Crappie readily bite for nearly everyone in the spring, but these panfish become more of a challenge to catch in the heat of summer.
When the summertime sun raises water temperatures above the 80-degree mark, crappie seek deeper water and heavier cover. The fish still remain active though as they feed on schools of shad passing though the crappie’s hot-weather haunts.
On my home waters of Lake of the Ozarks, summertime crappie fishing poses two problems: heavy recreational boat traffic and a lack of visible cover. I solve the first problem by fishing early and late in the day to avoid traffic. Crappie tend to burrow into the middle of brush when recreational boaters churn up the water and it becomes difficult to position my boat in the rolling waves and properly present my lure through the brush.
Some fish can also be caught in the clear water early and late in the day, but mid-day action is slow as the crappie suspend over deep water. In the stained water areas of a lake, the fish stay shallower and are easier to catch throughout the day.
Summertime: Crappie Baits
Minnows are the most popular summertime bait for anglers fishing a tight line off docks or spider rigging in boats. Since a crappie’s appetite is voracious during the summer, I select larger minnows (sometimes bigger than 3 inches) for my bait. I prefer using 2/0 and 3/0 hooks because the bigger hook is easier to remove from a crappie and the fish don’t swallow it as much as they do a smaller hook.
Jigs are also productive for summertime crappie. I use either a single 1/16-ounce jig for shooting docks or a double rig for vertically jigging above brush piles. The double rig consists of a 1/16-ounce jig spaced 18 inches above a 1/8-ounce jig at the end of my line.
While my home lake lacks visible cover, Truman Lake is another one of my favorite summertime crappie fisheries that has plenty of it. Lots of standing timber was left in Truman when the Army Corps of Engineers filled the lake.
The lowland lake has more turbid water so crappie can be caught in both shallow and deep water in the summertime. A shallow-water pattern produces best when a summertime shad hatch occurs, but for most of the summer you need to fish deeper water.
Summertime Crappie Fishing: Shallow Water
The shallow pattern consists of dipping minnows with a long pole and slip-bobber system in timber along fence rows and tree lines on the main lake or creek channel. You can catch these fish less than 10 feet deep and sometimes even as shallow as 2 feet. The slip-bobber system allows you to adjust your bobber up or down to find the magic depth in which the crappie are holding. Use number 2 or 4 hooks and pinch on a couple of number 5 split shots about 2 to 3 inches above the hook. Keeping the weight close to the minnow will restrict its movement to prevent hang-ups in the heavy cover.
Summertime Crappie Fishing: Deep Water
The deep-water pattern works best in timber along main lake bluffs and channel swings during the hottest part of summer. The fish will vary in depth from 15 to 25 feet depending on the lake’s thermocline. The same slip-bobber rig used for catching shallow crappie also works in the deeper water because the fish will be suspended in the timber. If it’s too windy the bobber will bounce too much in the waves and make your presentation look unnatural. Remove the slip bobber rig then and present your minnow vertically on a tight line next to the timber to trigger a bite.
Try these patterns for crappie action as hot as the summertime weather.
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