Spring Bank action is the indicator of true, up-tempo spring crappie fishing. In reality, fishing can be excellent other times of the year but a combination of cabin fever, spring temperatures and easy-to-find crappie makes ‘crappie season’ a special time.
Crappie go through different stages between the time they leave their winter home until reaching their summer home. Travel routes, staging areas, post-spawn flats, banks and other patterns are included. However, this article focuses upon bank fishing. More specifically, pitching to the bank.
Why are fish on or near the bank? First, crappie will go on feeding sprees in the spring. This means they’ll follow shad into pockets that warm a degree or two warmer than surrounding water. The banks are a good place for them to trap baitfish to eat. Fishermen can find fast action when this happens.
The second reason they can be at the bank is to stage for spawning. This happens on steeper banks including bluffs or riprap. Fish don’t have to be away from the bank to be in water deeper than their spawning depths.
The third reason is the spawn itself. Fish will go in to make beds, lay eggs and guard nests. No matter why the fish are there they’ll likely hit a bait if presented correctly.
Experience & Electronics
Experience helps. If you know a lake’s pattern and spawning areas you are a step ahead. However, this is an easy time to pattern the fish so it shouldn’t take you too long to find them if you’re at a new lake. Also, this time of year there will be a lot of boats around so watch to see who is catching fish. This isn’t to get their spot but rather to notice their depth, type structure and how they are fishing. You can duplicate that at similar spots.
Electronics is important. Sonar gives you depth, covers and other details under the boat. This will help guide you to potential spots.
Those with Side Imaging has a huge advantage. Align your boat with the bank, not crowding the bank too much, and set your Side Image to scan one side only. Put the setting on 30 feet on a steep bank, maybe 50 feet for a slower sloping bank. Take a look at the bank with your imaging, marking spots you want to come back and fish. Brush, unique features and fish will show up much better when the Side Imaging is viewing a small distance verses a large area.
Steeper sloped banks are often the best. There are more depth zones to make a better all-around bank fishing during pre-spawn and the spawn.
Here’s the Pitch
Vertical jigging, casting and slow trolling all work in different situations. However, pitching is a killer tactic when fish are on the bank. Here’s why. One, pitching gives you great control of bait placement without being as close as required when vertical jigging. It’s obviously more accurate than casting. Two, you don’t waste time. You can place the bait exactly where you need it, fish the cover, pull it up, and swing it right to another spot. Three, using a float gives a great strike indicator and allows a quick response time when you get a bite.
Performing the pitch is easiest when standing but can be done from a chair. Use a 10- to 12-foot long jigging pole. Choose your bait. Start with your pole pointed at the target, with your non-pole hand grabbing the line between the reel and first line guide. Pull the line while raising the rod tip up in the air. This will swing the bait toward you. Swing the rod tip down, push forward, and slightly raise the rod tip while the bait swings to the chosen spot. Drop the rod tip to put the bait right on target. The presentation sounds much more difficult than it is. The key is to swing the bait back, then forward, pitching it to the target.
General rule-of-thumb for pitching: Use a slip-float when fish are less than three or four feet; no float when fish are deeper than four feet deep.
Naturally rocky banks with a moderate slope are good. Fish can be staged in a little deeper water without being away from the bank, or, fish can be in full spawn. Either way you can target them with this method. Irregular bank features and cover will likely be prime spots.
In silt bottom lakes look for areas with harder dirt bottoms or maybe some gravel banks. Cover is your best bet when fishing these types spots. Pitch next to laydowns, stumps and the edges of brush piles and you’ll quickly learn the best pattern and type presentation.
Riprap banks are present at almost every lake. Fish will hold and spawn on the rocks so catching them is a matter of scanning and test-fishing until you find the best areas. The crappie will likely not be along all of the rocks, so be patient and keep looking until you find them.
Air Temperatures: A day or two of warm sunny weather and southern winds can trigger great fishing action near the bank.
Water Temperatures: Temps are worth checking. A temperature of 68 in one cove verses 66 or 67 in others can make a big, positive difference.
Clear/Muddy Water: Stable water color is best whether stained or clear. A sudden color change in any water color usually means slow fishing.
Cold Front: A definite negative when thinking shallow crappie.
Sun/Clouds: Sun can warm water so it can be an advantage. Clouds can be advantage because fish will be moving and feeding. Only by fishing will you find out which is best for the areas you’re fishing.
Fishing Pressure: Go with a mindset that you won’t get mad no matter what, because springtime fishing is filled with less than courteous fishermen. Take the high road, be a better person than them.
Release or Keep Fish: During the spawn it’s suggested to release big females to keep a good gene pool. Release males, at least the larger ones, because every male is guarding thousands of eggs.