Crappie fishing is pretty straightforward. You need a bait that looks alive to coax them into biting with a generally subtle presentation around the cover they like or the bait they are chasing. And really know the best crappie baits will help you be more effective in your search.
Cover can be physical or it can be simply a change in contour that creates a darker area, or something manmade that creates a lot of shade and shadows. I know, having managed a pond in my youth, that crappie are very funny fish. They belive they are hidden if their eye is behind a stick. I witnessed this first hand one summer when drove stakes in a mud bottom. On one evening we noticed all the fish were lined up one by one on the same sides of the stakes right behind each stake. They were facing into the sun and the small sliver of shade was concealing them from one angle and giving them just a little darker area to suspend in. That opened my eyes (pun intended) to how simple these fish operate.
So let us cover the best baits for crappie fishing that include the following:
- LIVE BAIT
- JIGGING BAITS
Many crappie anglers will confess it can be hard to beat the real thing at times. So a large majority of recreational anglers will buy minnows before heading to the lake to crappie fish. And minnows can be fished in a lot more thorough ways than just dangling them on a hook below a bobber and flinging them out into the middle of the lake.
Live minnows simply offer an option in baits for attracting crappie. Other live baits that are used at times include crickets, meal worms, and wax worms. You can tip a plastic jig with these live bait offerings including minnows. But you can fish them a number of different ways. And you can learn what your crappie like by opening up their stomachs when you filet fish and see what they have been eating. I’ve found everything from shad, minnows, shells, crawfish, worms, grubs, insects, crickets and even baby bluegill on some big crappie.
My friends and I have had success wade fishing for crappie with long rods and dipping cover with live minnows in the spring. I have fished laydowns with a minnow and bobber. You can fish a minnow on the bottom of each rod in a spider rig and push them around cover and suspending schools of crappie. Here’s a great video on bobber fishing live bait for crappie.
So don’t think just because you opt for live bait you have to just use it one way.
BEST CRAPPIE LURES
A lot of anglers don’t want to fool with the hassle of keeping live bait alive, having aerators the mess live bait can leave, so they stick with just crappie artificial lures. The great thing is you can catch all the crappie you want on artificials. Most anglers are going to use a jig and plastic or a hair jig, but there are several lures that catch crappie in certain windows. We will discuss the best options and when and how to fish them effectively and refernce more thorough guides on each.
If you took a poll of the majority of anglers that fish for crappie on a regular basis, I believe more than 90% of them use either a jig or a minnow. The other 10% probably also use these baits but then will employ other outlier baits like jigging baits, crankbaits, jerkbaits or spy baits.
But a Crappie Jig is arguably one of the easiest and best ways to catch crappie consistently throughout the year with out having to worry with the mess of live bait or the nuisance of treble hooks.
We covered extensively all of the best options for crappie jigs and how to use them in our best crappie jigs piece.
JIGGING HARD BAITS
Probably next on the list would be jigging baits, again keeping in mind that most anglers are going to stick with the first two mentioned above. But it bears mentioning because as we become more adept with live imaging and understanding crappie behaviors and migrations through the seasons, there are times where certain hard baits like jigging raps and jigging spoons can load the boat with crappie.
Crappie will chase bait around. They will seek shade. Those things can be exploited with things like jigging spoons and jigging raps. I know on some lakes, anglers kill crappie pitching jigging spoons under docks and stroking small sliver spoons like Binks Spoons in the shadows under the docks.
Our team in Grand Rapids are very adept and stroking jigging raps to catch roaming big schools of crappie in the fall before ice up in Minnesota. A bite they look forward to all year and have mastered. We have an incredible video of jigging rap crappie catching for more information on how to do it. We recommend Rapala Jigging Raps, Binks Spoons, and Steel Shad.
There is a time in the summer where crappie fishing gets really tough for a lot of anglers. The crappie go deep, spread out and can be hard to find. This is the main time of year when trolling crankbaits really shines. It’s a staple on the Tennessee River and lakes in Mississippi like Grenada. You can load the boat with quality fish even in the dead of summer.
Usually with crappie fishing you’re talking about 2-inch crankbaits that run about 10-12 feet but when trolled on long lines you can get them down to 20 feet and catch lots of big crappie. The brighter contrasty colors usually produce better than your lifelike shad patterns. Although there are times where matching the hatch gets you bit more.
Some good friends spend a lot of weekends trekking to Mississippi to pull crankbaits and absolutely hammer the crappie with a very simple setup. We have a great tutorial on how to get setup to pull crankbaits for crappie.
There are windows where crappie will fall for a jerkbait. Most of the time I’ve found this bite by accident while bass fishing in the winter and prespawn. But I can tell you it’s pretty effective for catching a mess of crappie quick fast and and in a hurry when you find an active school. A couple rips into the school and it’s game on nearly every cast. I have had a handful of days where I snatched a quick limit on a jerkbait and then went back to bass fishing. So I never rule out that bite when I’m fishing in the cold water months.
I like a smaller jerkbait for crappie. You can catch them on the full 4-5 inch jerkbaits but the small ones give you a way higher hookup percentage. Those 3-inch, 2-hook jerkbaits are magnets for crappie when you find the schools suspending in the winter around bait.
Likwise crappie often fall for spy baits in that same window. Jenko fishing actually makes a spy bait just for crappie fishing and now there are some beautiful spy baits and similar stick baits in that 2 inch footprint that are absolutely perfect for crappie. Pictured above are baits from Imakatsu, Jenko, Megabass and DUO Realis.
These baits are so simple to fish and I think could become real players for suspended crappie on BFS gear with live imaging. Basically you just cast them out, let them sink to the depth you think the fish are holding. And slowly and steadily reel them in just like a crappie jig. That’s really it and most bites will just feel like extra weight. I’m hoping to film a video of this exact technique in the next few weeks.
So that’s our basic rundown of the Best Crappie Baits. While live bait and jig and plastics are the dominant bait choices among avid crappie anglers, there are windows where other hard baits really shine and catch crappie fast and furious for some really fun and memorable days on the water.