Arguably the most common and effective artificial lure for crappie fishing, jigs are an essential part of any panfish angler's tackle box. A quick look at the shelves of any tackle shop reveals a dizzying array of jig sizes, colors and styles. Different jigs work in different situations, but three basic fishing methods work for just about any jig you tie on.
The ideal setup for crappie jig fishing is fairly simple, and a light-action spinning rod and reel spooled with 4- to 6-pound test monofilament line will work in just about any situation. When selecting jigs, consider two separate components: the jig head and the body. Jig heads are essentially weighted hooks, and 1/32-ounce jig heads are generally considered to be standard for crappie fishing. Jig bodies are where you really have a lot of options, so feel free to experiment. Tube jigs, which resemble tiny squid, are one of the most common types, and they're very effective at tempting crappies. Bright colors like white and chartreuse usually work best, but natural shades like black and brown can be better in murky water.
Casting and Retrieving
The simplest way to fish a jig is to cast it out, let it sink to the desired depth, and then reel it in. When crappies are feeding actively, you may not need to do anything else. To really bring your jig to life, add a few pauses and subtle twitches to your retrieve. To work on your retrieve, try casting your jig into a swimming pool, and watch the lure as you reel it in. Try to achieve movements that closely resemble a live minnow. Casting and retrieving jigs is a good way to cover a lot of water in search of crappies, and it can be the most effective method when you find a school of active fish in relatively shallow water.
Crappies often school in deep water around specific pieces of cover like weed beds, sunken timber and brush piles, especially in summer and during the pre-spawning season in early spring. Vertical jigging involves positioning your boat above a fishing spot and dropping your jig straight down. Once you reach the desired depth -- be careful not to get snagged in the brush or weeds -- start jiggling the rod tip to impart a lifelike motion to the jig. Subtle motion is best in most situations, but occasionally crappies prefer a jig that really bounces up and down. Vertical jigging is also useful for ice fishing, and for fishing straight down off the side of a dock or pier.
When crappies spawn in mid- to late spring, they school together around brush and weeds in shallow water. Casting and retrieving your jig might work, but crappies are not always willing to chase a moving lure. Attaching a float or bobber to your line allows you to cast a jig over the fish and let the jig sit in their midst until one decides to strike. Float fishing works best when there's a little bit of wind, because small waves move the float up and down, giving the jig a natural appearance. If there's no wind, you can use your fishing rod to twitch the float. Adjust the distance between the jig and float depending on how deep the fish are.
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