a simple length of cane or a straight, limber sapling will work.
And rigging a cane pole is a snap, as this gentleman demonstrates:
The slip float is a must in any crappie angler’s tackle box. Because it allows you to cast well while still controlling the depth of your terminal tackle, it’s one of the most effective methods of catching fish, hands down.
In spring, bank fishing with a slip float is about as good as it gets. I like to rig a 2” Bobby Garland Mo'Glo Baby Shad beneath a Thill float, matching the weight of the terminal tackle to the specified buoyancy on the Thill. Then, it’s a simple matter of casting, gently twitching the float, and hooking monster slabs!
Richard Gene is among the best crappie anglers on YouTube, and he slays slabs with this simple technique. Rather than a slip float, he prefers a small fixed float above a 1/32 ounce jig head fitted with a Bobby Garland Mo’Glo Baby Shad in Pink Phantom.
Pay close attention to 6:34, 8:30, 10:27, and 14:00! You can’t argue with that!
Don’t let the lack of a boat turn you off to spring slabs. The spawn calls crappie into the shallows, putting them well within reach of the shore. And with the right techniques and tackle, you can have the time of your life with both feet on the ground.
We hope this article has piqued your interest, deepened your knowledge, and given you a few new ideas.
Please leave a comment below; we’d love to hear from you!