Crappie Lures: Looking at the Basics

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What are the best crappie lures and live baits?

Crappie are one of the most abundant, attractive, and potentially addicting freshwater species around. While not nearly as popular as bass, crappie own a decent share of the American fishing market.

Every year, countless tournaments are held throughout the country for crappie. For instance, in 2020 alone, Crappie USA is hosting tournaments on some of the top crappie fishing lakes in the nation, including Crescent Lake (FL), Green River Lake (KY), Lake Harding (AL), Lake Fork (TX) Lake of the Ozarks (MO), Grenada Lake (MS), the Harris Chain (FL), Decatur Lake (IL), Lake Greenwood (SC), and Old Hickory Lake (TN).

When throwing in other excellent crappie fishing lakes like Lake O’ the Pines, Lake Talquin, Lake Okeechobee, and Lake Washington, it’s easy to see why so many anglers are getting hooked on the thump.

But outside of the competitive circuit, many anglers often are left wondering where to find the top lures and bait for catching crappie and even how to use them.

Luckily, Premier Angler has put together this handy guide for determining which lures to use in order to catch more crappie.

Best Live Baits for Crappie Fishing

Many anglers live by the motto that “live bait is best.” In this case, you will want to leave your worms at home because minnows are the best live bait for catching crappie.

Sure, worms can attract crappie — you can catch pretty much any freshwater fish on a worm. You can also use crickets, grass shrimp, and even tiny bluegill or shad. Minnows, however, are simply more effective at getting a bite.

If you are relatively new to fishing, or simply do not have much experience working with live baits, be sure to watch the video below for helpful tips on how to properly hook your minnow.

How to rig your minnow with a hook video

As you will see above, there are several different ways to hook up your minnow. Depending on your preferences, you may want to place the hook in different areas. Generally, anglers will either place the hook up through the lower lip, down through the top lip, behind the back of the eye and through the eye socket, between the backbone and top fine (making sure to not puncture the backbone), and through the tail.

Choosing the proper hook for your minnow is also important. As crappie tend to be larger and have wider mouths than bluegill and other pan fish, the hook size will generally need to also be slightly larger. That said, the tissue of a crappie’s mouth is also very thin. As such, you will want to pair your minnow with a hook that will pierce the crappie further back in the mouth to prevent tears and, inevitably, a lost fish. Generally, thin-wire hooks in sizes 1-6 are popular with crappie anglers. Use a size 1 hook for larger minnows and work your way up in numbers (but smaller in size) for your smaller minnows).

Below are some of our suggestions for the best crappie fishing hooks.

Some of the best bait hooks for slaying slabs

Gamakatsu Drop Shot Rig – #2

Gamakatsu Drop Shot Rig – #1

Eagle Claw 215-A Cricket Aberdeen Light Wire LG Shank Hooks

Eagle Claw 214EL Aberdeen 1X Light Wire Non-Offset Hooks

Eagle Claw 202 Aberdeen Light Wire Non-Offset Hooks

Mustad UltraPoint Double Wide Fine Wire Live Bait Hooks 

Do I need to use a bobber with live baits?

Many anglers have fond memories of using a worm and a bobber to catch their first fish. Using a bobber is still an effective technique when fishing for crappie, but you will want to make sure you are using the correct rig for the location, distance, etc.

For the most basic rigs, you will want to pair your float bobber, hook, and minnow with either a bobber stop or a split shot. The split shot adds a little bit of weight to the rig which will assist with both casting and helping to keep your bait from rising.

Ideally, you will want to keep your minnow within two-to-two and a half feet from your bobber. Preferences will change based on the angler and the conditions, so feel free to make adjustments.

Best Lures for Crappie Fishing

While live baits are proven to be successful and do not carry the learning curve that artificial lures require, there are some limitations that should be addressed.

Moving to artificial lures offers a greater versatility and control for experience anglers. Minnows simply don’t have the same degree of control — colors are standards, live bait will move the way it wants to for the most part, etc.

Also, if you plan on fishing any competitive circuit, it’s almost guaranteed that live bait will not be permitted.

Understanding Jigs and Jig Heads

Fortunately, there are plenty of artificial lure options available. Perhaps the most common options are plastic jigs and jig heads.

Jig bodies are generally made of soft plastic (some bodies are considerably softer than others, however). These bodies typically come in a tube shape and a multitude of colors. A variety of popular styles exist, including the incorporation of tails to add additional action to the swim. Some jigs even incorporate natural scents and glitters to serve as attractants.

Almost always, these jig bodies are going to be paired with a jig head. The jig head is usually made of either lead or tungsten, with the latter becoming increasingly popular in recent years. Tungsten’s heavier weight, versatility, and environmental-friendliness have made it a legitimate alternative to lead.

Regardless of the element, jig heads are perhaps the most versatile option when is comes to artificial crappie fishing lures. Coming in a variety of colors and a few standard shapes, jig heads can either be paired with the plastic jig body or tied with a skirt.

When using live bait for crappie, typical light or ultra-light rods are popular, typically between six and eight feet in length. When jigging, it is not at all uncommon to use rods ranging between nine and thirteen feet in length.

How to rig a jig head video

In the video below, you will see a demonstration of how to properly rig your jig head with a plastic jig body.

How to tie a jig skirt video

In the next video, you will see a demonstration of how to hand-tie your own jig skirts.

Our suggestions for top crappie lures

In another article, the Premier Angler staff compiled our list of twelve great lures for crappie fishing. We compiled this list as a matter of personal preference, recommendation from experienced crappie anglers and guides, and overall popularity. You can click on the links below to learn more about all the baits.

As an affiliate of Bass Pro Shops, Premier Angler may be eligible for a small commission if you decide to purchase any of the following baits online.

Strike King Mr. Crappie ShadPole

Bobby Garland Itty Bit Slab Slay’R

Charlie Brewer’s Crappie Slider Grub

Leland’s Lures Crappie Magnet Body

Bass Pro Shops Marabou Crappie Jig

Road Runner Original Marabou Jig

Strike King Mr. Crappie Slabalicious

Bass Pro Shops Crappie Maxx Crank

Uncle Buck’s Crappie Minnow Soft Bait

Eurotackle Z-Viber

Bass Pro Shops Cajun Critter

Outside of the more nationally recognized brands, we also recommend looking at offerings by BoneHead Tackle and Limits Tackle.

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