The crappie have begun their feeding frenzy and it’s time to take part in the action. While fishing in the daytime can yield amazing results, night fishing for crappie is a completely different experience that can potentially produce a better bite. Crappie are equally if not more active when the sun goes down and can be easier to trick if you’re using the right methods.
Here’s how you can light ‘em up in the dark.
FIND YOUR SPOT IN THE DAYTIME
When you’re scoping out a potential night fishing spot, make sure you do so in the daytime. It’s much easier to spot promising structure and will give you the right idea when you come back at night. If you are fairly new to the lake, finding a spot at night can be an extremely difficult task since you have to look for a location while trying to maneuver safely in the dark.
Choosing a night fishing spot depends on what is available in the lake. Keep an eye out for submerged timber, docks, rocky banks and other potential structure as these options provide shelter or hold heat when the sun goes down. If none of these holding areas are visible, look for changes in the lake bottom instead. This includes ledges, humps and points but will definitely be more difficult to pinpoint since they can be positioned in deeper waters. If you have a fishfinder handy then you’re definitely in luck.
I personally prefer to fish near docks and along dams since both are very easily accessible and will almost always hold schools of fish. The boulders found below a dam are great for holding heat accumulated in the daytime, providing a perfect area for crappie to ambush baitfish at night. Docks are effective as well and provide the perfect source of shelter in the evening.
GEARING UP CORRECTLY
Night fishing in general requires that you bring a few more items with you. After a few night sessions I’ve gotten a pretty good idea of what I need to help me fish effectively in the dark.
- LED Headlamp: An absolute must if you’re fishing at night. Use a headlamp instead of a flashlight to keep your hands free to tie knots, grab minnows. Etc.
- Propane OR LED Lantern: Lanterns are crucial to a successful night trip for crappie. Leaving your lantern near the water will attract schools of baitfish and ultimately, schools of crappie. Propane lanterns are great for keeping you warm but during summer nights an LED one works effectively too. Some LED lanterns are even waterproof, allowing you to float them next to docks or along the bank for even more light dispersion.
- Lighted Bobbers: Whether you’re suspending a minnow or mini jig, a lighted bobber is important to detect bites in the dark. Lighted bobbers can come in different options, and don’t forget that a glow stick attached to the bobber works just as well.
- Insect Repellant: Boy, do I hate mosquitoes. Insect repellant will keep you bite-free so you can focus on what you came to do – fishing.
- Pocket Knife: For gutting fish immediately? Nope. You never know when you’ll run into Nature’s predators. It most likely won’t happen but you never want to be defenseless against a mountain lion or other beast.
THE BEST ROD AND REEL COMBO
Crappie never get too big, so your gear doesn’t have to be heavy at all. In fact, an ultralight setup is the most fun and effective way of catching crappie. The feeling of having your ultralight rod pinned by a slab is one of the reasons crappie fishing is so enjoyable.
Use a 500-1000 size spinning reel spooled with 2-8lb test. Since you’re night fishing, the choice between monofilament and fluorocarbon line really doesn’t matter so it’s completely up to you. Keep in mind that fluorocarbon is more expensive but lasts longer and offers higher sensitivity.
You don’t have to buy a high-end reel unless you personally want to. Since the drag on these reels is set at such a low pressure, any cheap spinning reel will suffice.
Here are a few personal suggestions:
- Shimano Sienna 1000FD
- Pfleuger Trion 25
- Daiwa Fuego 2000
There are many options when looking for an ultralight rod. The length of the rod is up to your personal preference but it’s important to understand that the shorter the rod is, the less action you’ll get. I enjoy using the 7’6” to 8’ range unless there are overhanging trees and other obstacles in my way. The rod should handle 2-8lb test while providing enough backbone to set the hook properly.
Here are some great ultralight rod suggestions:
- Daiwa Presso
- Okuma SST
- Phenix Elixir
- Fenwick Elite Tech
SETTING UP A FLOAT RIG FOR CRAPPIE
The most effective way to catch crappie at night is the standard bobber and hook but with a few twists. Here are a few crucial items I use for setting up a float rig correctly:
- Thill Splash Brite Float
- Eagle Claw Rubber Bobber Stops 4-8lbs
- Small Split Shots
- Owner Mosquito Hook Size 8-10 OR Canyon Plastics Mini Jig
Slide the rubber bobber stop on first, then slide your float onto the line. Next, tie your hook or mini jig on and crimp a split shot or two about 12-18” above the hook. This keeps the bobber from sliding all the way down to your hook but also keeps your live minnow from swimming up too high.
When I’m fishing a mini jig instead of a minnow I like to use two at a time. To do this. Simply tie on a mini jig after sliding the bobber stop and float, then leave a tag end about 12” in length. Before tying the second jig, run the tag end back through the eye of the first mini jig and now you’re ready to attach the second jig. Running the line back through the eye keeps the mini jig upright at all times.
CRAPPIE FISHING WITH SMALL MINNOWS
If you’re planning to use live bait, there are a few options out there for you. Some people like using red worms and waxworms, but a live, swimming minnow is my personal favorite. I’ll usually pick up a few dozen depending on how the bite is since a small minnow doesn’t last too long on the hook. When fishing with live minnows, there are a few key things you can do to keep them alive.
- Use an aerator: An aerator will maintain oxygen levels in your bucket, keeping the minnows alive for up to a few hours longer. If you don’t have an aerator, swap out the water for fresh lake water every 30min or so to flush out debris and replenish oxygen.
- Keep them cold: Minnows don’t fare too well in warmer water since there is less oxygen, so throw a frozen water bottle or ice pack in there to keep them cool for hours.
- Only hook them through the top lip: If you hook the minnow through both lips it restricts their ability to intake water and breathe normally, ultimately shortening their life.
Usually, anglers will fish live minnows with a small single hook, but there are a few other methods as well. Try hooking a minnow on the back of a mini jig – the jig will have a larger presence and the minnow’s erratic movements will draw the crappie more effectively. I like tipping a minnow to the back of a glow-in-the-dark jig since the crappie can key in on the bright, moving bait.
FISHING WITH MINI JIGS
Mini jigs are another deadly method for targeting crappie at night. What still amazes me is that the fish will hit a mini jig that’s barely moving in pitch-black conditions. Some anglers have a specific retrieve pattern they use for fishing mini jigs, but I usually twitch or tip them with a minnow and let them take care of the action.
One retrieve method is to pop your bobber between short pauses. Give your bobber a twitch, wait a second or two, then repeat. The cadence of these twitches can be up to you, just do what you’re most confident in. Sometimes a steady, slow retrieve works as well.
It never hurts to add scent to your mini jig. Anglers go crazy over Powerbait Crappie Nibbles since they slowly disperse scent over a period of time. Add a nugget of the Crappie Nibbles to your jig and let it take care of the rest.
Any dark color/chartreuse combo works well. I personally like the Black/Chartreuse, Red/Chartreuse and Dark Purple but the color doesn’t matter too much unless your jig is illuminated by the lantern. Play around with color combos and stick with what you’re catching fish on.
Here are a few of my favorite jig trailers:
- Strike King Mr. Crappie Thunder
- Strike King Mr. Crappie Lightning Shad
- Gary Yamamoto Yamaminnow
I hope this guide has properly prepared you for a crappie night trip. Once again please leave any comments and/or suggestions in the comment section below, we absolutely love any feedback. Thanks for reading and tight lines!