Best Baits for Crappie and How to Fish Them: By Fishing Guide Tyler Torwick
Crappie, Specs, White Perch, Sac-a-lait, Crappy... these little guys go by lots of different names, but no matter where you are from I think we can all agree they are fun to catch! Not only are crappie fun to catch but they are great table fare. When it comes to crappie fishing, choosing the right bait can be the difference between a successful day on the water and a disappointing outing. These voracious feeders have a range of preferences, and seasoned anglers know that variety is key. Depending on the time of year and the lake you are fishing crappie move around and don't always live in the same places or prefer the same bait. In this article, we'll delve into three of the most effective baits for crappie fishing no matter the conditions: jigs, live minnows, and spoons. Each of these baits offers a unique approach to enticing crappie, ensuring that you're well-equipped to reel in these prized catches.
#1- Jigs - The Versatile Lure
Jigs are arguably the go-to choice for many crappie enthusiasts. Their versatility makes them an invaluable addition to your tackle box. Available in an array of colors, shapes, and sizes, jigs allow you to mimic the movements of various prey. You can cast them, vertical fish them, deadstick them, there are lots of ways to fish a jig. There are two types of jigs I recommend:
Hand tied hair jigs come in all colors, but unlike soft plastics jigs give you the ability to add some flash to your presentation.
Hair jigs come tied in all kinds of materials but I prefer the ones with tinsel of foil in them to give them a realistic flash to imitate a baitfish. Fish these on light tackle and present them with a subtle twitch of the rod tip. As you fish experiment with the cadence of your retrieve. Somedays the crappie get active and want the bait worked very erratic, other days dead sticking it where you barely move it works best.
Soft Plastic Jigs:
For those of you who are bass fishermen this type of jig will be most familiar to you. Lots of brands make soft plastic baits that resemble baitfish or grubs and can be threaded onto a leadhead. Select an appropriate size leadhead for the depth you are fishing. A good rule of thumb is lighter the better. Pair a jig head with a soft plastic grub or tube, and you'll have a bait that can imitate both insects and small fish. The slow, deliberate movement of a jig resembles injured prey, which is a trigger for crappie to strike. These baits come in every color imaginable! I find every lake is a little different in terms of what color works best, but if the lake you are fishing is very clear try very natural and realistic colors such as pearl or white. If the lake you are fishing is more stained baits with some brighter colors like chartreuse or pink tend to work well.
#2 - Live Minnows - Irresistible Natural Scent:
I'll be honest with y'all... when it comes to Crappie fishing I'm no purist. I don't care about catching them on artificials only, I love using live bait! Live minnows are a timeless and highly effective bait for crappie fishing. Their lively movement and natural scent make them irresistible to these finicky feeders. There are a couple ways to hook a live minnow: through the back, just behind the dorsal fin, to allow it to swim freely or through the nose. Tip: when nose hooking it do not go through their bottom lip, this will close the minnows mouth and not allow them to pass water over their gills. You want them to stay alive as long as possible. The more lively the minnow the better! The minnow's shimmering scales and wiggling motion attract crappie from a distance, invoking their predatory instincts. Live minnows work exceptionally well in both shallow and deep waters, making them a reliable choice year-round. Probably the #1 way I catch crappie is with a 1/8th ounce jig head tipped with a minnow. I like the larger size jig head so that I can see it on Livescope better. Drop this down into docks or over brush piles and you'll get bit.
#3 - Spoons - Flashy Attraction:
Spoons may not be as common for crappie fishing, but they can be surprisingly effective. These metal lures feature a curved, reflective surface that mimics the flashes of light produced by injured baitfish. Casting or vertically jigging a spoon can create erratic movements that crappie find hard to resist. Opt for smaller spoons in silver or gold hues, as they closely resemble the prey that crappie seek in their habitat. At times of year crappie school up and move from cover out to open water. Small 1/4 ounce or smaller spoons combined with Livescope work very well for finding them. Play around with casting and retrieving versus jigging this bait. When the schools of crappie are on the move I like to cast it past them and swim it right through the middle of them to trigger bites.
When targeting crappie, having a well-rounded selection of baits can greatly increase your chances of success. Jigs offer versatility and the ability to imitate various types of prey, while live minnows provide a natural and enticing presentation. If you're looking to try something different, don't overlook the effectiveness of spoons, especially in situations where crappie are feeling more aggressive. As you experiment with these baits and their various techniques, remember that crappie behavior can change with the seasons, weather, and water conditions. Ultimately, becoming a successful crappie angler means adapting your approach and understanding the preferences of these cunning fish.
If you found this article helpful, consider checking out my other fishing articles or fishing reports! I guide full time here in Austin, TX and am on the water 300+ days a year. I love teaching and sharing my passion for fishing with others. I primarily guide for Largemouth bass, but Lake Travis has a great population of Crappie. During certain times of year I offer some crappie trips. If you want to learn how to catch them and bring a mess home for a fish fry reach out to me via the contact form on my homepage.