MN Fishing Pros

The best rated & most experienced fishing guides on Lake Winnibigoshish and beyond

Grand Rapids, Deer River and surrounding areas

Fishing Pro Guides Bill Broberg, Jeff Skelley, Charlie Worrath, Jason Boser at L&M Supply MN Fishing Pros Powered by Amsoil

"Knock on Wood" for Pre-spawn Crappies

by fishing guide

If you break fishing down to its most simple terms, catching fish revolves around two things: finding the fish and then getting them to bite. Pre-spawn crappies are no different. The key is finding them. To do this you must find not only structure, but also the right structure.

Crappie fishermen
Crappie catch

In early spring, crappies move in from the deep water where they have spent the winter, having done really not much of anything. When they get shallower and find some structure, they kick back and relax for a time. Then, when the water temperature says it's "go time", they're off on a feeding binge to prepare for the rigors of the spawn.

So what is that magic structure? Is it something 21st Century technology has discovered, or something revolutionary fishing media pundits have uncovered? Nope, it's that same "old panfish fishing hole" type of area you fished as a kid after ice out. Remember where your grandpa or dad took you out for crappies before walleye opener? You guessed it. Find that same type of brush pile, stump or beaver house and nine times out of ten you'll find crappies hanging around. They may even be around "cribs" that have been legally placed in lakes to attract panfish.

Keep in mind that spring crappies most often hold in shallow wood. By this I mean the type that can be found in just about every lake. Look for trees that have fallen in along the shoreline. If you know of a lake that has wide-ranging stump fields, fish these. If there is a beaver house, zero in on it. Also remember that due to the sun, north ends of lakes will warm more quickly, so look there first.

To a crappie, wood is a wonderful buffet. Algae and moss grow on submerged wood. This holds microorganisms, which in turn attract minnows, which in turn attract crappies. A regular circle of life revolves around these piles of waterlogged wood. Their lumps and tangles and branches provide both cover and food. A crappie gravitates toward these like a deer to acorns.

Because it plays such a big part in the spring movement to spawning areas, if the wood maintains its "integrity" (minnow attracting), you can usually count on such structures to draw crappies year after year, sometimes even in summer and fall. Crappies basically go to the same place every year to spawn and are very aggressive at this time of year. If you find them and then get the bait in front of them, they'll eat almost anything.

It is, however, never a given. There are few glitches to be avoided. One is losing tackle in all that wood. To avoid this, I prefer a small 1/16th oz. Northland Tackle jig. I'm not much for this color and that color, so I use the Northland Tackle's parrot colored jig for all lakes and all species. Because it's a multi-colored jig, I believe it covers all options for watercolor and clarity. Moreover, if you really think about it, how many colors variations are there in shiners, chubs, leeches or nightcrawlers? Not many, right? The only really natural multi-colored bait is probably the crayfish and what fish doesn't like a good old crawdad?

The major part of catching spring crappies is, of course, location, location, location, but another major component is the presentation. We have established that a multi-colored jig, or your preference, will be used. Now comes the style aspect of the presentation, how to present minnow morsels for those crappies to suck in. One thing I have found is that this is not the time for aggressive jigging. Instead, utilize short lifts and drops. They will work much better. If you are pitching in toward shore, obviously you must retrieve fast enough to keep over the wood. If you are jigging vertically over wood, raise and lower the rod tip about a foot, 18 inches at the most.

I will work a crib or deadfalls from top to bottom, beginning just under the surface and keeping the jigging motion tight. I then let out more line to work farther down, still raising and lowering the jig with short lifts. Many times you will have to do this all the way down to bottom and even through tangles of limbs and branches.

If I get a strike about five feet from the base of the wood, I know to be ready for the next bite at the same depth.

Sometimes, however, crappies will only bite a jig/minnow dangled six inches or less from wood. If the bait was out even just a foot they wouldn't come get it. Be prepared for such finicky slabs. Although this is not the norm, it is a common situation after a cold front. For some strange reason and probably a good one, (if it did not occur there would be no crappies left), crappies turn completely negative. If this happens, sometimes the bait needs to literally bump the wood, then be prepared to donate to the tackle shops, as you will lose your share of jigs.

On cloudy days or days with unsettled weather, sometimes the fish might swim out a little. However, I really can't recall that many early spring days when the crappies were that willing to move out more than several yards from wood cover to take any lure.

Another approach that is especially good for our younger or less experienced fisher-people, in shallow water six feet or less, is to cast a 16th oz. Northland Tackle jig that has a fixed float two or three feet above the jig. Let it sit for a short time, then jig the rod back a few times. This causes the float to glide and stop, with the jig swinging back and forth and up and down under the water.

The fall of the jig after a cast and an ensuing side-to-side jigging motion can bring wood-holding crappies up to take the bait. Even before the float comes to a complete stop, crappies will grab this pendulum-swinging jig. Bear in mind, however, because crappies see only in front, to the side and up, anything under them will not be noticed. Start high, feather down and don't go too deep.

More than anything keep it simple. Look for wood and then entice crappies from their cover. If you do find them and get to catch them, remember how fragile their ecosystem really is. Take only what you need to eat, catch and release the big ones. Think back to how many of our great panfish lakes currently either do not have many big ones any more or there are too many little ones. A fish caught and cleaned and eaten can never be caught again.

Walt Disney might have his "Wonderful World of Color" and Louis Armstrong might have sung about how "It's a Wonderful World" and "knock on wood" might be a good luck talisman, but only those of us who have caught these sparkling black and ivory crappies and witnessed how they slice their way to the surface in the cold prespawn water know the thrill of finding this "wonderful world of wood" that houses these awesome fish.

Be safe, have fun and leave some for tomorrow and beyond.

Charlie Worrath is a full time fishing guide from Deer River, MN.
He may be contacted at: (218) 246-2159.

Back to article list

Meet the MN Fishing Pros!

Click on the picture of each fishing guide to learn more about him:

2019 Guided Fishing Trip Rates

MN Fishing Pros Logo
Number of Anglers Full Day Trip
8am - 4pm
Half Day Trip
8am - 12noon
1 - 2 people $400 $330
3 people $480 $390
Tag Boats $150 per boat
Shore Lunch or Shore Dinner $35 per boat

Fish cleaning and packaging at the end of your guided trip is included in the trip price.

Rates for a full day or half day guided fishing trip are reasonable and include bait, fish cleaning and packaging services as well as use of pro's boat, fuel, fishing equipment and safety gear. Clients need only bring their valid Minnesota fishing license, rain and/or cold weather gear and food & beverage.

Fishing trips may end sooner if the limit of fish is caught. A $100 deposit ($100 per boat for group trips) is required to hold your reservation for a guided fishing trip with a MN Fishing Pro. Please send check or money order to the guide with whom you have booked your trip. The date of your full or half day fishing trip is not guaranteed until your deposit is received.

Ready to Book?  Click Here to Check Availability for Your Choice of Guide

Just fill out our easy Check Availability Form and you'll hear back from your guide within 24 hours. After you have confirmed the date of your trip with your guide please send your deposit along with this Reservation Form.

Fishing 411

2019 Fishing Opener Dates

Walleye & Northern Pike - May 11, 2019
Largemouth & Smallmouth Bass - May 11, 2019
Muskie - June 1, 2019

2019 Fishing Regulations

2019 Fishing Regulations coming March 1, 2019

Purchase your MN fishing license online

Charlie Worrath on Jason Mitchell Outdoors talking early season walleyes

Jason Mitchell Outdoors host Jason Mitchell with MN Fishing Pro Guide Charlie Worrath and early season walleye

Charlie Worrath talks early season walleye for the television program Jason Mitchell Outdoors on Lake Winnibigoshish in northern Minnesota. (watch the video)

Jason Boser appears with Jason Mitchell on Jason Mitchell Outdoors

Jason Mitchell Outdoors host Jason Mitchell with MN FIshing Pro Guide Jason Boser and a Lake Winnibigoshish walleye
(l - r) Jason Boser and Jason Mitchell pose with a Lake Winnie walleye

Jason Boser appearing on an episode for the television program Jason Mitchell Outdoors on Lake Winnibigoshish in northern Minnesota. (watch the video)

MN Fishing Pros Charlie Worrath and Jason Boser discuss the Alumacraft boats they use in their guide services.

Listen for Charlie and Jason on "Fishin' Paul Bunyan Country" on Continuous Country KB 101 in Bemidji at 12:30 and 5:30 pm Monday through Friday beginning May 2 and continuing throughout the fishing season.
Charlie Worrath - May Fishing on Lake Winnie- click for audio
Jason Boser - Why Do You Fish?- click for audio

Minnesota Fishing Vacations:

We can help you plan a memorable Minnesota Fishing Vacation with a professionally-guided fishing trip on any of the hundreds of lakes in Northcentral Minnesota, including Lake Winnie.

Click here to check out our Preferred Resort Partners list. These are resorts hosted by folks that we know treat anglers right!

Weekly fishing tips in the Manney's Shopper April - September!

Buy our fish batters here:

Moose Lake Wild Rice Co. C-N-J Savory Fish Batter Charlie Worrath with Crappie
Moose Lake Wild

Game Hide Clothing MN Fishing Pros jumping fish graphic

Google + logo Facebook logo