No boat? No problem! Crappie fishing from the bank is where a lifelong passion for fishing starts for most people and for good reasons. Quality time spent fishing from the bank is a great way to catch more fish as well as learning the ins and outs of what to look for in crappie fishing, understanding how the fish move, and how to successfully work different lures to get more bites.
For the sake of this article, “bank fishing” can be defined as fishing a body of water while standing on dry land. This can be considered the shoreline, a bridge that crosses over a lake or river, or accessible boat docks and ramps. Let’s get started!
Tips for Crappie Fishing From The Bank
A few tips to get you started…
Think About Your Approach
You’ll find A LOT of people fishing the bank without taking into consideration how easy it is to spook fish. This is one of the most undervalued traits of a good shoreline angler. How you navigate the shoreline is crucial to catching more fish. Instead of simply walking the edge of a shoreline with your feet inches from being in the water consider keeping a distance and identifying characteristics of the fishing area (current, tree cover, vegetation, depth, etc.). Once you’ve gained an understanding of your surroundings, in a stealthy manner, approach the targeted fishing area.
Once you’re done fishing that spot, instead of simply walking the water’s edge, swing out away from the bank again before slowly approaching your next spot. This limits the chances of you spooking any fish and greatly increases your chances for a hook-up.
Tackle For Crappie Fishing From The Bank
Crappie bank fishing tackle should be the same regardless of where you are fishing from (bank or boat). Consider a 7” medium-light rod with a fast action tip. To avoid backlashes (or birds nests) that come with bait casters, consider fishing a spinning reel spooled with 4 lb. test fluorocarbon. Fluorocarbon is virtually invisible underwater and gives anglers the upper edge on landing a fish.
Your lure selection will depend on your technique. Weighted jigs are a must for a crappie angler, and they come in a variety of weights, colors, and sizes. Opt for a jig around 1/16 oz and pair it with a 2–3 inch tube or ribbon tail soft plastic.
For colder, winter months some of the biggest crappie landed are caught on suspended jerk baits. Though you won’t get as many bites, a jerk bait gives a winter angler a good chance of bringing in a citation crappie.
Last but not least, never overlook the power of live bait. Whether it be nightcrawlers or minnows, it’s hard for crappie to pass up an easy meal. Live bait is a great option for both beginners and expert anglers and can easily be fished with a strike indicator (bobber).
Having a good pair of sunglasses that can cut through the glare on the surface can make all the difference in fishing. Polarized sunglasses do just that by filtering out nearly all light reflected off the surface of a body water allowing you to see exactly what is beneath the surface.
Crappie Fishing From The Bank During Each Season
Having a successful day from the bank starts with what season you’re in. Consider the below pointers depending on what season you’re fishing.
Spring Bank Fishing For Crappie Tips
Typically, crappie will start making their way to the shorelines in the spring. When crappie begin making their way to the shallower water this is called the pre-spawn. This is when you can really dial in on some good bites.
Because of crappie’s nature to spawn during the spring months, crappie are naturally drawn to more shallow waters. This provides sunlight and warmer water for their spawning beds which leads to producing more offspring. Leading up to the spawn, it’s worth noting that this is when crappie can be the most aggressive since being most concerned about protecting their bed of eggs prior to hatching.
During this time of the year, you can slow down your presentation to keep your lure in the strike zone for as long as possible. The goal is to get the fish to take your lure out of sheer instinct of protecting their eggs.
Summer Crappie Fishing From Shore
During the summer, it’s a bit hotter, and the fish have probably already spawned at this point. Crappie tend to make their way back into deeper, cooler water that offers easy access to shallower water for feeding opportunities. If you’re able to fish a spot with access to deeper water (bridges, long boat docks) this is the time to get your line wet.
Fall Crappie Fishing Tips
The water is starting to cool back down and crappie begin getting really active again. Fall is a time to follow the bait to find the fish.
Baitfish typically will group up and begin heading for shallower water that offers a means of cover. Find the bait and cover and you’ll find the fish. Look for areas around the shoreline that offer submerged trees, ledges with cover, or patches of grass. If it has any of those characteristics there is a good chance it also holds fish.
Winter Bank Fishing for Crappie
It’s cold and fishing can be tough. Colder water temperatures typically also bring clearer water conditions so rely on your sight to locate areas of shallow water, deep water, and areas that have some type of underwater cover. Try out these two methods for your next trip…
From the shoreline: Identify an area you think holds fish and try working a suspending jerk bait through the strike zone. When working the lure switch up your cadence until you find what they’re biting on. Good cadences to start out trying are the following – Jerk, Jerk, Pause, Jerk, Pause OR Jerk, Jerk, Pause. Try and pause for at least 5 seconds between jerks.
Around a bridge or boat dock: Vertical jigging is great for fishing bridge pilings and docks. Opt for a weighted jig with a tube or ribbon tail lure body for best results. Fish as slowly as possible for best results. If you normally retrieve your lure in 20 seconds try and slow down for a 1-2 minute retrieval. It can be painful at times to fish this slow but more often than not it will pay off.
Finding bank fishing locations for crappie
When searching for a good bank fishing location consider two things – cover and structure.
Cover is the features of a body of water that can be seen as additional perks. This includes things like rocks, submerged timber, vegetation, and docks. For anglers, the more cover a body of water offers the better chance it holds a large population of fish.
Structure, on the other hand, can be summed up as the physical characteristics of a body of water such as deep bank drop-offs, points, islands, forks in rivers, etc.
Consider both the structure and cover that a body of water offers to determine your next bank fishing spot. Crappie, like other fish, will use points (the pieces of land that extend out into a body of water) as ambush points. This is always a great place to start fishing. For cover, search for areas near boat docks or places with either rocks, timber, or vegetation.
TIP: Looking for an easy bite? Some lakes and rivers hold crappie fishing tournaments. Find out when and where the tournament is held and plan a trip to fish the marina [if allowed] or area where the tournament was held. Most tournament anglers typically release their fish right at the boat ramp which makes for an easy follow up catch by an angler fishing the bank.
Bank fishing for crappie techniques
The technique you choose will be based on the area you are fishing. Consider these techniques for each circumstance given.
Fallen timber or vegetation along a bank
Opt for a weighted jig with a 2-3 inch tube or ribbon tail lure body to bounce around and cause a disturbance. Fish as light as possible (1/16 oz jig head) to avoid unnecessary snags while also keeping your lure in the strike zone longer. Remember a lighter lure has a slower sink rate which could be what the crappie are keying in on for the particular day you’re fishing.
If you find yourself getting hung up a lot try putting a bobber or other form of strike indicator about 1-3 feet above the lure you’re fishing. This will keep your lure at a dedicated water depth to avoid getting hung up.
When fishing around docks and bridges consider using a vertical jigging technique. The set up should be similar to fishing fallen timber along a bank. Fish a weighted jig with a soft plastic body (preferably a tube or ribbon tail).
Take note of the amount of current around docks and bridges. Docks and bridges naturally produce current by forcing water to go around them. This makes for great places to find crappie. Do your best to fish the backside of a dock or bridge piling with the mindset that a crappie will be on the backside waiting to ambush its next meal.
During the springtime, you’ll find fishing spawning beds everywhere. In most cases, they will look like little moon craters and are easy to spot once you know what you’re looking for. A deadly technique when fishing a bed is a drop shot. Check out the crappie drop shot article for more info. This technique allows you to keep the lure right on top of the crappie’s bed which will trigger a strike due to the fish trying to protect the eggs on the bed.
When the fishing is tough don’t be afraid to go with a live bait presentation. The classic night crawler or live minnow will catch more crappie than any artificial lure in your tackle box.
What is the best time for crappie bank fishing?
Spring and fall will be the best time of year to catch crappie. For time of day, shoot for the hours around sunrise and sunset. This is when fish are most actively feeding.
Don’t stop yourself from trying different techniques or fishing at different times of the day either. Each body of water is different and how the fish behave and respond will change as well. No book or article can replace quality time spent on the water so take to the water and go rip some lips!