Catching Fussy Crappie Through the Ice

January 31, 2018

At times, crappie seem to jump in the bucket. Other times they are maddeningly frustrating. My recent experience on the ice might shed some light on how to catch fussy crappies.

Start with a very sensitive rod. This is very important to discern light-biting crappies. A tapered flat tip with a bright chartreuse color is perfect for both ultra-sensitivity and visibility.

Lake Erie Crappie with John Scherrer

This year I changed over to a more visible line – Original Stren Hi-Vis Gold. What a difference! The more visible line helps to see the lightest bites and movement of line in the water. It also helps with dropping a light jig and finding bottom. It is easy to see when the jig hits bottom - when the line goes limp. Then you can start fishing, lifting your jig and working the water column. I tie about a five-foot fluorocarbon leader to the end of the line for stealth. I prefer six-pound test line, which is easy to work with and provides extra strength if an unexpected predator gets hooked. I am convinced Seaguar InVisX is the best fluorocarbon line on the market. For leaders, I use the leftover line after loading InVisX on my spinning reels.

Inline reels like the Frabill Straight Line 101 Ice Reel allow for working the water column for suspended fish without constantly opening and closing the bale. You also won’t miss bites between opening and closing the bale – which can, and does, happen!

The bait that has worked best for me the last couple seasons is the Size 8 Lemon-Lime Ratso Jig tipped with a single Berkley Gulp! Alive! Maggot. The super soft plastic body with a slim profile in the bright “lemon-lime” color with the Berkley maggot showing the crappie where to bite has been just what the doctor ordered.

Here is how it all came together for me on a recent ice fishing trip.

My first set-up yielded no fish in the first fifteen minutes. That is about my limit for no action so I made a short move, confident I was in a good area for crappie.

That short move paid off and I didn’t move for the next two hours until I called it a day.

I was fishing in about nine feet of water. I would let my jig hit bottom then come off the bottom one turn of the reel at a time. I would vary the jigging action as I worked the bottom three or four feet of the water column.

I caught bluegill, perch, crappie and bass – all on the Ratso jig. Of those four, the crappie had the lightest, most subtle bites. The High-Vis Gold Stren combined with my Tickle Stick is the perfect combination to both feel and see the light takes of crappie. A quick snap of the wrist to set the hook and ten fat crappie were going home with me.

To sum up, travel light, be mobile, use a sensitive rod with visible line, concentrate on the tip of the rod – and give the Ratso jig a try.