Five Flies for Spring Crappies

By Nick Simonson

Springtime is crappie time, and for fly anglers it is perhaps one of the best windows of the year to get on some serious slabs as they stage for the spawn or make their moves up into the shallows.  Five flies shine in getting the job done as waters warm and those northern bays open to the rush of these popular panfish.  Load a fly box up now as the ice recedes and spring opportunities for crappies come to be, and don’t be caught without this handful of helpful patterns.

Clouser Minnow

Number one on the list is perhaps the greatest baitfish imitator ever made, the Clouser minnow.  With its dumbbell eyes, and two-toned bucktail body, this streamer can be tied in just about any pattern to match baitfish in the water or favorite confidence colors for local crappies.  With some added krystal flash along the lateral line of the mock minnow, these patterns in size ten to four perfectly fit the frame of food crappies will be snapping up this spring.  Clousers can be fished on floating line as the lead eyes will help pull them down in the column and they can be utilized in the shallows as well.  

This nice white crappie smacked an olive-and-white Clouser minnow in the shallows just ahead of the spawn. Simonson Photo.

Bright Woolly Buggers

Running a close second for springtime specks is the ubiquitous woolly bugger.  The mix of marabou, chenille and hackle is dynamite for every species, but when tied in brighter hues for crappies, the woolly bugger is tough to beat.  It can be weighted with lead wraps, adorned with a bead head for flash and weight, or tied up weightless for a shallower presentation.  Utilize light colored chenille or estaz for the body providing additional attraction and a more baitfish like appearance.  Mixes of white, orange, pink, chartreuse and silver will help put the patterns together to work on any water.

Crappie Crush

Over the last few seasons, the crappie crush has delivered in a big way with its combination of silicone legs, estaz body and marabou tail.  Bringing together three materials that can be found on just about any crappie lure worth its salt – from the plastic of tiny tubes, to the chenille of hand-tied jigs, to marabou doll flies – this pattern gives the fish everything they want and then some.  It can be pulsed through the water column like a fleeing baitfish or bumped on the bottom like a nymph nearing a crappie’s nest, and it can be tied up in a number of color combinations for versatility to match the hatch or make crappies take notice in a reaction pattern.

Holographic Streamer

For a light, flowy offering with enough flash to catch the eye of staging specks, the holographic streamer fits the bill.  With an underbody of wrapped tinsel, a marabou wing and a colorful collar of palmered soft hackle, this simple streamer version of an east coast trout fly is a terrific transplant from the stream to any crappie lake or pond. Craft them in a selection of sizes from twelve to six to match the prey species moving about this spring, and as always mix-and-match the hues for each portion of the pattern to find the perfect slab-slaying combinations.  A sinking line will get them down in the column when crappies are staging, and a floating line makes them ideal for shallow water fishing.


In those super clear spring shallows, a light-fishing fly that is a bit smaller, but still appealing to those big eyes of black and white crappies, is the gotcha. With a krystal flash tail, wing of fish hair material or bucktail and ribbed tubing body, this pattern combines shrimpiness with sparkle in a pattern that is irresistible to even the wariest staging slab.  Fun to tie and easy to fish, this smaller streamer pays big dividends when fish have their nests cleared out and are in their spookiest stage of spring ahead of the spawn.  The beadchain eyes give them an irresistible slow glide down from the surface, so hold on and wait for the take.

Put a few dozen of these five flies together to ensure the best spring crappie fishing possible on the long rod.  With only a few materials and the perfect match of feathers and flash, they come together quickly on the vise and get hit hard when spring crappies are headed for the spawn. 

Featured Photo: From top to bottom, these five flies will have any angler covered for springtime crappie fishing on the long rod: Clouser minnow, woolly bugger, crappie crush, holographic streamer, and gotcha. Simonson Photo.

Simonson is the lead writer and editor for Dakota Edge Outdoors. Click on the embedded links in the story for DEO tutorials and tips for these five fly patterns.

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