Crappie fan’s dream of finding untapped schools of hungry slabs. Yet for most of us, reality entails dealing with heavily pressured waters where supersized fish seem few and far between.
The good news is, opportunities exist across the Ice Belt for catching big crappies, even in large metro areas—if you know where to look. One of the masters of the game is living legend and Fishing Hall of Famer Dick “The Griz” Grzywinski.
Headquartered in the heart of Minnesota’s Twin Cities metropolis, he routinely ices slab crappies other anglers miss. His secret? For starters, he spends countless days on the ice, and cultivates relationships with a close-knit band of allies at local baitshops such as Blue Ribbon Bait and Tackle. Together, these help provide leads to hot crappie bites on out-of-the-way waters.
Rivers are among Grzywinski’s top picks for metro slabs, and the lower St. Croix is a favorite destination. “Not many people fish the section from Stillwater, Minnesota, to Prescott, Wisconsin, but it regularly produces crappies from 12 to 14 inches,” he says. While backwaters can be awesome, he prefers main-river runs with slack flows, targeting depths of up to 40 feet.
The Griz’s go-to weapon is a size 3 Rapala Jigging Rap, which he notes also catches plenty of bonus saugers, bass and walleyes. He favors a snap-snap-snap-pause cadence, and shuns any form of tippings. Small jigging spoons also see playing time, after due sweetening with wiggling waxworms.
Small, hard-to-access lakes can also hold slabs. I’ll never forget a trip where Grzywinski and a few of his disciples led my sons and I to an amazing afternoon on a metro lake lacking a public launch. Nearly untouched by anglers, the fertile fishery kicked out a parade of crappies in numbers that are still hard to fathom.
While such hidden treasures require ample effort to uncover, they await within the shadows of population centers across the Ice Belt. Trust me, once you find them, you’ll agree the icy good action is well worth the effort.