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The Best Crappie Baits and How to Fish Them

Crappie fishing is pretty easy. You need a live bait to get them to bite, with a subtle general presentation around the cover they like or the bait they’re chasing. And really know that the best crappie baits will help you be more effective in your search.

The cover can be physical or simply a contour change that creates a darker area or something man-made that creates lots of shadows and shadows. I know, having managed a pond in my youth, that crappie are very funny fish. They think the eyes are hidden behind a stick. I witnessed it firsthand one summer when I drove stocks in the mud bottom. One afternoon we noticed that all the fish were lined up individually on the same side of the stake behind each stake. They were facing the sun and it was hiding the small part of the shadow from an angle and giving them a darker area to hang out in. This opened my eyes (pun intended) to how these fish work.

So let’s cover the best crappie fishing baits including:

  • ALIVE
  • JIGS
  • JIGING BAITS
  • CANKBAITS
  • JERKBAITS
  • THE SPIES

ALIVE

Many anglers will admit that sometimes it can be hard to beat the real thing. So a large majority of recreational anglers will buy minnows before heading out to the lake for crappie. And grasshoppers can be fished much deeper than hooking them under a bobber and casting them out into the middle of the lake.

Live minnows offer just one option on bait to attract crappie. Other live baits that are sometimes used are crickets, mealworms and wax worms. You can give a plastic jig a go with these live bait offerings, including minnows. But you can fish in a number of ways. And you can learn what your crappie likes by filleting the fish open and seeing what they’re eating. I’ve found everything from crayfish, shells, crabs, worms, smelt, insects, crickets and even baby bluegills in some of the big crappie.

My buddies and I have had success fishing for crappies with long rods and baiting them with live minnows in the spring. I have fished with a minnow and a bobber. You can fish the bottom of each rod on a spider rig and push around cover and around schools of crappie. Here is a great video on live bait for bobber fishing.

So don’t think that just because you choose live bait you have to use it one way.

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JIGS

If you did a survey of most anglers who fish for crappie on a regular basis, I would guess that over 90% of them use either a jig or a jig. The other 10% will probably use these baits as well, but then they will use other baits such as jigging baits, crankbaits, jerkbaits or spy baits.

But a Crappie Jig is arguably one of the easiest and best ways to catch crappie consistently all year round without having to worry about the mess of live baits or the hassle of messy hooks.

We’ve covered the best options for crappie jigs and how to use them in our article the best piece of crappie jigs.

HARD HOOKS IN THE GAME

Probably next on the list would be jigging baits, again keeping in mind that most anglers will stick with the first two mentioned above. But it’s worth noting that as we become more proficient with live images and understand the behavior and migrations of crappie through the seasons, some hard baits can sometimes load jigging raps and jigging spoons boat by boat.

Crappie will chase the bait. They will look for shade. These things can be exploited with things like jigging spoons and jigging raps. I know that on some lakes, anglers are casting spoons under the dock and stroking small spoons like Binks Spoons in the shadows under the dock.

Our team in Grand Rapids is very skilled and caressing the jigging rap to catch the big schools of crappie that run before they freeze up in Minnesota in the fall. The bite they look forward to and have mastered all year. We have a great video jigging rap catching crappie to know how to do it. We recommend Rapala Jigging Raps, Binks Spoons and Steel Shad.

CRANK

There is a time in the summer when crappie fishing is very tough for many anglers. Crap runs deep, spreads, and can be hard to find. This is the main time of year when trolling crankbaits really shine. It is a staple in the Tennessee River and Mississippi lakes like Grenada. You can load your boat with quality fish even in summer.

Usually with crappie fishing you’re talking about 2 inch crankbaits that run about 10-12 feet, but on long lines you can drop them down to 20 feet on the troll and catch a lot of big crappie. Bright contrasting colors usually produce better than your actual shadow patterns. Although matching the hatch gives you a bit more.

Some good friends spend many weekends trekking to the Mississippi to shave and absolutely hammer the crap with a simple setup. We have a great tutorial on how to get set up to pull crankbaits for crappie.

crappie jerkbaits

JERKBAITS

There are windows where crap will fall out for a jerkbait. Most of the time I have found this bite by accident when fishing for bass during the winter and prespawn. But I can say that it is quite effective when you find an active school to catch it quickly and in a hurry. A couple joins the school and the game is in almost all the actors. I’ve had a few days where I took a quick limit off a jerkbait and then went back to bass fishing. So I never dismiss that bite when I’m fishing in cold water.

I like a smaller jerkbait for crappie. You can catch them on full 4-5 inch jerkbaits, but the smaller ones give you a higher hookup percentage. Those 3-inch, 2-hook jerkbaits are crap magnets when you find schools suspended around bait in the winter.

crappie spy baits

THE SPIES

Also, crap often drops spy bait in that very window. Jenko fishing really makes a spy bait for crappie fishing and now in that 2 inch footprint there are some beautiful spy baits and stick-like baits that are absolutely perfect for crappie. Pictured above are Imakatsu, Jenko, Megabass and DUO Realis baits.

These baits are very easy to fish and I think they can become real players for crappie suspended on BFS rigs with the right figures. Basically cast them, let them sink to the depth you think the fish are holding. And gradually roll them up like a crappie jig. It really is and most bites will feel like extra weight. I hope to shoot a video of this exact technique in the next few weeks.

So that’s the basic summary of the Best Crappie Baits. While live baits and jigs and plastics are the dominant bait options among avid anglers, there are windows where other hard baits really shine and catch crappie fast and furious for some fun and memorable days on the water.