The Ultimate Panfish League - www.ultimatepanfishleague.com - 2004-2011
By: Bob Bohland

   The majority of anglers  consider  crappies
to  be  a  schooling  species,   where  yo u find
one; you will find a  bunch more.   While this is
generally  true  for  the  majority  of  crappies,
often  many  of  the  biggest fish  in  a  body of
water  will  strike it  out  on  their own.   These
large slabs no longer need the protection  the
school  offers  and they  don’t  want to  waste
energy     chasing     after    small    prey    and
competing   with    small    to   medium   sized
crappies.
     
As Crappies begin to reach slab size, which in
Minnesota is  12”  and up,  they begin to  seek
different   food    sources   than    the   smaller
crappies. They more actively seek larger prey
such as young of the year bluegills, perch, and
shiners, and one of the most efficient ways of doing this by ambushing prey along
weed edges. Larger crappies will sit in areas along weed edges, much like bass, and
dart out and pick off small fish species, even eating smaller crappies, bass, bluegills,
etc. If it is small enough to fit in their mouths, they will eat it.
     
While snorkeling in lakes that I fish regularly, I have begun to put together some
observations about how these slab crappies behave. One interesting thing I have
seen is that if a crappie is caught out of one of these locations, it isn’t long before
another takes up residence in the same location, which leads me to believe that
these ambush points are sought after and the crappies may even become territorial
over good hunting grounds, similar to the way large muskies and bass stake out their
territory. Some things all these locations offer is the ability to hide (weeds, trees, etc),
adjacency to deep water (deep being relative to the body of water), and large
amounts of small zooplankton, which in turn attracts small sunfish, perch, etc.
    
If you truly want to target slab crappies during the summer, forget about going and
sitting over a numbers spot like all the pontoons you see anchored up in the evening.
Target them much in the same way you would fish a lake for bass. Start by fishing
along outside weed edges with baits that seem almost a touch too large for crappies.
A large fathead minnow or even a medium sized shiner works great for targetting big
crappies. One of my go-to jigs for this presentation is the new Lindy Jig by Lindy
Fishing Tackle. Available in 20 different colors, there is a color for every variation of
water clarity or light penetration you may encounter, and the 3D eyes give a profile
that no crappie can resist. My two personal favorites are the black and chartreuse
green for clear waters and the pink and chartreuse yellow for stained waters. Put
your bowmount down in the water and move along these weed edges slowly jigging
your bait. When you get a hit from one of these big slabs make sure and hit the
waypoint button on your gps, as a new fish will often move in within the matter of a
few days. Fish this pattern long enough and you will have quite a few waypoints
loaded up for each lake you fish.
     
Another great search bait that is just hitting the midwest is the Lindy Dancin Crappie
Series. This series of jigs, designed by Bill Dance himself, has every color
combination possible for crappies, and even a few you may have never heard of. With
different types of pre-rigged baits such as the Dancin’ Tube, the Dancin’ Jig, and the
Dancin Crappie Spin Jig, there is sure to be one to match your style of fishing. If you
wanna work a weedline fast on a large lake go for the Spin Jig first, the flashy blade
on this bait will draw strikes from even the most unwilling crappies, and will draw
crappies out of their hiding spaces.
     
If the lake you are fishing is really clear, it can often be hard to target these fish
during the bright sunny days. In these instances, I will use the 1/16th oz Splash-Brite
bobber. You can fish them the same way you would during the day with this setup, but
I often add a crappie or fathead minnow to the setup to get some extra commotion in
the water for the fish to hone in on. With the added weight of the light and battery in
the Splash-Brite you can make pinpoint casts and the range of your casts is greatly
increased.
     
One considerable advantage to fishing this presentation is that crappies are not the
only species that will “move out” of the schools, often bull bluegills and jumbo perch
can be found in these little honey-holes. These methods will land you some of the
biggest panfish on any given lake, and by keeping good records and tracking your
waypoints on a gps you will have a plethora of big crappie micro-structure spots to
target when you want to impress your buddies the next time out on the water.
Loner Slabs