Best Crappie Bait and How to Use It
Aug 25, 2021 | 4 minute read Comments
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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Crappie are the perfect target for a family fishing trip. Easy enough for the little ones, but still fun for more experienced anglers. Part of what makes them great is the variety of ways you can catch them. With that in mind, we’ve covered the best Crappie bait and when to use it. Better get the fryer ready, because you’re in for a Panfish feast!

Crappie Bait Basics

A young woman holding two large Black Crappie with a lake behind her

Whatever type of bait you’re using, it needs to match what your target fish is already eating. In most cases, this will be small minnows, insects, and worms. Take a little time to learn what the local forage is, and you’ll notice a real improvement in your catch ratio. This matters as much for lures as for live bait.

It’s not just about the way your bait looks, mind you. Crappie hunt by sight, smell, and by detecting vibrations in the water. Vibration and scent are especially useful in low light conditions or murky waters, while realistic shape and motion are key in clear, shallow waters.

Color is also important, and it changes depending on how deep you’re fishing. Your bait may be bright red on the surface, but it will look dark brown 30 feet down (read up on this in more detail here). The best all-round color combination for Crappie is chartreuse and white, as it contrasts nicely and is visible both near the surface and farther down.

Lastly, keep in mind that feeding habits change throughout the year. In the cooler months, Crappie are mostly opportunistic, picking off easy meals without using too much energy. Once the weather warms, Crappie get more active and start chasing down larger bait. This is especially true in their spring spawning season.

Best Crappie Bait Choices

So, you know the basics: match the local forage and tailor your bait to the conditions, depth, and time of year. But what exactly should you use? You can get away with just about anything, but here are the most effective baits and lures for catching Crappie.

Live Bait

A small bucket full of live minnows held up to the light with a lake behind

Live bait is the simplest and most obvious choice when targeting Crappie. As mentioned above, it’s best to match whatever the local fish are eating. In most places, the top choice is minnows. Other good bait options include worms, insects, and even small crawfish.

When starting out, rig a few baits at different depths to find where the fish are holding. After that, fish on a bobber to stay near the surface or add some weight to hold deeper. If the fish are getting spooked, try letting a minnow swim free on a weightless line. You can even rig bait onto a lure for added visibility – but more on that below!

Jigs

A White Crappie in the water eating a jig, one of the best Crappie baits available

Jigs are king when it comes to Crappie fishing. You can use them in almost any situation. They can even outfish live bait, especially when the fishing’s hot. You don’t need to deal with keeping them fresh or changing them after every bite, either, which is an added bonus. The three main types of Crappie jigs are solid, tube, and feather.

Solid plastic jigs are great all-rounders. They come in a variety of colors and styles, although small shad or minnow shapes work best. If you want to add scent, try tube jigs. Their hollow shape is perfect for holding fish attractants like Crappie nibbles. Lastly, feather jigs are the best ones to use in combination with live bait, as they let the fish move naturally.

Spinners

A beetle spinner lure isolated on a white background

If your casts just aren’t getting the attention you want, it’s time to break out the spinners. There are many types out there, but the ones we’d recommend for Crappie are beetle and in-line spinners.

Beetle spinners combine the shape and color of lures with added flash and movement to really draw fish in. In-line spinners aren’t quite as visible, but they’re great for covering ground in shallow water. They don’t get caught up quite as much as other spinnerbaits, although you should still avoid thick vegetation when fishing with them.

Spoons

A freshly-caught Crappie held out of a hole in the ice

This one’s for the ice fishers among you, and it should come as no surprise. Spoons are just awesome at imitating weak or injured fish, moving erratically in the water, and making flashes and vibrations as they go. They’re real magnets for slab Crappie hiding under the ice, especially deeper down.

You don’t need to go big to go home loaded with fish. Small, simple spoons work best, although you should switch up a size or two if you’re fishing really deep. Color-wise, stick to the tried-and-true chartreuse. Combine it with gold in low light or silver when the sun’s shining. If you really want to up your chances, trip your hook with a bit of fresh bait for added scent.

More Than One Way to Bait a Crappie

A Black Crappie with a plug bait in its mouth

These are some of our favorite lures and baits for Crappie, but they’re not the only ones. Plugs, swimbaits – even nymphs and small popper flies – can have devastating results. But if you’re just starting out, it’s good to get the hang of these basic baits first. You’ll have plenty of time to try new things once you’re hooked on Crappie fishing!

What do you think is the best Crappie bait? Do you agree with our list? Drop us your favorite lures or top tips in the comments below – we’d love to hear from you!

Comments (11)
  • Ceaser Polk

    Dec 30, 2021

    Could you please send me the name and sizes of all the best Crappie Baits possible and where I can order them?

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      Lisa

      Jan 3, 2022

      Hi Ceaser,

      Thank you for reaching out. As we mention in the article, live bait, jigs, spinners, and spoons, as well as plugs, swimbaits, nymphs, and small popper flies all work great for Crappie fishing. If you pick live bait, I’d recommend minnows, insects, and worms to get Crappie’s attention. Both live bait and artificials are widely available both in tackle shops and online.

      I hope this helps!

      Lisa

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  • DALE KEIRNS

    Dec 26, 2021

    Love live minnows, and jigs with plastic minnows shaped baits I like Bobby Garland baits for fishing in the spring. Need some help to find the crappie in the fall with the right baits and depth to find them!

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      Lisa

      Dec 28, 2021

      Hi Dale,

      Thank you for reading and reaching out. Where are you planning to fish for Crappie in the fall? Let us know so that we could help you find the best spot.

      Lisa

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  • Herman L. SELF

    Nov 18, 2021

    Thank you for the excellent information,it was complete coverage on everything one would want to know about Crappie fishing,

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      Katie Higgins

      Nov 19, 2021

      Hi Herman,

      Thanks very much for your comment! We’re really glad you enjoyed the article. Do you have any plans to go Crappie fishing soon?

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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      Matt

      Dec 27, 2021

      Back in the summer I caught 3 nice size crappie off a yellow roster tails

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  • Dwight Kirby

    Oct 24, 2021

    The rig I have the most luck with is a white jig with a white power bait worm topped off with a wax worm.

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  • Glenn

    Aug 18, 2021

    One of the best crappie rigs of all is the simplest. Plain gold #4 hook and split shot 12” above/a drop shot rig if the crappies are belly to the bottom. We have been fishing the Canadian islands of Lake of the Woods for many years and have found that simple and plain is often the best approach.

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      John Henry Banks

      Oct 4, 2021

      Thanks for the tips God bless

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      Eric Anderson

      Nov 11, 2021

      Small crank baits. Drop shot live minnows or fish minnows under a float. Also crappie magnets

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