There’s a myth that crappies strictly school and suspend during the summer when they actually can be belly to the bottom this time of year.
Start by searching deep water. Sunken islands are good places to start, along with rock piles, and deep weed points. Check out deeper water near the spawning grounds you targeted a month ago.
Crappies also can roam a main basin (not just bays!) on their quest for food. Electronics are very valuable in this search. Motor around some of these structure locations and monitor the bottom, though crappies also will suspend.
Your crappie search should start with lakes that offer a good size profile of fish. Look for lakes with a solid walleye population. If you’re looking for big fish, then consider larger bodies of water. Rule of thumb: Lakes with good walleye and bass fishing often have good crappie fishin.
If you find suspended fish, you’re going to see a school and you may have to assume that you’re seeing crappies. (It’s obviously easier if you’re on a good crappie lake).
It may take 30- to 45 minutes to find fish, but that’s time well spent, because otherwise we’re working dead water and wasting time.
Crappies will relate to a deep weedlines on some mid-age lakes, say 10- to 17 feet. These typically are good walleye lakes with solid natural reproduction. Avoid dark and shallow lakes.
Crappies do bite in the heart of summer, and if they’re not, then you’re just not looking in right spots!
Try These Tactics
How about some top tactics for summer crappies? For warm-weather slabs, I outfit a 7- to 7-1/2-foot rod with 4-pound-test line, and I make sure it has a soft tip to detect subtle crappie bites.
Summer crappies do bite, but it may not be sharp. So concentrate on your rod tip. Watch for any kind of movement. I’ll run the line from my spinning reel over my thumb or forefinger to pick up those real sensitive bites.
As for technique, start with small jigs, 1⁄32- to 1⁄64-ouncers. Anything too heavy and crappies will blow it out. In rivers or rough water, you may be forced into the 1⁄16– or 1⁄8-ounce range, but when in doubt, stay small. Tube jigs, Power Grubs and hair jigs, are very productive, too.
With plastics, don’t put a large curly-tailed tail on a small light jig. It acts and looks unnatural and twists line.
With live bait rigging, use three-way swivel rigs with minnows and cruise slowly and quietly with yourelectric trolling motor. Other live bait rigs employ a No. 0 blade, and I also try jig-spins — trolled or cast.
I’ll use crappie minnows and fatheads, and I’ll hook them through the tail to telegraph more struggling action to the fish.
With real inactive fish, we’ll use a plain jig head, no dressing and live bait, just like when we’re walleye fishing. The simple rule is “slow and small” with real inactive fish, and “larger and fast” with more active fish.
Once you pinpoint crappie locations, consider a float system. I’m more productive if I don’t anchor.
Oh yeah, and crappies are still delicious eating in the summer! I hear a lot of people say that crappie fillets are too soft in summer, so here’s what you do about that: Fillet the fish, put it in a container with some ice cubes on top with a paper towel, then put in the fridge. That firms those fillets right up!