The New Era of Crappie Fishing
When some think of crappie fishing, their grandfather sitting on a bucket at the end of a dock comes to mind. Cane pole in hand, plucking these tasty panfish off one by one with a minnow and a bobber. As simple of fishing as can be done. For many anglers in 2023 though, this image has changed.
Crappie fishing has become significantly more advanced due to recent technological increases, such as Livescope and other forward-facing live sonars (FFS). Some may hate it, others love it, but one thing is for sure - it's changed the game forever. In this article, we'll look at how this technology has changed the sport of crappie fishing, what techniques have taken off because of it, and the products developed to make this technology even deadlier.
Pro staffer Jon Dietz points out how he just caught this quality crappie using his Livescope
Livescope and Other Forward Facing Sonars
Love it or hate it, it's here to stay. Garmin Panoptix pioneered the forward-facing sonar craze, and now we've got Lowrance Active Target, Humminbird Mega Live, and an updated version of Garmin Panoptix, Livescope, with the LVS34 Transducer being the most advanced on the market right now. FFS is a crappie's worst nightmare, but an angler's best friend. The panfish's plate like shape and suspending nature make them stick out like sore thumbs on live sonar.
Being able to visibly see fish move in front of the boat has obviously completely changed the way these fish are targeted. Why even make a cast to a spot if you don't see a fish there? It takes all the "guesswork" out of finding crappies and can make an angler SIGNIFICANTLY more efficient.
The crappies in the photo above are the four large blobs. The block is a man-made crib and the green speck above the fish is a Bobby Garland Jig
Fish More Efficient and Precise Than Ever Before
The invention of forward facing sonar has changed the way a crappie angler approaches and fishes a spot. There is no question when you're around fish, and you can see exactly how they're reacting to your bait. Let's take a look at some key forward facing sonar tips that will help you put more crappies in the boat.
Keep Your Distance
Forward facing sonar has taught us that fish can be spooky in just about any depth, type of structure, or time of year. In the past, fish in shallow water seemed much spookier because we could actually visibly see them react to our presence. Well, get your boat close enough to a brush pile full of crappies and you'll see that they can react the same way, no matter the depth. Trolling motor and transducer noise, boat shadow, and other factors can give crappie lockjaw quite quickly, especially the largest and most mature specimens.
Luckily, now with Livescope, we can see offshore structure from a great distance away and effectively present our bait from that distance. This may be by making a long cast with a swimbait style crappie jig, or by vertically presenting the bait over the structure with a very long rod; and by long we're talking 14' - 20'! There are several companies that have crafted rods ideal for this "livescope dipping" from a great distance.
BnM Fishing Livescope Crappie Rods
- BnM Fishing Tree Thumper
- Available in 10' and 11' ML models
- Not the longest in the lineup, but very lightweight and sensitive
- Contoured handle and bottom reel seat
- BnM Fishing Diamond Jig Pole Spinning Rod
- Available in 8' - 14' ML models
- High modulus graphite for a stiffer backbone while still maintaining tip sensitivity
- 100% carbon fiber handle
- BnM Black Diamond Jig Pole Spinning Rod
- Available in a 16' Medium power model
- Greater lengths coming soon
- Aims to set the standard for Livescope crappie fishing
- 30 Ton graphite blank for stiff backbone and durability
- Stainless steel guides
- Genuine Portuguese cork
- Carbon fiber reel seat
- BnM Fishing Pro Staff Trolling Rod
- Available in 8' - 20' models
- Although designed to be a "trolling rod", its great length can be used to vertically fish structure from a great distance away
ACC Crappie Stix Livescope crappie Rods
- ACC Crappie Stix Green Series Rods
- Available in a massive variety of lengths and actions
- From 5' - 16'
- Technique specific for dock-shooting, vertical jigging, trolling or Livescoping
- 11' - 16' models are the most Livescope appropriate
- Rear seat supplies the perfect balance on long rods
- Great sensitivity
- Strong backbone to swing slabs into the boat
- Available in a massive variety of lengths and actions
Jenko Fishing Livescope Crappie Rods
- Jenko Big T X-Series Livescope Crappie Jigging Rod
- Available in 10' - 15' models
- This rod puts advanced technology in the hands of crappie fishermen
- Shaves the weight of this rod in every conceivable manner
- 15fter weighs just 9.7oz
- Integrated weight balance system allows user to swap in and out 1/3oz weights on the butt of the rod to help balance with different presentations
Tony Sheppard, designer of the Jenko X-Series Rods, explains why these are the most advanced crappie rods available
Lew's Livescope Crappie Rods
- Lew's Wally Marshall Pro Target Spinning Rod
- Available in 6'6" - 16' models
- Premium IM8 Graphite blank, durable and sensitive
- Stainless steel guides to increase durability and reduce line friction
- Winn Dri-Tac grips
- No tangle tips
Stay Above the Fish
Taking a close look at a crappie's anatomy can teach you some valuable lessons about how the fish feeds. A crappie's eyes are positioned on top of its head, and its mouth is positioned so that it can effectively feed up. If you've ever watched crappies sitting still from an underwater point of view, there are times when they appear to be tilted on an upward angle, presumably to get a better view of what's above.
That being said, you should NEVER drop your bait below a crappie. Before livescope, it was impossible to see the fish and bait and position the bait above the fish's head from anywhwere but directly underneath the boat. However, with livescope, this task has become possible. Now, you have the ability to observe the fish and bait and effortlessly move the bait above the fish's head. This was always able to be done with traditional 2D sonars and flashers, but now a bait can be effectively fished above a crappie's head from 50, 60, even 70+ ft away with the latest and greatest forward facing sonar technology.
Once the bait is presented above the fish, you may need to very slowly and very subtly raise the bait away from the fish. However, there are also times when keeping your bait as still as humanly possible is what does the trick. In all types of fishing, there are certainly times when we move our baits too much and inadvertently make them look unnatural. Small and subtle crappie baits will always have some action no matter how still we try to hold them, and a lot of times that's all it takes to trigger a bite. Insect larvae and small baitfish typically aren't jumping up and down continuously in one place, so why should your bait!
FishUSA Ambassador and Livescope expert Gus Glasgow has developed an interesting technique using slip bobbers to effectively keep his bait above crappies from some distance away. In the video below, Gus explains his technique in detail.
Gus' Complete Slip bobber Setup
Experiment Often and with Confidence
Experimenting with different baits is obviously something you should do every day you go fishing, Livescope or not. However, have you ever lost confidence in a new bait quickly because you didn't get bit on it right away? I know I have, but there are countless variables that could contribute as to why.
Nowadays though, looking at a fish on forward facing sonar and immediately seeing how it reacts to your bait opens the door to experiment more with greater confidence. Imagine if you could've seen how every fish reacted to your bait immediately when you first began crappie fishing. It cuts the learning curve down significantly! Below are a variety of crappie baits you should consider adding to your arsenal if you haven't already.
Tony Sheppard from Jenko gives us some tips on fishing the Mermaid Jig
Pro Staffer Jon Dietz puts a few of the new Z-Man Micro Finesse Baits to work livescoping crappies
With all of this technology right at our fingertips, it's easier than ever to find structure. Brush piles, sunken foundations, road beds, anything you can think of that crappies love to hang around. As great as it is to be able to find offshore structure with ease, it also allows certain areas to become heavily pressured.
This fishing pressure can make crappies significantly more difficult to catch and even cause them to relocate. Sometimes, that relocation can be to "no man's land." Suspended over deep, open water around no structure. Crappies behave like this for more reasons than just fishing pressure, though. Food and low oxygen levels in a lake are also cause for this type of behavior.
Regardless of the reason why, crappies suspended in the middle of the lake are going to be harder to find and less pressured. Prior to forward facing sonar, these crappies would be relatively safe. You can use side imaging or 2D sonar to locate them. However, it becomes challenging to remain near the group while fishing. With forward facing sonar, you can easily follow the school once you locate it, even if they decide to move. Spending more time finding these moving crappies can help you succeed and avoid crowded fishing spots.
That large blob you see suspended in the water column is a school of crappies. They may be near structure, but are certainly not directly above it
Livescope Isn't The End All Be All
Whether you choose to embrace this technology or not, it's here to stay. Forward facing sonar is changing the way we fish for all species, with an emphasis on crappie and panfish. New tackle and fishing techniques will continue to arise as we have this technology for longer. Love it or hate it, there's no denying it's teaching us an immense amount about fish behavior and making all who have it more efficient and precise anglers. We hope this article helps you put more crappies in the boat, and don't forget to visit our Crappie and Panfish Store for everything you need to be successful on the water!