Bigger crappie often fall to anglers who know the best jigging techniques. A subtle difference in
technique can make a big difference in the number of fish one catches. (Photo: Keith Sutton)
The Right Ways to Work Crappie Jigs
by Keith Sutton
Whenever an angler uses a jig to entice crappie, the way the fisherman works that jig plays a big part in his or her success or lack of it. It’s important to present the jig in a particular fashion – fast, slow, twitching, jerking, creeping, racing, jumping, sitting – that gets a fish’s attention.
Crappie are fickle. Some days they prefer one pattern, some days another. So, it’s good to know a variety of ways to work a jig. The smart crappie angler switches from one variation to another until the best method becomes evident.
Here are 11 ways to get you started. The first six are tactics to use when fishing with a long jigging pole or cane pole. The last five are tactics best suited for fishing with a spinning or spincasting outfit.
It’s no big surprise that jigging a jig is perhaps the most used method of working one. The lure is held stationary for a moment. Then, with a quick upward snap of the wrist, the angler lifts the lure a short distance and lets it fall again to its previous depth. The timing of this jigging action may vary considerably, from a quickly repeated motion to slow, well-spaced jigging of the lure. Try variations to see what works best.
Quite often, the best way to work a jig is doing nothing at all. Start by tying the jig properly. The knot should be pulled to the top of the hook eye so the jig hangs perpendicular to the line. Then lower the jig to fish level and do your best to hold it there without moving it. You may think the jig is perfectly still, but it will quiver very slightly, like a minnow finning in the water, with just enough action to draw the attention of a nearby crappie. Marabou jigs and skirted tube jigs are especially effective because they ripple seductively even when stationary.
The Shake is similar to the Do-Nothing, but every few seconds, the angler gives his pole a snappy side-to-side shake that vibrates the tip of the pole, which in turn, shakes the jig. This tactic works best if you use a fast-action jigging pole that bends very little except at the tip.
The Wiggle works on a long or short line. The angler simply wiggles the pole up and down very slightly while moving the lure along the edge of a brush pile, log or other cover. The lure swims from place to place with a slight up-and-down motion like that of an erratically swimming baitfish.
The Figure Eight
Crappie often hold tight to shallow cover when the water is muddy, making it necessary to work a jig very slowly in this situation. The Figure Eight allows just that. Place the jig close to a stump, log or other cover, then work it around slowly in a figure-eight pattern. Continue working the lure in this manner completely around the feature you’re fishing.
This method often gets the attention of inactive crappie. Use your pole to flip a jig out on a slack line that’s at least as long as your pole, then allow it to sink until the line begins to tighten. Now give the jig a hard upward pull and allow it to sink again on slack line. Repeat. Enticing a fish to strike may require changing the distance you pull the jig upward each time, from short hops to long leaps.
Crappie frequently seek shelter around the buttresses and knees of cypress trees. You can use a jigging pole around these trees, but if fish are skittish, it’s difficult to approach close enough to use a pole without spooking them. Instead, remain at a distance, and use an ultralight combo to cast a jig against the side of the tree. Cast right at the tree and let the jig knock the trunk and roll into the water below. Fish holding right beside a tree, waiting for insects to tumble off, will quickly to grab the falling lure.
When crappie are in shoreline shallows, you often can elicit smashing strikes by casting a weedless jig to a bit of bare ground on shore and jumping the lure back into the water. These panfish get crazy when a tiny morsel leaps from the bank and starts swimming away.
The Bobber Jerk
To catch crappie around weed beds, use a jig placed 1 to 4 feet below a small bobber. Cast the lure into open pockets or work it along one edge. Retrieve in jerk-stop fashion, pulling with a hard tug so the jig rises toward the surface, then stopping long enough to allow the jig to sink perpendicular to the surface again.
This method of working a jig beneath a bobber often entices inactive, suspended crappie. Determine the depth of the fish on sonar, then rig your jig beneath a bobber at the same depth. Use a sliding bobber if necessary to allow easy casting, and be sure your jig is tied securely so it sits perpendicular to the line. Cast to the fish you’ve pinpointed, then allow the jig to settle beneath the bobber. Do not move the jig at all. Let it drift with the breeze if one is present, but don’t let it drift off the fish. Watch the bobber closely. When a fish inhales the jig, the disappearing float lets you know.
The Cast and Reel
Sometimes the best method is also the easiest. Just cast a jig and reel it in. Don’t worry how fast or how slow or how deep or how shallow. Just cast and reel. It’ll work more often than you think.
Keith Sutton has been an avid crappie angler for more than half a century, pursuing his favorite panfish on waters throughout the United States. His fishing stories have been read by millions in hundreds of books, magazines, newspapers and Internet publications. In 2011, he was inducted into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame as a Legendary Communicator.