When Crappie Don’t Bite

Li'L TUFFY Swimbait
Li'L TUFFY Swimbait

What to Do When Crappie Don’t Bite

There are times when crappie will bury up in thick brush or hug a stump extra tight. You can see them on your graph or you caught them there the day before so you’re pretty sure they’re there. Here are some tips on what to do when the crappie don’t bite.

There is many reasons that crappie don’t bite. Barometric pressure, muddy water, cold water when they just don’t have to feed all day long. Fish in general just don’t bite all the time, but there are ways to trigger strikes from these reluctant crappie. You still won’t catch as many as when they are biting good, but a few on a day when you were going to catch none is a great day. Check out these options for crappie that don’t bite and apply it to your arsenal of crappie fishing tricks to put more fish in your boat.

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A cold front will shut down the crappie bite quicker than anything. Wintertime cold fronts will affect the crappie bite as well. Wintertime cold fronts will affect the crappie bite just like as any other time of year. When the water temps drop just a degree or two the crappie tend to seek cover. They often tend to have the proverbial lock jaw when this happens. During this time, even live bait sometimes won’t entice these crappie to bite. There’s one thing that will and it’s been shown to me several times. The secret ain’t that dramatic it’s just your regular old crappie jig. By utilizing a technique with your crappie jig you can make a crappie bite with a reaction strike.

A jig can trigger strikes from these reluctant cold front crappies when nothing else will and here’s how. When crappies cling to thick cover often they’re not feeding. They will use brush to wait out a cold fronts or they just are not feeding and want to feel safe while they rest until they are. One great way to catch a few of these crappie is by lowering a jig into the cover. As one old timer once put it “knock on some wood.” It was this old timer and a couple others that convinced me that this technique worked when crappie don’t bite and they are buried up in thick cover. Check below for another way to create a reaction strike and catch crappie that don’t bite.


The trick to knocking on wood to get crappie in the brush to bite or react to your presentation is to lower your jig into the cover with the crappie. A good fish finder will help you stay on top of the cover. When your jig is in the cover raise it up until you feel it hit a piece of it. When you feel it hit, then lower the jig back down, bring it back up quickly to the piece of cover you felt before. This will tap your jighead on the piece of cover and create a ticking sound. This will trigger reaction strikes from the crappie. I guess the noise, created by the jig, drives them crazy and they just want to shut it up. The color can make a difference too. Change up the color of your jig to see what the crappie wants that day.

I’ve seen this crappie technique work in as deep as 30 feet and as shallow as 2 feet of water. To fish for crappie in the brush that don’t bite, you need a jig that will get down to the cover quick. The perfect jig for this presentation is a simple marabou jig in 1/8 ounce. The marabou tail collapses on the fall. It has very little drag on the fall getting your jig down quick and straight. The marabou will pulse in the water even when dead sticking the jig after knocking on the wood. This gives your jig just enough action to trigger the reaction you’re looking for.


This technique ain’t as easy as it seems. It took awhile for me to get proficient at it without getting hung. But, those old timers gave me a couple tips on fishing brush for crappie that don’t bite. They told me to use a heavier jig. The initial thought is to downsize to a small jig when are not biting, especially in the winter, but for this technique you need a heavier jig. The weight helps the jig to drop straight down into the cover. It also helps you feel the brush once there.

The other tip was to use a dull hook point. Crappies get the nickname paper-mouth for their soft mouth. They are known to rip open and come unhooked. Using a dull hook will still stick a crappie and help keep you from getting hung as easy. If you do get hung then the dull point will make it easier to work it loose. Also the heavier head helps to dislodge your jig when it hangs up by just giving slack and jiggling the rod tip. The point here is to not disturb the brush or whatever cover you’re fishing. Getting hung and pulling on the cover to break off runs the crappie to another brush pile ultimately leaving yours all together. The heavy head will also emit a loud knock when your “knocking on wood.” This technique takes practice, but once you master it you will be able to catch a few crappie, even when they don’t want to bite.


Some crappie anglers add a rattle to their jig and I have been told it will make those crappie that don’t bite react and eat your jig. 

This article as a whole is about getting bites from crappie that don’t want to bite. Here is another great way to get a reaction strike from crappie that don’t want to bite other than the “knock on wood” technique mentioned above. Another way to create reaction strikes from crappie that don’t bite is with a rattle on your jig or hook. Even when using live bait a rattle can sometimes entice lethargic crappie into biting. Rattles that are made specifically for inserting inside tube jigs is a great way to add a rattle to your presentation. Bobby Garland Crappie Rattles is one that comes to mind. Just insert the glass rattle inside the soft plastic bait to create a rattle that crappie can not keep from reacting.

Another way is to buy rattle jig heads with the rattle built into the head like the Kalin’s Rattlin’ Google Eye Jig. These rattles are a great way to get a reaction strike from crappie that don’t bite whether in thick brush or open water. The best way to get the best rattle is with sharp jigging for crappie causing the rattle to send out the obnoxious sounds that crappie want to kill. Locate shad and or crappie schools. Ease the jig into the school and sharply snap your jig in the crappie and get their attention.


I have been working on tying a squirrel tail hair jig with a glass rattle inside the body. I finally got it! I’ve been using the Hairy Rattle jig this spring and it has been outperforming my other jigs that I run on the other poles at the same time. I have caught crappie jigging the Hairy Rattle in brush as well as while long lining for crappie. I am not sure if the larger body helps it when I am long lining or if there is enough jigging action in the line to activate that glass rattle inside. Either way the Hairy Rattle outperforms while long lining too. Here is some images of my first catch on the Hairy Rattler Crappie Jig earlier this spring. The crappie fishing is just heating up here in Kentucky so I might be adding a few more later on in the crappie season.



Crappie in Thick Brush

How to Fish for Black Crappie

Know Your Crappie Temps

How to Catch Deep Water Crappie

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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