Whether it’s the dead of winter, heat of summer or just entering spring when the crappie begin to feed in a frenzy, knowing what baits are available and when to use them is an almost surefire way to improve your catch.
Crappies are notoriously voracious, eating just about anything that will fit into their mouths. This includes insects, worms, and numerous other species of fish. With that in mind, let’s look into those baits that are often thought to be some of your best options.
While it is hotly debated as to what is the absolute best option there is one thing that is agreed on. That is that crappie will go after live baits such as feeder fish, minnows, worms, grubs, insects and frogs. In addition to that Artificial baits such as jigs, worms, and various designs of artificial fish are all popular options.
Understanding the Crappie Bait Options
Most baits can be divided into several sub categories, the first of these being live baits and artificial baits. There are advantages and disadvantages to both live and artificial baits and we will examine them a bit later, for now lets break these down into smaller categories.
Crappie Live Bait Options
Live baits can be broken into several categories such as baitfish, worms, insects and other. Some anglers prefer to only use live baits as it seems more natural. On the other hand there are some circumstances when live baits are not an option.
While not as common for crappie, some tournaments and some bodies of water restrict or do not allow the use of live baits. There are also some instances in which you cannot use a certain species of bait even though it may be legal to use that same bait in another nearby water.
Baitfish and Crappie
Minnows are probably the most familiar and popular live bait used for crappie. They can be caught yourself with a minnow trap or casting net. You can also purchase them at most bait shops.
In addition to minnows other small sized fish can be used as well. This includes shiners, and fry from species such as bass, perch, brim and bluegill as well. In addition to the fry, large crappie can easily consume a full grown bluegill or bream.
One option you may not have considered in this category is feeder fish, these can be purchased from local pet shops and may be slightly more than minnows, but you can get them in several colors. These brighter colored fish may or maynot improve your catch chances, there is quite a bit of debate among colors when discussing artificial lures, so perhaps it could be applied here as well.
Insects as Crappie Bait
While insects are a natural food source for crappie, they tend to be for just about every other fish as well. This could lead to some issues if you are specifically targeting crappie and do not want to catch bluegills and bream among others.
In regards to available insects, the most common is crickets, these are relatively easy to raise yourself, can be caught in the yard or purchased at a store. Because of their ease of access they are a popular choice. Other options include caterpillars such as catawba or catalpa worms and grasshoppers.
Using Worms as Crappie Bait
Using worms to fish for crappie is another viable bait option. These include everything from earthworms/nightcrawlers to redworms. Mealworms and Waxworms can also fall into this category as well.
Worms can be found in most backyards, purchased from bait stores and Walmart. I have even seen vending machines near large lakes that sell little boxes of them. Fishing with worms is relatively straight forward, stick it on a hook and float it in front of the fish.
Other Live Bait Options for Crappie
There are numerous other options that you can use for crappie fishing. Crawfish, shrimp and frogs all come to mind right off hand. I have also heard of people using tadpoles and salamanders as bait as well. However, from an ease of obtaining use shrimp and crawfish are the most viable in this.
Many bait stores will sell both of these. Another option if you live in the south is to rake the dead leaves out of ditches filled with water. You can often find large numbers of crayfish in various sizes this way.
Crappie Artificial Bait Options
Artificial baits run the gamut of the imagination. These range from the rubber worms you may be familiar with all the way to strange balls of feathers meant to resemble some alien looking bug.
However for our purposes we are going to narrow the artificial categories down to jigs, lures, worms, flies and others.
This will help us keep the article on topic hopefully.
Jigs – The Go To Crappie Bait
Ask any angler who regularly targets crappie specifically what they prefer to fish with and almost every time you will get either minnows or jigs as the answer. Jigs are small metal hooks with a weight at one end that come in various colors.
These are often coupled with everything from rubber tube shaped worms, to small plumes of feathers depending on the desired look. They are relatively simple to use and inexpensive making them a very popular option.
Lures such as Spinnerbaits, Rattletraps, Topwater Plugs
While normally thought of as a bass bait each of these can be used to fish for crappie with varying degrees of success. The bigger issue when using one of these artificial baits comes with properly presenting it at the depths that the fish are holding.
I find that if you are going to use these types of baits, they work the best in the spring and fall when the crappie tend to be shallower in the water. With that being said I would normally suggest sticking to those that resemble a wounded fish or minnow for best results.
Rubber Worms as a Crappie Bait
Rubber worms are a strange point of contention. Very few crappie anglers I have spoken to use them as a primary option. However, it is possible to lure a crappie using rubber worms.
When trying to fish rubber worms make sure to play to their strengths. This is rigging them as a weedless hook, abundant color options and the effects produced by the various tails available.
I like to use a medium length pink or red worm with glitter in it that has a curved tail which causes it to spin as it’s slowly reeled in. This selection plays on the crappies’ sight hunting and uses the glitter to catch their attention.
Fishing Crappie with Flies
Though not as common, some other techniques, flies are quite effective at catching crappie as well. These tend to work the best in areas of shallow water such as creeks and streams.
I have also found that spring and summer tend to see the best results. As the water cools down, the crappie become more sluggish and are not as likely to target a bait they have to go after.
Other Artificial Bait Options for Crappie
As mentioned before, artificial baits come in every shape or size you can imagine, in this area we have both more traditional baits such as frogs, rubber crayfish and various rubber insects.
In addition to that though are some far out there options that people have come up with and even swear by. For instance the “Claw” in this post.
Summing It All Up
As you can see there is a multitude of options when it comes to baits that work for crappie. All of the ones discussed here will work to catch crappie. Though if you ask for the best or the go to most anglers are going to tell you;
Minnows are the number 1 option for crappie if fishing with a live bait, for an artificial bait go with a tube jig rigged on a slip bobber. You can use either of these to fish stumps, brush piles, shorelines and even the edges of docks.
While you are here, make sure and check out some of our articles on fishing at certain times of years. We have posts set in February, November and winter among others.