Hang around a crappie fisherman or two for just a little while and the subject of jig colors will arise.
What is the best crappie jig color? What color catches the biggest crappie? What works best for white crappie and for black crappie?
You guessed it. There will not be agreement on any of these questions.
Instead, the experienced crappie chaser will tell you, if he or she tells you anything, that jig colors depend on several factors, and you had better have a variety of colors in your tackle box.
Sneak a peek at a crappie specialist’s tackle box and the assortment of colors may overwhelm you.
Hint No.1: Put some white jigs and some chartreuse jigs into your crappie gear. These are basics for Arkansas crappie fishing, and that is not to say they will work all the time or even that they are the best colors for catching crappie. They are prevalent colors, meaning fishermen all over the state use them successfully. There are no reliable statistics to back up that statement, just a gut feeling.
Factors involved in jig color selections include color of the water, intensity of the sunlight, depth you are fishing and more.
Let’s listen a moment to Bill Dance, one of our region’s best known fishermen and for good reason. Dance is better known for bass fishing, and he lives in Memphis. But the television outdoors veteran cut his fishing teeth on crappie-rich Horseshoe Lake in eastern Arkansas.
“Lure color is a large part of the crappie game,” Dance said. “At a given time, only one color will catch fish; another time, several colors will work equally well. There are no precise rules to follow.”
Water color? Certainly that is a prime element in crappie work.
But should your jig’s color match the water or contrast with it for increased visibility? Another argument is likely here.
Dance explains, “Some anglers start by matching the tint of the water — for instance, lime or metallic green in greenish water, motor oil or yellow on coppery lakes, white or blue when the water’s clear. Other experts rely on the logic of contrast like bright colors in dark water and dark colors in light water.”
One thing to keep in mind through any discussion of crappie jig colors is that crappie feed almost entirely on minnows, so the jig needs to resemble a minnow in shape and in action in the water. Minnows are some hue of silvery gray, but do you see jigs in that color? Not often, but you probably need some smoke-colored jigs in your crappie tackle box.
The conclusion here is color ties in more closely with visibility. The fish has to see the jig in order to hit it. Crappie don’t feed on minnows by smell or by sound. They feed by sight.
Any experienced crappie fishermen will tell you that the fish may hit one color enthusiastically for a few minutes then shut off completely. Change colors, and the action may start back up. What caused the change? Perhaps light conditions, like the sun going behind clouds. Wind can cause a color change too. Calm water affects visibility for fish differently from water with a little chop on it.
All right, we mentioned white, chartreuse and smoke for jig colors. What else?
Yellow would be a reasonable choice. So would black.
There are all sorts of “designer” colors too, like sparkle, metal flake and more. Surely these work under some conditions.
A final suggestion here. Keep your ears and eyes open for crappie jig colors where you are fishing, but don’t expect any color to jump forth with magical crappie catching abilities.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.