How to Fish for Black Crappie

how to fish black crappie
Black Crappie in hand. Rambling Angler Media

Most anglers fish for crappie and when they catch a black crappie they notice it is a black crappie and toss it in the livewell with all the others. When it becomes important to understand the differences between black crappie and white is when you want to target just black crappie. Fishing for black crappie can be different than fishing for white crappie when they’re not schooled together. Here’s a few distinguishing differences between the two species.

  • The black crappie has splotches rather than distinguishable bars along their sides like the white crappie.
  • A black crappie has a silvery sheen with green to black random splotches
  • Black crappie tend to be more aggressive when shallow
  • Black crappie will spawn a little earlier than white crappie
  • Black crappie love to utilize isolated cover like logs and stumps
  • Big black crappie can often be found alone on a piece of cover
  • Big black crappie will readily strike moving baits like small crankbaits, swimbaits and spinners.



li'l tuffy swimbait



Black crappie will begin their spawning migration in the spring a little sooner their their cousins. The black crappie will move shallow when the water temperatures hit about 57-59 degrees. This is just a few degrees less than the time that white crappie move in and is why learning different ways of fishing for black crappie can help you enjoy that early spring shallow bite a little sooner.

Double Jig Rig for Crappie
black crappie



Look for spawning black crappie in protected coves. Black crappie will spawn in the same area with white crappie but sometimes there are areas that hold predominantly black crappie. This could be caused by habitat or food sources that the black crappie prefer. Of course the two crappie species do coexist and eat the same food, but there’s subtle preferences that that black crappie want that white crappie do not. An example would be that black crappie eat more crustaceans and insects. At least until they get older and bigger then they’ll go after small fish. The white crappie prefers minnows. They will live and spawn near those areas. So it would be the habitat more than the choice of the crappie as to whether they coexist or not. In most cases you will find both black and white crappie coexisting in the same areas.



When you find a location that seems to be holding black crappie or it’s early spring and the white crappie haven’t moved shallow just yet, these are some tips to catch more black crappie. White crappie are roamer. they will suspend in the water column and follow baitfish around feeding as they go. Black crappie will do the same during certain times of the season but when they move up to spawn black crappie tend to hang around cover and often very tight to that cover. It could be a stump, a rock or a boat dock piling. Targeting this isolated cover throughout a spawning area is key to finding and catching more black crappie.


If you want to learn more about how to catch black crappie you have to know when you catch one. Here are a few distinguishing factors between black crappie and white crappie.

  • White crappie has vertical bars along their sides while black crappie has irregular spots or mottled on their sides. Sometimes white crappie is dark in color and can be mistaken for black crappie and vice versa so look for these markings.
  • On black crappie, there are 7 to 8 spines on their dorsal fin while white crappie has 5 to 6
  • Black crappie is more rounded in the body than white crappie which are longer in the body. This is subtle but just another way to tell the difference between black crappie and white crappie.

Best Bait For Black Crappie

Lures for catching black crappie are similar to lures used for white crappie. Twister tail grubs, small crankbaits, underspin jigs and small swimbaits all work. The difference would be how you fish these lures for black crappie. As mentioned above you will find black crappie tight to cover and just making a cast close to that cover might not get a response from the big black crappie chilling by the stump. Be sure to make your cast so that the lure moves into where that crappie might be laying. Imagine how the black crappie might be positioned on the cover you’re fishing. Make multiple casts to likely cover and at different angles. Sometimes it takes a lot of casts to find the spot that the black crappie want to protect or just decides he might as well eat your lure because it is too easy a meal.

Black Crappie Jig Pole

As for tackle the usual crappie rig will do. When targeting black crappie though you are usually either vertical jigging or casting to select cover. When jigging I like to use a 12 foot B’n’M Jig Pole. This rod will help you to stay back and away from the cover so as not to spook the fish holding to it. Dipping a jig next to a big stump and giving a few twitches can be deadly on fish waiting there for a easy meal. A shorter rod is in order for casting to these cover targets. The short rod is more accurate when lure placement on cover is vital. Both rods should be ultra-light to medium light action. I prefer a medium light power with a moderate action. I feel that this combination allows for more sensitivity to the hand as well as easier casting.


The reel is a crucial part of the crappie setup. Not so much for the jig pole as you just don’t use the reel that much. When it comes to the 5.5 to 6 foot rod used for casting your lures a nice smooth reel with a smooth drag is vital to not just handling slabs but also for all day comfort when casting for crappie. I love the Abu Garcia Orra S Spinning Fishing Reel. This reel is smooth with a great drag.

There is nothing better than some fresh black crappie for dinner. One of my favorite recipes for crappie is

Cajun Crappie Po’ Boy Sandwich

About Ken McBroom 307 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.

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