Crappie are versatile feeders, eating most types of insects, worms, and
small crayfish and minnows. This variety of forage makes choosing baits
for crappie fairly simple. Just about every angler has one bait that he or
she swears will out fish any other. This is because that person probably
uses that particular bait much more than any other. This is not
necessarily a bad thing, however, because having confidence in your bait
is almost as important as having a bait at all. As a rule of thumb, if the
fish are eating it, keep using it. When the fish seem to stop eating it,
don't keep using it.
If the fish aren't biting, you can try three things: Try a different
presentation. That is slow down, speed up, twitch, or change your retrieve
in some way. Try a different color lure. Crappie are especially famous for
being color picky. Simply switching from a green jig to a yellow one can
make the difference between a few bites and a stringer of slabs. Change
baits completely. If you have been using minnows all day and have caught
no fish, try switching to a small spinner or jig. The fish could want
something with more or less action than your bait produces, so you must
experiment until you find what they want. Most baits will catch plenty of
fish provided they are presented to the fish in the right way at the right
time. That means choosing a lure is about 50% trial-and-error and 50% your
preference. Though minnows and worms are often very effective for catching
crappie, I rarely use them because of their cost and/or effort to catch
them. The three types of lures that I use most and I recommend to all
crappie anglers are:
1. Maribou Jigs- These are the small jigs that have little furry bodies
and puffy, feathery tails. They come in many sizes and tons of colors are
very durable, and are fairly cheap to buy (I catch them on sale at
Wal-Mart for $.25 for a four-pack). They can also be easily made at home
with some yarn and pipe cleaners. These jigs are perfect for finesse
fishing picky crappie, vertical jigging over structure, or suspending
under a bobber. I prefer a 1/16 or 1/32 oz. jig. When choosing a color, I
follow the table below.
2. Curly-tail Grubs- These are the soft plastic baits that have curly
tails on the back that produce lots of action when jigged or retrieved
steadily. They come in many sizes, but I like a 1 1/2"- 2 1/2"
grub for crappie. Rig them with a 1/8- 1/64 oz. jig head, depending on
conditions and preference. Follow chart below to choose a color.
3. Spinners- These are my personal favorite lures to use when crappie
fishing. This is because they are very versatile, effective, and fairly
weed-less. When I say versatile, I mean you never know just what you are
going to catch on them. I have caught 16" bass, 9" bluegill,
21" catfish, and 13" pike while crappie fishing with a spinner.
The spinners I use and have the best results with are the smallest sized
ones I can find. The 1/16 oz. Beetle Spin is the perfect size. Wal-Mart
caries several sizes of the individual spinners, but the absolute smallest
ones are the best. I have also found that gold blades seem to produce
slightly more strikes than the normal silver. I strongly recommend trying
the tiny gold blades the next time you are on the water. Here is a
breakdown of the types of spinners I use:
A. Small Willow Leaf Blade- This is a very
effective type of blade and seems to work well on most species. Try
rigging it with a 2" tube bait or curly tail.
B. Small Silver Colorado (circular) Blade- This
blade type produces a lot of vibrations and can be fished very slowly. Rig
with 2" tube bait or, for even more action, add a curly tail to it.
This combo is great for very stained, dark water.
C. Small Gold Blade- My Favorite! A tiny, gold,
Colorado blade with a 1/32 oz. jig head and a hot-colored, 2" tube
bait is a dynamite lure for nearly any freshwater species. I suggest going
to Wal-Mart and picking up a 2-pack of these tiny gold spinners. You will
be glad you did!
D. Beetle Spin- These come in tons of colors,
sizes, and brands, but they have never let me down. The 1/8 and 1/16 oz.
sizes are perfect for crappie as well as other fish. They are also a good
Now that you know which type of lure to choose, what color should you
use? Well the answer to this is simple, yet terribly difficult. Often you
must try many different colors before you find the one that will catch the
most fish. However, here is something to go by:
Clear Water: In clear and lightly stained waters, the most important thing
to remember is to match the natural food items. When fishing with a minnow
type lure, such as a tube bait or a shad shaped lure, try to use natural
looking colors such as silver, smoke, gray, etc. When jigging near or on
the bottom, try using browns or dark greens.
Dark/ Stained Water: In stained or muddy waters, the keys to attracting
strikes are vibration and brightness. Because dark water filters out much
of the sunlight, often the best fishing is during mid-day or bright
sunlight times. The fish can see better with more light penetrating.
Vibrations also thoroughly help crappie to find forage in dark water, so a
lure that produces these is usually a plus. Spinners, grubs, and jigs that
are kept moving are usually good choices. Choose bright colors! Try using chartreuse,
hot pink, white, yellow, hot green, etc. Sparkles are also good.
Cloudy Days: Cloudy, overcast days limit the amount of sunlight that
reaches the fish. Try using colors that are slightly darker than you would
normally use. Browns, greens, and even black are good colors to try on
cloudy days. One of my personal favorites is a 2" black curly-tail
grub with a yellow or chartreuse tail. The fish seen to pick up the
combination of light and dark very well. I also use a small gold spinner
with this grub.
Bright Sunlight: Sunny days are usually fairly simple days to choose a
lure color. Try the brightest color you have first. Chartreuse, white,
yellow, and hot pinks and greens are favorites of mine. Try small silver
or gold spinners to produce extra flash as well.
Night Fishing: Crappie fishing at night is said to be quite productive,
though I have never tried. Because of the lack of light at night, try jet
black lures, or combinations of black and other colors.
Try following these basic guidelines the next time you are choosing a
lure and color and I think you will be pleased. However, remember this is
just a guideline. If these techniques do not produce fish, try something