Just how smart are crappie? It’s a question crappie anglers often find asking themselves. Seriously, just how smart are crappie.

It seems like crappie are really smart some days when you can’t incite them into biting and you have an empty livewell. Of course there have been hundreds of studies where fishery biologists claim to have crappie behavior all figured out. However, just knowing behavior patterns doesn’t result in you as an angler catching fish.

“I don’t think that crappie are smarter than anglers. However, crappie are a fine tuned predator. Their instincts lead them to their behaviors,” said Lake Washington, Mississippi, crappie fishing guide Brad Chappell.


Physically it’s has been noted crappie visual field depends on water clarity. The eyes of a crappie are positioned upward and in a forward position for feeding upward and towards the mouth. As for vision, crappie eyes have cones and rods allowing them to detect colors from the entire spectrum of color patterns, but don’t get too excited over color patterns since there have been few documented studies on what colors crappie can actually see and desire.


Biologically, hearing is made up with an inner ear, but no middle ear. From here hearing just gets too complicated including a lateral line that can detect boats or trolling motors, nevertheless, crappie can hear good enough to fear certain sounds.

Taste and smell

Not surprisingly, crappie can smell and taste. These senses assist in what a crappie recognizes as food to eat. No matter how many studies and research fishery biologist do to learn how intelligent crappie are in the end it simply comes down to crappie need a safe place to reside and eat.


“Instinct actually dictates how a crappie behaves. Sometimes it’s not that the crappie are so smart, but anglers not paying attention to details when fishing. Every day and even during the day you have to adjust to what the crappie are doing and a change your presentation to catch them,” said Chappell.

In September also referred to as the dog days of summer, Chappell is expecting the bites on the lake he guides to switch from trolling crankbaits to spider rigging jigs. “Every body of water is different, but every year the crappie seem to switch during that period and want a different presentation. What I look for is how the crappie are striking the crankbait. If, I start catching a lot of them on the sides instead of them inhaling the crankbait I will switch technique to spider rigging,” said Chappell.

Cooler nights and shorter days are indicators crappie will be moving towards the mouth of creek arms or in creek arms off the main channel. Chappell uses an egg sinker and one or two jighead for his rig. He likes using the Bobby Garland Crappie Baits (www.bobbygarlandcrappie.com) Stroll’R jigged on a 1/8-ounce Bobby Garland Crappie Baits Crappie Pro Jighead.

Chappell is also going to use the new Bobby Garland Crappie Baits Slab Hunter Minnow this year while spider rigging. “It’s not like the crappie get conditioned to not biting certain lures. Crappie anglers should be considering more about having the right presentation. The crappie will let you know by either biting or not biting when going to slow or to deep,” said Chappell.

Slab Hunter Minnow is yet one more lure Chappell will use to catch crappie. He loves the fact it still has a swimming action while moving slowly compared to other lures. “I plan on using the Slab Hunter Minnow when trolling from .2- to .8-mph, before I was missing a specific soft plastic lure that would have the swimming action and vibration at that speed plus it comes in 17 colors including six of my favorites,” said Chappell.

Typically near the end of September, Chappell will fish 6- to 22-feet deep wherever the bait fish are present. He fishes above them and works his lures down to them until the crappie start biting. Chappell will also experiment with turns as an inside drop when the lure dips lower compared to an outside turn raises the lure up could be what incites a crappie into biting.

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