Walking down the isles of a tackle shop or sporting goods store and trying to choose the best crappie lures can be confusing. There are hundreds of choices in different colors and sizes. It can be hard to know which ones will work as the best crappie bait on your local lake.
More experienced anglers will tell you to fish what you have confidence in, and this usually works fairly well, if you have done a lot of fishing. But, for new anglers without a lot of experience with different lures, that’s not always the best advice.
If an angler is lucky, there will be a knowledgeable salesperson in the store who can help them make the best decisions about lures. If not, though, where should an angler start?
There are many things to take into consideration when you are looking for the proper lures for crappie fishing. The most important consideration is the forage, or food, that is available to the crappies in the lake you are going to fish.
If you can answer the question, “What are the Crappies eating?”, you are well on your way to selecting the best lures for crappie for your given situation.
Jigs come in all sizes and weights. They also come in a wide variety of colors. Marabou jigs are popular with many crappie anglers. These jigs have furry bodies and tails usually made with feathers. They are like a hair jig used to bass or musky fishing, but smaller. Keep in mind, though, that crappies do have fairly big mouths, so don’t be afraid to use a bit bigger offering if you know you’re in an area with bigger fish.
Maribou jigs can be fished by vertically jigging over structure. Once you’ve found a school of what you suspect if crappie holding on a brush pile, weed bed, or other structure, use an 8’ – 10’ fishing rod and work the jig up and down over that structure. The longer rod will allow you to keep your boat far enough away from the school that you are less likely to spook the fish.
These jigs can also be fished under a bobber. Keep a close eye on the bobber, or your fishing line, however. Because crappies often feed up, it’s not uncommon for them to hit your lure and continue to move upward. These type of strikes can be difficult to detect if an angler isn’t paying close attention to the line or bobber to see those small movements.
When using a bobber, one of the best is a Thill Crappie Cork. This particular cork has a weight printed on the side of it. Anglers can then choose a jig head based on that weight. This creates a perfect balance and makes it much easier to detect upward strikes. Alternatively, a smaller jig head can be used and a split shot added to the line above the jig.
A jighead can be tipped with a plastic grub, a tube, or even a wax worm or minnow. While some anglers prefer to use live bait (or their own brand of baits), others opt for soft plastic lures. The choice is really up to the angler, although the most finicky of fish will often take a live bait offering when they ignore a soft plastic presentation.
Grubs come in a variety of sizes and colors. They can be vertically jigged over structure on a jig head, but they can also be used in a cast and retrieve technique. During the year, crappies use creek channels and other structure such as those to move from place to place in the lake. During the summer, they can often be found holding to structure in these depressions where the water is a bit cooler.
Using advanced fishing electronics, such as fishfinders and GPS, an angler can locate those school of fish. Dropping marker buoys along the edge of the channel is a great way to mark the channel. This allows the angler to move the boat away from the area where the fish are holding and cast his grub in such a way that it will move through the strike zone of many of those fish. Sometimes slow-rolling a grub off of a break into a channel will entice crappies to strike.
Vertical jigging may be a better way to present a grub in some types of structure. If an angler finds crappies holding to a brush pile, for instance, it can be difficult to cast and retrieve a grub through that type of cover without getting snagged. A vertical presentation, however, can usually minimize those snags, making for a much less frustrating, and more productive, day on the water.
Tubes are arguably one of the favorite baits of crappie anglers. Tubes are very durable, and anglers can often catch 20 or 30 fish on one tube. They also do not get snagged up as easily as other baits. If they should become snagged, they also are easier to get unsnagged. They are even perfect for new anglers to learn to fish with.
One of the biggest advantages to tubes is they come in a huge variety of colors and sizes. This allows an angler, really, to be ready for any conditions they find on the water. Sometimes changing a color slightly, or upsizing or downsizing, makes all the difference. A good place to start is with tubes that are 1 ½” – 2 ½” in size.
Tubes can be vertically jigged over the messiest of brush piles successfully. They also can be used to mimic just about any food source that a crappie will find in the water. During extremely tough fishing conditions, some anglers choose to use a scent or attractant on their soft plastic tubes to help attract more fish.
Mepps spinners and the Mepps panfish history have been around for a long time, and many anglers tend to use them for one reason: they still catch fish! These spinners are used in a cast and retrieve technique. The Blue Fox Panfish Spinner Jig and Blakemore’s Road Runner are also popular spinners for crappie.
Underspins are really just jig heads with a small spinner blade dangling below the jig. This adds some flash and gives the bait a much different action in the water. These are great baits for cast and retrieve presentations.
These lures should be used near the bottom with a slow retrieve. The retrieve can be steady, or a “lift and fall”, or some combination of the two. The flash of the blade can attract fish and bring great reaction strikes that an angler would otherwise not enjoy.
Often the smallest size spinner an angler can effectively fish will get the best results. A 1/16 oz. Beetlespin, for instance, may be a great place to start. Other anglers prefer to start is with a gold-bladed spinner tipped with a hot-colored tube bait, stating that this presentation will catch fish in most any conditions.
Spinner blades come in silver and gold and can be smooth or dimpled. The dimpled blades will give a bit more flash in the water, which is great for low light conditions or stained water. A willow-leaf blade will work well on multiple species, and is a favorite of many crappie anglers.
These blades are longer and narrower than other spinner blades. When anglers are looking for a bit of extra vibration, though, they may choose a Colorado blade for their spinner. The rounder profile of this blade will make more vibration in the water.
Crankbaits can be used to entice reaction bites from lazy, summertime crappies. Anglers tend to pull crankbaits behind the boat (where legal), or to cast and retrieve crankbaits at a fairly good speed. Crankbaits will snag easily, and may not be good for beginning anglers, but those who put in the work to learn to use them can be pleasantly rewarded in the hot summer months.
There is a huge variety of crankbaits on the market today. Some of the most popular are the Bomber 3F Fat A, the Bandit 300 series, and the Mann’s Tiny 1-Minus. Other companies also have great crappie crankbaits including Rapala, Rebel, Cordell, and Norman Lures. With the wide variety of sizes and colors, it can be worth putting in the time to learn to pull crankbaits for summertime crappies.
Anglers need to remember a few things when using crankbaits, though: They will snag easily, and are best used around the edges of cover such as weed beds, brush piles and stumps rather than attempting to throw them into the cover itself.
Also, remember that crappies have been given the nickname “Paper Mouths” for a reason. When they hit a crankbait, often the force of that hit is enough to dig the hook into their soft mouth. Setting the hook, as one would on a bass for instance, will almost always ensure that you pull the hook and lose the fish.
A steady pressure while reeling is all that is needed to keep a crappie on a crankbait all the way back to the boat.
Many crappie anglers swear by live bait as the best crappie bait period. That is all they will ever use when crappie fishing regardless of which techniques they use to catch crappie. Indeed, these choices are best for fish that are finicky or that just aren’t in the mood to be tricked by an artificial lure. It make sense that fish will eat live bait better than artificial. After all, this is what the fish eat on a normal basis.
A crappie’s diet is quite varied. They will eat minnows, worms, insects, and fingerlings of other fish. They are even known to eat small crayfish at times. So, fishing with a jig tipped with a wax worm or minnow may be just what you need to entice a finicky fish to bite.
Live bait eliminates the need for using scent as one might with an artificial lure. The motion of the live bait coupled with the natural scent can attract fish that would otherwise ignore an angler’s offering. A word of caution about live bait, however.
Anglers should never release live bait into a lake that the bait did not come out of. This can be considered introducing an invasive species to the fishery, and fines for that can be quite high in some areas. It is best to take any unused live bait an dispose of it properly at home or in another location away from the lake.
Once you’ve decided what types of lures you want to use, your next decision is about color. There are so many colors and combinations of colors that it can be hard to know where to start. Keep in mind the forage that is available for the fish, but also take the water clarity into consideration.
Water clarity will have a lot to do with the colors you choose. The clearer the water, the more natural the color of the lures you will want to use. The best crappie lures in clear water are silvers and whites. Lures in these colors with sparkles work well in most clear water situations, too.
These colors mimic small bait fish, a major source of food for Crappies. Crappies tend to feed up most of the time, so these colors work well when suspended under a bobber or used nearer to the surface. For fish that are deeper, or for lures worked along the bottom, browns and greens are good choices.
When fishing in darker water, the colors you choose should be brighter. It makes sense that if fish can’t see you offering, they are less apt to hit it. In darker water, vibration and scent are more important and help to attract fish to your lure.
Good colors for dark water include whites, yellows, and chartreuses. When the visibility gets down to 2 – 4 feet, even brighter colors work well. Try hi-vis blue, lime green, or hot pink. Don’t be afraid to go too bright in darker water.
If the water itself is stained a dark brown or green, multi-colored lures seem to be a great way to load the boat or preferably, a fishing kayak, with crappies. Try colors such as black/chartreuse or pink/yellow. Lures with glitter or metallic flake work well in dark, stained water also.
In all, there are a number of ways to catch crappies, and many techniques to achieve great results. As anglers gain more experience, the best crappie lures for that specific angler will show themselves. Anglers eventually gravitate to certain baits and certain presentations. That will largely dictate the best crappie bait to use for that angler.
Experimenting with different lures and presentations on the water is a must for many anglers. Pay close attention to how the fish hit and where they hit. Also, use your electronics to find the schools of fish, and you will have a much more successful day on the water.