Outdoors column: Making time for spawning slabs

Although walleyes are getting most of the attention right now, don’t overlook slab crappies. They can be a blast to catch (especially the larger fish) and right now is the perfect time to get it done. Now is the time for crappies to show up on their preferred spawning grounds where they are easy enough to find and not all that hard to catch.

Steve Kast of Cambridge had to leave the walleyes alone to nail this giant spawning slab.
Steve Kast of Cambridge had to leave the walleyes alone to nail this giant spawning slab.

The key is finding the bedding sites and that can be as simple as finding the bulrushes. Not the kind that you find in the back ends of shallow black bottom bays but rather hard-stemmed bulrushes that grow on harder, sandier bottoms. We also call them reeds or pencil reeds, but the official name is hard-stemmed bulrush.

That’s where the males will move in and sweep out their nests before the females move in and drop their eggs. They’ll nest as deep as the reeds will grow which can be as deep as six or eight feet or more in clearer lakes.

The best way to approach a bed of rushes is as nice and quiet as you can and where you really need an electric trolling motor. With my 24-volt Minn Kota Terrova on the bow I can sneak in and position the boat perfectly without every slab knowing about it and temporarily shutting the bite down. Start on the outside edges of the reeds and work your way around a bed and then go on in looking for pockets and openings to drop your bait.

Super light jigs (like a 1/64-ounce Northland Tackle Fire-Fly Jig) suspended below a Lite-Bite Slip Bobber are perfect for making short casts to the edges and into the pockets.

You can add a small minnow if you want, but the Fire-Fly is about all you need and less is usually more.

Light line is great if you can get away with it but when you’re working reeds you’re going to get hung up and you will break off if you go too light. A nice compromise is five- or six-pound test line which should have enough break strength to get you freed up most of the time.

When you drop your bait into a likely spot give it a little time before picking up and moving on. Crappies will take their sweet time when they’re not all that wound up, but can usually be coaxed into taking the bait.

See you on the water.

Ron Anlauf is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.