Specks, Slabs, Paper Mouths, or my personal Cajun favorite, Sac-a-laits.... Crappie go by a lot of different names. No matter what you call them or where you're from, we can all agree they taste great breaded and fried!
Recently my friend Wyatt and I had the day off so we spent the day targeting Crappie on Lake Travis instead of bass fishing. The video below give a ton of information about what it is I do to find these fish! With that said, I am not an expert on Crappie fishing. There are guides out there a lot better and more knowledgable about that species than I am. With that said, there's not too many Crappie guides on Lake Travis... read the rest of this post and you'll know why.
Lake Travis is home to a healthy population of both White and Black Crappie. Despite this they are notoriously difficult to catch and not a ton of people target them. Before we get any further into this post, I do NOT offer guided Crappie trips. I wish I did, I get a ton of requests for them. The reason I do not offer fishing trips targeting them is because of how difficult they are to get to. Lake Travis is very deep and rocky, because of there there are not a lot of large brush piles and almost no standing timber. This is the kind of structure Crappie thrive in. Due to this they like to live under home owners private dock's. A lot of large docks on Lake Travis have big metal staircases that go way down into the lake to account for years when the lake is low. Sac-a-lait like living near these staircases and under the docks in the shade. Getting a group of clients to accurately cast small jigs up and under docks is near impossible. Most clients expect to sit over the top of a brush pile and vertical fish minnows... this simply isn't how I do it on Lake Travis.
When looking for Crappie I start my search with my electronics. I'm not going to say you need fancy graphs to find these fish, but it makes it a heck of a lot easier and way more efficient. As you will see demonstrated in the video above, I use my side imaging to look for schools of suspended fish up under docks. Adjust your side scan settings to only shoot out on the side of your boat where the docks are. Utilizing the entire width of your screen will make it easier for you to see the fish. Graph at 3-4 mph with your range set as close as you can and still reach the shoreline. You are looking for numerous tiny dots a pixel or two in side up around the docks... these are almost always Crappie or Sunfish. Largemouth bass and catfish will also live up under docks at times, but they show up larger on the graph and don't typically group up as tight as Crappie.
When searching for Crappie pay attention to the conditions in the places you do find them. Are the banks steep or gradual sloping? Are the docks deep or shallow? Is the water gin clear or rather stained? Is there brush nearby? Just like with bass fishing you are trying to establish a pattern. The more pieces of the puzzle you put together, the easier it will be to find other similar locations on the lake that will likely hold Crappie. One BIG tip I will give you is to fish the upper end of Lake Travis. I consistently find more Crappie up river than I do down. I attribute this to more brush and more stained water... if you have thoughts on this shoot me a message, I would love to hear y'alls thoughts on this.
Once I have located a potential school of Crappie I drop my trolling motor and turn on my Garmin Livescope. If you have been on the fence about purchasing a graph with live sonar, here is your sign. Live sonar has changed Crappie fishing forever. I am now able to tell you exactly where the school of Crappie are located, how deep they are, and if they're worth fishing for. In the above video we watched almost 90% of the fish we caught that day eat our baits on the screen. Watching how the Crappie react to the bait tells you a ton! You'll be able to see how aggressively or softly to jig the bait, if they want it in the middle of the school or above the school, if they react to jigs vs. minnows better, and when the have lost interest and moved on. If you are interested in pulling the trigger on a new sonar set up send me a message! I can get you a discount through Mealy Marine. They are based in Houston, have great prices and customer service, ship super quick, and carry all major brands of electronics.
My last tips is to bring a variety of bait colors as well as live bait. If you are locating schools and are confident your bait is in the middle of them be sure to change jigs! I also like to switch back and forth between a live minnow and a Crappie jig. Live bait isn't always best believe it or not! At times just dead sticking a jig and barely wiggling it is what they want. Play around with this and let the fish tell you what it is they prefer.
So to summarize this into three main tips:
Save time by graphing along the fronts of docks using your side imaging.
Utilize your live sonar to pin point the exact location of the Crappie schools under the dock.
Switch the color of your Crappie jig often and switch between jigs and minnows depending on how the Crappie are reacting to your bait.
If you are headed out on the lake I wish you luck! If this article helps you please consider sharing it on your social media or even better yet, send me a message and let me know how you do! I love teaching people to fish, but hearing that it helped you gives me way more motivation to publish content like this. As always, if you are looking for a bass fishing guide on Lake Travis, give me a shout! I would love to earn your business, teach you a thing or two, and give out some free lip piercings!