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Catching crappies on jigs

Crappies can be a mysterious fish. They're pretty easy to catch in the spring when they're in shallow water getting ready to spawn. Much of the time it's just a matter of putting a bobber out there with a tube jig under it, and usually, if there's a crappie in the area, the bobber will go down and you'll reel in that paper-mouthed fish.

However, after the crappies move out of their spawning areas, they can be tricky to catch. First of all you've got to find them, then you've got to give them the bait they want to eat. If you do those two things, you can get in on some fast action.

Finding the fish, whatever specie you're after, is the most important part of the equation. It doesn't matter what bait you're using, if you're not putting it where the fish are, you're not going to get bit. A few days after the crappies spawn, you can usually find them on structure close to the where they spawned. If they spawned in a bay, then they'll be at the mouth of the bay on a rockpile or weedline.

If they spawned near a shoreline, look for them on the drop-off near that shoreline, again, on a piece of structure or on the weedline.

Spawning makes a fish hungry. After the spawn the females will rest for a few days, then they'll go on a bite. The males will eat sooner after the spawn than the females.

Crappies that are on the bite after spawning like to eat jigs tipped with something. They're hungry, so you can usually use jigs that are larger than the tube-jigs used before the spawn.

Lots of anglers like to use jigs tipped with minnows for crappies this time of year, and that combination will take crappies. However, it is becoming apparent that there are other alternatives to the minnows that are just as good, maybe better.

On a recent crappie outing, I was fishing with an experienced crappie guide. He was using Gulp! Alive Minnows in the three inch size, I was using jigs tipped with real minnows. The action wasn't real fast, especially on my end of the boat. I was getting tentative strikes, and I was missing many of them.

My friend at the other end of the boat was getting bit about as much as I was, but he was catching almost every crappie that bit. They were inhaling the Gulp! Alive tipped jigs, but just messing around with the real minnows. Every crappie my friend caught had the bait way inside its mouth, the one's that I did manage to catch were very lightly hooked. For some reason, I don't know why, but they were inhaling the fake minnows much more readily. When I switched to Gulp! Alive Minnows, my catches went up. We were rigging them on Fire-Ball jigs just like you would a real minnow. Fire-Ball jigs are the best live-bait jigs around: They're also excellent with soft bait when a smaller presentation is desired.

Wherever you live in the Midwest, crappies are willing to bite right now. Find them, give them what they want, and you're going to catch them.

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