Crappie: Texas’ smartest fish?

Are crappie the smartest fish we deal with in Texas on a regular basis?

In my opinion the answer is “no” but they are certainly near the top of the list. In fact, the researchers at Pure Fishing (producers of Abu Garcia, Berkley, etc.) list them as No. 2 only behind carp believe it or not.

In the smart department, crappie do not get their dues because the fish are so abundant on reservoirs it seems as if they are easy to catch and in many cases they are. However, once you start targeting BIG crappie you soon realize there are many intricacies to their behavior.

As noted in my 2010 TF&G Story “Secrets of the Crappie Bite”, which you can read the full text of by clicking here, the biggest crappie often “thump” your bait/lure and then wait a second or two to commit to eating it. If you set the hook too fast, you lose the fish.

From the story…

“Back in 2005, I had the amazing opportunity to dive with and hand feed “Splash”, the 121-pound blue catfish caught by angler Cody Mullenix on Lake Texoma. The fish was brought in alive and housed at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. My goal for the dive was to establish the perspective of a diver encountering a catfish of record proportions for an article I was doing about the legends of giant catfish below dams.”

“Before the dive, the divemaster handed me a mesh bag with a few koi and a rainbow trout to feed “Splash” and another full of shiners and crickets to feed the bass and perch. After achieving the goal of hand feeding the giant catfish and having someone photograph to show the scale of such a huge catfish and a grown man, I took a few minutes to feed the other fish.”

“My eyes were immediately drawn to a massive crappie in the tank. The fish had to be every bit of three pounds and as soon as I broke out the food it started my direction.I held out a shiner toward it and was amazed as the fish slowly swam up to it, stopped and then blew a hard jet of water over my shiner (and my fingers) a second or two before lunging forward and inhaling it. The fish repeated this process every time as I observed with astonishment. It was extremely cautious on the approach then came the blast of water followed by the attack.”

“After catching of few of these super-sized slabs on Rayburn, it did not take long to connect the dots between my diving experience and the bites of these big fish. These trophy crappie in my opinion were either testing or shocking the bait before the strike.”

My Sam Rayburn guide friend Roger Bacon often feeds the crappie, a little line by peeling it off the spool of his Falcon spinning reels and then sets the hook when he thinks it is a big one.

“We catch a lot of the bigger fish like that,” he said.

The last time I fished with it conditions were so rough you could barely feel the fish that hit with the most stealth but several times we reeled in after we thought we had a bite and the shiner was smashed and scaled.

That means a big crappie had it in its mouth but could sense something just wasn’t right. These fish are far smarter than we think.

Chester Moore