Of all the panfish species, crappies are the least structure oriented. It's simple to find them during the spawn, but they're much less predictable the rest of the year. They go where they must to find food, and may wander far from structure or cover to locate suspended zooplankton, or the baitfish that are feeding on it.
Although the crappies may not appear to be relating to anything but the baitfish, they're often within a few hundred yards of a weedline, treeline, rock pile or creek channel to which they can retreat when not feeding.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when targeting open-water crappies.
1. Use a good sonar unit to locate suspended crappies. They will be easy to see
since they are away from the bottom.
2. Crappies suspended in open water are actively feeding and are usually on the move. Be ready to follow them.
3. Consider the wind. Because the crappies are following plankton, and these tiny organisms are subject to wind and wave action, you're more likely to find action along a downwind shore rather than an upwind shore.
4. Maintain depth control with your lures or baits. Fish a slip float and minnow, or count down a jig into the strike zone, or troll crankbaits you know will dive to and run at the fish's depth. Another option is to vertically jig a swimming minnow or small slab spoon.
More Crappie Tips:
-Scout for open-water crappies in the zone beginning at the outer fringe of the submergent vegetation to the transition line between hard and soft bottom. You'll also find crappies in a several-hundred yard zone surrounding structural elements such as rock piles and humps.
-Stay Above The Crappies: Keep you lure or bait in the upper half of the depth zone crappies are using. Not only are they accustomed to looking up for their food, the fish in the uppermost part of the zone are more active than those down below.