Kayak Crappie Fishing In Small Waters | Great Days Outdoors

Kayak Crappie Fishing In Small Waters

It turns out that converting a stock fishing kayak into a crappie catching machine is really not that hard or expensive. When rigging a kayak for dedicated crappie fishing, the main thing to keep in mind is that we need to be able to present a number of rods with different lures or baits at different depths. Determining the depth of the fish are holding and what they are eating is crucial when kayak crappie fishing, and it varies greatly from day to day.

Rod holders are the key. Most stock kayaks have “rod holders” built in, but these are nothing more than rod transporters, and they don’t have much use for trolling in a kayak. Kayak anglers will want to install some kind of mounting system on the kayak- there are many brands and kinds of these mounting tracks, and they all work well.  These tracks allow crappie anglers to mount different numbers, sizes, and positions of rod holders to allow maximum bait presentation.

Some kayak anglers can manage a bewildering array of rods and sometimes their kayaks look like giant bugs with antennae sticking out in all directions. I admire these folks, but I can’t keep up with that many rods at one time.

My old blue Hobie kayak is equipped with rod tracks on both sides of the foredeck, so I can switch a holder from side to side as my needs change. I can keep up with a single long “rod holder rod” and a short ultra-light spinning rig which I use to toss jigs.



Kayak Trolling For Crappie

By presenting baits and lures at different depths, anglers can usually find the best presentation fairly quickly. Crappie are very sensitive when it comes to their depth preferences, and by using long rods, short rods, rods horizontal to the water and rods more vertical, anglers can give the crappie the choices they sometimes want.


kayak set up for crappie fishing

It doesn’t take much equipment or time to rig a kayak for very effective crappie catching.




I have found that by using a long, long crappie pole which presents my bait a good distance from the boat and holds the bait at a selected depth, and at the same time casting my ultra-light spinning rig, I can cover a wide range of depths to help locate the schools of feeding crappie.

And since the long pole holds the bait stationary and the spinning rig presents an actively moving bait or lure, I can find out whether the crappie want moving or stationary bait.

Another good thing about setting up a kayak for crappie fishing is that none of the needed equipment is terribly expensive.  The crappie rod and reel rigs run less than $50 each, and the tracks and rod holders are not terribly expensive either. Once installed, the track and holders last a long time.


Use the Wind in Open Water

Once the spring spawn is over, crappie will leave the shallow, brushy shallows and head out into deep, open water where they spend the rest of the year working bait schools. These schools of feeding crappie can travel far and wide, and a kayak helps anglers cover the open water to find the feeding fish.

The wind can be used to move a kayak slowly over open water flats where anglers can find the best concentration of slabs. I’ve seen kayak anglers who used their paddle boats in some of the very big Tennessee River lakes to drift fish the deep flats once the crappie had left the spawning shallows in late spring, and these folks were extremely successful with post-spawn crappie.

If the kayak is equipped with a sonar fish finder, kayak anglers can move upwind of the main feeding schools and let the wind move the kayak over the feeding fish.


Spring Fishing- Shallow Structure

Probably the classic crappie fishing situation occurs in spring when the big slabs go in the shallows, usually wooded and hard to reach shallows, where they spawn in massive numbers.


crappie caught from kayak

Kayak anglers fishing small waters for crappie will find success.


In spring, crappie fishing from a kayak is probably the very best way to put anglers in the right places to mop up the spawning crappie. Kayaks can snake their way through the thickest cover and put anglers in contact with the biggest crappie.

Some truly big bedding crappie, and lots of them, can be located and caught by using the kayak to find the most protected spawning shallows.


For Loads of Crappie – think Small Water

Although most crappie anglers love to go on big lakes, rivers, and reservoirs to find and catch crappie, if we crappie chasers don’t pay attention to the small waters that can be found all over the country, we may just be missing out on some seriously good crappie catching.

Just how big a crappie can small waters produce? How about the world’s record black crappie, a five pound 6.4 ounce mega-slab caught in Tennessee by Lionel “Jam” Ferguson in May of 2018.  This absolute monster crappie came from a small pond in Tennessee, and it replaced the old world’s record crappie, a five-pounder, which came from a private lake in Georgia in 2006.

Although not all small waters can produce a world’s record crappie, many smaller ponds and lakes provide an almost untapped bounty of great crappie fishing. And according to the world-record evidence, the biggest crappie do come from smaller waters.


Small Private Ponds

If an angler can arrange permission to fish private lakes which hold crappie, then things are just about perfect for some real fun.  Most private lakes and ponds receive very light fishing pressure, and the crappie may be totally unaware of any dangers from anglers and easy to fool. 


kayak crappie fishing

Kayak anglers can find and fish crappie water that no other angler can reach.


There are thousands of smaller lakes and ponds scattered across the country which hold crappie, and the best thing about these small waters is that usually at least a few of them are very close to wherever a crappie angler lives, so no long trips are involved.

Crappie anglers who spend some time fishing and learning particular small lakes and ponds can become very well acquainted with the fish, with the water, and with the structure of a small lake much easier than trying to learn the ins and outs of a major reservoir with often variable water levels. In small waters, anglers can learn when and where in the course of a year the crappie will be catchable. 


Backwaters of Larger Lakes

Most major lakes and rivers have lots of small, hard to access backwaters and offshoots that sometimes hold tremendous loads of crappie, especially in springtime when the slabs seek quiet shallows for spawning.

There are several reasons for crappie anglers to concentrate on smaller backwaters which connect to bigger lakes or rivers, but the biggest reason to kayak fish small waters is that big boat anglers can’t reach these waters, so the competition is much less. These secluded backwaters are the private property of kayak anglers who are willing to do a little exploring to reach the fish.

So, kayak crappie anglers who want to find some very good crappie and lots of them- think SMALL!

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