Crappie Color Connoisseur

Crappie fishing

Does Color Matter In Crappie Fishing

You can check most crappie angler’s tackle box and you will find a plethora of colors to choose from. I have to admit my box is loaded with many of the colors on the market today for crappie fishing but I am no crappie color connoisseur. And there is a bunch of them. The big question today is about color and crappie fishing. I will provide some valuable information on the crappie color conundrum and hopefully clear things up a bit for you. It won’t be easy because there are those that stick to a few of their favorite colors and run with it. I know and read about some great crappie anglers that pick a color and never change it throughout the day. I personally will change either profile or color if I’m not catching any crappie.

This brings up another point and that is profile. I will do another article on bait profiles. There are those that believe more in profile and size than in color. This is a reflection of the progression of fishing with the LiveScope technology. The Livescope and other forward scanning units an angler can watch the crappie’s reaction to a bait. This has taught those that are paying attention how much color matters in crappie fishing. This information is evolving as more and more anglers are installing Livescope on their boats. Me included.

With the Livescope, I will be able to observe the crappie and their reaction to different baits so stay tuned for a more personal touch on the subject as I am excited to do some in depth research on this subject. For now the information in this article  has been gleaned from educated guesses and observing other anglers and talking to many. There is no shortage of color and crappie information out there, but it will be evolving with the new technologies that allow anglers to fine tune their bait color choice.

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Crappie And Color Vision

Crappie can see colors well. However, a crappie’s ability to see color is influenced by light levels, water depth and the clarity and temperature of the water. Also, when crappie are super aggressive they might eat any color jig you present to them. Keep this in mind when you think you have found the perfect crappie jig color for your home waters then can’t get a bite on it on your next trip. When the crappie seem to be really aggressive change jig color several times to see if they are just biting good or really prefer a certain color.

Water Clarity And Crappie Colors 

Water clarity and light levels will affect crappie color vision. Red, white, orange, green and blue are great colors for crappie in clear water and on sunny days. As light levels fade or the water becomes murky, better crappie jig colors seems to be yellow, pink, chartreuse, dark blue, and black. If you notice crappie not wanting a certain color that they were biting earlier in the day a lot of the time it is due to water clarity or some clouds roll in. 

If you relocate to an area where the water is a little dingy you might have to change colors. Here on my home lakes of Kentucky and Barkley, and fishing the north end, I find myself running sometimes from Kentucky Lake to Barkley Lake and the water clarity is much different between the two. 

Water filters colors due to the refraction of light. There are colors that disappear first. Because of this, red colored crappie jigs are visible only in shallow water, a crappie can see the color orange a little deeper, yellow even deeper, green fades out a little deeper and blue colored crappie jigs are visible to crappie in the deepest water before fading out to the crappies vision.

When Black Is The Best Crappie Color  

Black is a good color for crappie at really any depth but especially in the deepest depths where the light is unable to reach. I know this goes against all reason, at least it did to me when I was told about it. White can also be a good color at any depth for crappie. White will reflect any available light and can be a great all around color. I guess the best thing I gathered through my research was that when crappie fishing in depths of say 20 feet or less then various colors could be used to catch crappie and some colors might work better than others. However, when fishing deeper that 20 feet I would say black would be a color that the crappie can see well or any darker colors.

Cold Water And Crappie Jig Color

Some studies show that water temperature can effect a crappie’s vision. When the water is cold crappie can see color better than when it warms up. The colder water helps the crappie see better because it helps the cells in a crappie’s eyes to function better. Also there is less zooplankton and other particles growing in the water. Now this is getting real scientific but to us anglers lets just say that in the winter we should be aware of this, not only for jig color choices but also line diameter, color and material. I will save the line choices for another article.

  1. Crappie Color Selection Summary
  2. Very active crappie will strike at about any color
  3. Crappie can see color better in winter
  4. 20 feet or less change those crappie colors until you find what they want
  5. Deeper than 20 feet, unless ultra clear water, black might work as well as any color
  6. If the hook is barely catching the lip there might be a better color. 
  7. Get the right color and the jig will be deeper in the crappie’s mouth
  8. If using two-colored jigs flip the body for two crappie colors in one grub

Crappie Color Connoisseur

There’s no shortage of arguments in the fishing world to go around. Big baits vs small baits. Heavy line vs light line. Fluorocarbon vs monofilament. One major debate that rages on, especially in crappie fishing circles, is the debate of color. There are those that have every color in the rainbow and every combination of those colors too. Then there are others with a few basic-colored jigs that they claim is all you need.

I remember as a kid fishing with my grandfather. We had one type of jig and two colors. That was the simple marabou jig, which in those days was termed just the crappie jig. Kind of like Coke representing all sodas, at least until the other brands began to market that out of our brains. The colors I remember was yellow and white. I would use one color and my grandfather used the other. His philosophy was that if they are down there, they get a few minutes to decide on two colors. If they can’t decide we moved on.

Fishing in general has advanced greatly. Soft plastics has made it possible to stock your tackle box with a thousand different colors. If that’s your thing. As a crappie angler myself I tend to rely on a few colors. We all know it’s almost too easy to stock multiple options not to. Also, with techniques like spider-rigging and long-lining with multiple poles it only makes sense to tie on a few different colors to see what the crappie wants that day.

I was once a stickler, not surprisingly, for white and yellow grubs when it came to crappie fishing. That is until I began going fishing with other crappie anglers. I watched them frantically change colors until they narrowed it down to one or two that produced. After a few trips seeing this, I became much more aware of color and its effectiveness. I will probably never be connoisseur of color like many of my friends and I will probably never catch as many crappie as they do either.

As an outdoor writer I communicate with many anglers through social media and my website. Several have made the cover of this publication. I even get to fish with some of them from time to time. I was fortunate to join a couple from my Facebook group that happened to live near me. Robin and Steve Hunt. I am starting to use the new livescope technology and they were kind enough to ask me along to get a few pointers.

I learned a lot from Robin and Steve and the trip was a success with enough crappie for dinner. The trip wasn’t only a relaxing day on the water getting to know my neighbors, but it was also the inspiration behind this article. You see Robin, also known as “Rainbow Robin,” is a stickler for color. You might say she is a color connoisseur and like my grandfather don’t give the crappie long to decide it’s time for a new one. However, livescope has ended the need to leave when they don’t bite. You can watch the crappie and their reaction to different colors until you find the one they like.

This frantic color changing can be comical to those of us that tend to think color don’t matter. That is until, as I’ve been shown so many times before, the right color is found. This is when the laughing stops, and the search begins for the color that’s obviously getting more bites. Just a note. Don’t be surprised if the color connoisseur in your boat hides the last pack of the magic color in their secret bib pocket. You know the one that seems to continuously produce tootsie rolls all day long and you can never figure out where they are coming from.

I’m not sure if my grandfather’s two color choices and one style jig was stubbornness. Or just all we had back then. With all the options available today I could easily be called stubborn myself with my handful of colors and plain unpainted jigheads. I will say though, thanks to people like Rainbow Robin I might still only give the crappie a few minutes to bite but I will always offer a lot more colors to help them decide.

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About Ken McBroom 306 Articles
Ken McBroom is an accomplished outdoor writer and photographer. Growing up in Lynchburg Tennessee allowed him many opportunities afield as a boy and young man. Later in life, after Desert Storm, Ken’s wanderlust took him to Alaska to live and work and experience the last frontier. Married now with two beautiful children, Ken now calls Kentucky home where he continues to communicate our American outdoor traditions and the lifestyle it offers.