When the water is clear and visibility is high, crappie tend to be fairly active, and with the right lures and colors, you can expect plenty of bites and a lot of action.
With a presentation that won’t spook the fish, clear water crappie fishing can produce impressive results. If you stick to white, silver, chartreuse, and red jigs, inline spinners, or spinnerbaits, you’ll be sure to hook up with some great slabs.
If you enjoy fishing in waters with high visibility, you are in for a true treat. Here is how you catch crappie in such conditions!
DISCLAIMER: All images and tips on how to catch clear water crappies were provided by pro staffer and crappie expert Brian Harford.
How Do You Catch Crappie in Clear Water?
The most crucial thing you have to be aware of when fishing for crappie in clear water is light intensity.
In late spring and summer, while they can be found in shallower areas in the mornings, evenings, and on cloudy days, they tend to seek out deeper water during the daytime, when the sun is at its brightest and temperatures are high.
This is an important aspect to consider because they tend to move away from the common crappie hangouts that you would normally target once the light gets too intense.
It’s also essential to take a closer look at how shallow they’ll move!
Because while you can catch them in depths of only a foot or so in murky water, clear water crappie usually won’t go shallower than 4 to 5 feet (unless during spawning season, that is).
And so, if you can find grass flats and other areas of high vegetation around those 5 or 6 feet of water, you’re very likely to find the crappie there as well! They use the grass’ cover both as an ambush point and to get out of sight.
Retrieval speed is another essential part of crappie fishing in clear water conditions.
During the fall and winter, when the fish are commonly found in deeper water, slow trolling your lures can be very effective.
Down there, the fish will move around quite a lot. Trolling for them out here in the open allows you to cover a lot of water, which increases your chance of finding the fish.
When targeting shallower depths, casting smaller lures that you can retrieve slowly above or close to the weeds can be absolutely deadly for clear water crappie.
Some presentations work regardless of water clarity, but this is not always the case.
Usually, it is best to create a setup specifically adapted to the water body you’re currently targeting.
RELATED ARTICLE: Best Line Picks for Crappie Fishing
What Are the Best Lures for Crappie in Clear Water?
All in all, jigs are the best lure for crappie fishing in clear water. They’ll catch you fish year-round, and crappies love them!
When fishing near structures or vegetation, cast a light 1/16 ounce jig as close to the shade line as you dare.
When slow trolling over deeper water, fish a 3/16-1/8 ounce jig on a slip bobber rig and try out different depths until you hook up.
Berkley makes several great artificial crappie baits that thousands of anglers swear by. Their crappie nibbles are little bait balls that are chartreuse and have built-in attractants.
Tip your jigs or hooks with them for extra visual attraction and scent. On difficult days, these little baits can make all the difference!
Along with sight, crappie take advantage of their lateral line to hunt for prey. Having a lure that creates a lot of vibration, flash, and motion can significantly increase your chances of catching difficult clear water crappie.
Additionally, spinnerbaits mimic minnows, which happen to be the primary food source for crappie.
Especially in the deeper water columns, they’ll hunt bigger schools of minnows, which is why using spinnerbaits down there in the deeper water is so effective for crappie!
If you’re new to crappie fishing, try your luck with a safety-pin spinnerbait. This type of lure is easy to cast and retrieve, and on light gear, you can cover a lot of water with it.
The Johnson Beetle Spin, which is a classic safety-pin spinner for crappie, also happens to be one of the best crappie lures out there! So, it’s a definite win-win!
Best Lure Colors for Clear Water Crappie
Here are the most productive lure colors for clear water crappie fishing:
These colors stick out very well in clear water, and any combination of them is an excellent choice of lure color.
In clear water, your choice of lure color becomes more flexible than in stained water conditions.
If you fish for crappy in muddy water, you have to have lures that stick out and may not be all that natural. With clear water, you will always want to match the hatch.
Matching the hatch means that your lure will match the size, action, and color of what crappie naturally eat.
Since the fish are mostly sight feeders in clear water, using lures that look as natural as possible will significantly increase your chances of catching crappie.
A very underrated color is red. Red signifies blood from an injured baitfish. You can mimic such easy prey simply by using red hooks or white jig heads with red in them.
Also, look into white, silver, and chartreuse. These are very enticing when visibility is high, as such colors reflect sunlight very effectively.
RELATED ARTICLE: What Time of Year Do Crappie Spawn?
Should You Use a Leader for Crappie in Clear Water Conditions?
If you are going with a braided line, you should always use a thin fluorocarbon leader. When the water is clear, braided lines become very visible underwater and can easily spook the fish.
Choose an 8lb test fluorocarbon leader if you’re fishing near structures, vegetation, or other snags.
If you’re trolling in deeper water without the risk of getting snagged, a 6lb test FC leader will suffice.
If you are, on the contrary, already using a thin fluorocarbon och monofilament mainline, there is no sense in using an additional leader of the same material.
Just remember to avoid colorful mono lines, as they can also be pretty visible underwater.
Is Muddy or Clear Water Better for Crappie Fishing?
As I’ve mentioned above, water condition can and does affect crappie patterns and how you can fish for them. Although there may be differing opinions within the angling community, clear water conditions can generally be considered better or perhaps easier for crappie fishing.
Fact: crappie are sight feeders! When they can spot their prey, they are very likely to go for it.
However, if their sight is deterred, the entire fishing process becomes not necessarily more complicated but entirely different, which is something you should always be aware of when targeting crappie.
When fishing in muddy water, you’ll have to use completely different colors and lure types to get the crappie’s attention. And if you don’t know what colors and lures to pick, this can be a pretty tough challenge!
So when it comes to crappie, clear water can definitely be your friend! It just makes things a little easier and more straightforward.
Most importantly, it can lead to more bites and action without the need for sophisticated lure presentations and fishing methods, which especially beginners highly appreciate.
As long as you use the tips mentioned in this article, you will be in a good position to catch crappie.
Essential Gear Tips
If you’re looking for solid and reliable crappie fishing gear, these tips might be useful for you.
This gear and tackle is of top quality and sells at a very decent price on Amazon:
A solid and popular all-around spinning rod! This Fenwick rod is lightweight, has great sensitivity, and phenomenal action. Fits both beginners and seasoned anglers. A 6’6” or 7′ Light rod is your best pick for crappies.
An affordable high-performance spinning reel that’s perfect for crappie. Pflueger spells high quality and awesome durability! Makes for a great combo together with the Fenwick spinning rod. A size 20 is a solid choice for crappie!
One of the best braids available today! Zero stretch, great feel, and immense strength make this line the perfect pick for crappie! Use a 10lb test in open water and a 15lb test when fishing near or in heavy cover.
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Featured image courtesy of Brian Harford