Patterning Spring Crappies

Water Body

Chasing springtime panfish is one of my favorite bites of the year… Not only are they unbelievably good table-fare but chasing gills and crappies brings back some great childhood memories of all the days developing my passion for fishing from digging for our own worms to spending an afternoon bobber fishing from shore with dad.

Late May/Early June is actually of the most overlooked periods for successfully targeting panfish. Not only are they still shallow and feeding aggressively, but most anglers have completely forgotten about them as soon as the walleye, bass, and muskie seasons start.

The biggest key to finding fish of all species early in the year is to pay close attention to water temperature and this is expecially true for panfish. Once the water temps get into the mid to upper 50’s they will start staging outside of shallow bays and channels and moving in to feed/prepare spawning beds usually in the afternoons when the sun warms the shallows, particularily on the Northern shores which get the most direct sunlight and therefore are the first to warm. Once those bays get into the low 60’s its game on and can last for several weeks.

The lake we were fishing is a small, 270 acre, central MN water body with crystal clear water. Water temps in the main basin were 55-57 degrees and the Northern Bays were at 61. Perfect conditions! The fish were shallow and agressive everywhere in the bay, but the pattern that really worked for locating bigger fish was to find and pitch our bobbers around fallen timber, twitching them slowly along the edges to drawn fish out from their cover. Another factor that dramaticaly increased the size of fish we were catching was to target them with plastics versus live bait which was almost impossible to keep the smaller more active fish from racing in to steal the bait before a bigger fish had a chance to size it up. The go to lure turned out to be the same Pug Bug and Trigger X combination that I had so much success with last winter. Another helpful trick that I’ve found to be very effective when bobber fishing is to use the Suffix High Vis line which allows me to clearly see the line between by bobber and the end of the rod to be able to see if you have any slack in your line and easily correct before missing a bite. This is especially important in windy conditions and with light panfish baits.

I hope everyone had an awesome Memorial Day weekend and THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart to each and every soldier out there for the freedom to fish when and where we want.

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Will Roseberg

Having grown up in the small town of Malmo, Minn, fishing Minnesota‚Äôs famed Lake Mille Lacs, Will comes from a small group of anglers in-the-know on north-central Minnesota lakes. He developed his skills fishing the big lake and its surrounding Full Bio ›


  1. Nice report Will. I agree very much on going to plastics for larger crappies In addition to larger fish, I think it draws a reaction strike Vs having all day to look at yet another minnow

  2. Will, great report,
    say what do you think the differences are between your Lake crappie and our river crappies?

    I do not fish for crappie in open water but you make it very interesting for me to try.

  3. Shade is another factor that can determine where to fish crappies. If the skies are high and bluebird, I look for my best fishing where shade is provided for the majority of the day if the water is relatively clear.

    I think the big difference between river and lake crappie[not in backwaters] at pre-spawn and spawning periods is water temperature and stability. The bays in lakes heat and cool with sunrise and sunset. Clouds can affect heating as can wind. Your moving water is way more stable temperature-wise. There is a lot of spawning taking place along main channels areas where the current isn’t harsh. The crappies move along the first break and come in to nest as the proper water temps begin to show up in the current. River fish are more adaptable to spawning locations.

    And Dave…if you aren’t fishing crappies in the summer right along areas where the current rolls along pretty good you are missing the boat.

  4. Thanks for the great River info Tom! Dave I’ve never fished crappies on rivers so I defer to Tom on the river crappies… I would expect shallow areas with timber are a great place to start!

    As for bait, I’d bet plastics work even better with any current to help bring them to life. I know Tom makes his own awesome looking crappie plastics, but since I’m way too busy (and probably not that talented) I’ve just been relying on the Trigger X ice plastics or even just a plain minnow tail hooked on calm bluebird sunny days.

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