Full limit of sac-a-lait

Advanced Crappie Tactics – Gear


Picking You Lake

Choosing a lake is one of the first steps in planning a good night crappie fishing trip. Ideal lakes should be deep and clear with an area of at least 500 acres. There should be plenty of brush and debris under the water for crappie to hide.  In addition, there should be plenty of structures and changes in depth along the shoreline.

The worst water for crappie fishing in the summer is in shallow, warm water.  This water quickly gets deprived of oxygen, and the fish can sometimes scatter or go completely dormant.  This makes for some pretty rough fishing. Stick to deeper, colder water for a good oxygen supply. Use this guideline along with advice from local fisherman, bait shops, ranger stations, and online forums to determine the best lake for your trip.

Anchor or Troll

This is a hot debate at night. In general trolling does work well with vibrating lures but extra caution must be takes and it is hard to see things at night and conditions can change on you very quickly.

I prefer and recommend that you anchor up. Use your fish finder and  trolling motor to either find the fish or good fish catching structure. Once there anchor up and get ready for a good time.

In either case It is vital that you do some scouting during daylight hours to determine where you will fish when darkness falls.  In addition, you do not want just one spot to fish. As you scout, find a few backup spots to move to if needed. At night, you will find crappie grouping in areas where the bottom of the lake drops suddenly.  These ledges along the bottom can be found along creek and river channels, points, and ridges. Use a bottom-contour map of the lake to find these.

Crappie Fishing Tip #2


Once you have found these locations on the map, it is time to hit the water.  Move your boat to these areas and use a sonar device to determine the exact coordinates of the break-lines.  Use a fish-finder to identify brush, treetops, stumps, and rocks that crappie will use to hide. Once you have found that your map and location choices are suitable, drop buoys in these spots so that they will be easy to access later that night.


In-boat lighting is very important when fishing for crappie at night.  Double check your running lights to ensure they are working. In addition, have a flashlight or spotlight handy to signal other boats if needed, and to see what you are doing as you fish (the moonlight isn’t always sufficient).  It is best to use both a headlamp and a flashlight, so you can keep your hands free if needed. You will also need a life jacket and a kill switch for your engine for safety.


 Live Bait vs Artificial

Crappie when the bite is hot will eat anything! Even a BARE HOOK. So the answer is it depends. I have found that if I have kids with me I will get live bait because 97.134% of the time it will lead me to catching at least some kind of fish

As you can see below the light brings in tons of bait. If it is legal in your state I would recommend you bring a dip net and scoop up the bait for free!

Most times I fish artificial. A great grub bait or tube jig will normally lead to a great night of fishing.

Jigging vs Casting

The use of white light from any source assumes that a broad-spectrum light propagates well in water. But… It doesn’t. Pure water looks blue and it passes blue and green light with very little absorption. Typical lake, bay or offshore water is not pure, but contains various dissolved organic matter, photo-synthetic pigments and particulate material.

Salt has very little effect on light absorption, but the other ingredients do. Tests reveal that light between 450 and 550 nm (nano meters) transmits through lake, bay or offshore water with the least attenuation. Other wavelengths of light, especially near the low, infra-red end, are dramatically absorbed. Green light has a wavelength around 525 nm, near the center of the range, thus green light propagates better than other colors in both fresh or salt water. Rather than waste energy by using broad-spectrum white light, your best success will come using green light.

New moon is the best moon. Full moons are not great for night crappie fishing. The catch will be a lot more exciting as close to the new moon as you can get.

Anchor and wait. The object of fishing at night is to target your attraction methods for zooplankton, then minnows, then game fish. You will therefore be working with nature to reap the most benefits.

To be most effective, the boat should be anchored in the front AND back, to attract the zoo plankton. Otherwise, your boat will pivot around the one anchor with that beautiful summer evening breeze. The zoo plankton will have a hard time staying with the boat in those conditions, thereby not allowing your minnows to school up.

When anchoring, make sure that the anchor is lowered slowly to avoid scaring your game fish. In addition, avoid having the anchor disturb the brush cover, as game fish could already be located in the brush piles. Again, working with nature.

HOT TIP: Take a long handled minnow net with you. Once your light has been deployed over the water for 30 minutes, you will be able to catch live minnows to use as bait. To work optimally, they need to be used straight out of the lake as opposed to having been brought from home base.

Anywhere crappies live! Use the internet and other fishing research tools (or the advice of local fishermen) to find your best locations. There are so many elements to finding a successful lake full of crappie, so be sure to make a plan based on recent information.

About the Author Nik Rowe

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