Freshwater fishing anglers all over the country love to fish for white and black crappie (pronounced, “craw-pee,” rather than the non-flattering alternative). Neither species grows very large; I’ve seen 16” specimens mounted on walls. And crappie are thin, relatively weak fighters. However, when you catch one, you probably can catch a bunch and the flakey fillets rank extremely high as table fare.
Generally, a bucket of minnows (usually fathead minnows or golden shiners) is part of standard crappie fishing gear, but they will hit lures too. Here are three of the best crappie lures.
1. Crappie Jigs
These popular crappie fishing lures are simply small hooks weighted near the eye, often 1/16 ounce. They frequently are finished with a bit of colored feathers or tipped with a small soft plastic grub tail. Yellow, white, chartreuse, or green are good initial jig colors to try. Early spring, when crappie are spawning, these common crappie fishing lures can be suspended below a small bobber and cast tightly into shallow brush. Reel slowly or give the rig a couple of little twitches and then pause briefly, altering depth with the bobber until fish are located. Jigs worked vertically, aptly named “jigging,” over submerged brush piles or near standing timber also will entice these structure-loving fish throughout the year, even through a hole in the ice.
2. Small crankbaits for Crappie
This diverse category of “seeking” lures is used to cover a lot of water to find fish. Again, the best crappie lures are the smaller sizes. They can be lipped or lipless designs. Lipped crankbaits are retrieved to make the lure dive. Lipless crankbaits usually sink already and anglers vary the timing of the dropping lure and then retrieve, trying to stay in “the zone” as long as possible. Effective models often resemble a type of bait fish.
3. Crappie Spinners
These crappie fishing lures produce lots of vibration and flash that may resemble the erratic behavior of a fleeing minnow. For inline spinners, cast and let sink to desired depth, then retrieve slow and steady. There are some other really good crappie fishing lures that have a blade attached. “Underspin” lures are usually slightly larger jigs with a small, single spoon that dangles under the front of the lure. I cast these lures during winter and retrieve slowly, trying to remain in contact with the bottom. “Tailspin” lures are small but very heavy and have a blade that flutters at the back of the lure. By trolling rather quickly, this lure can be affective for locating deep, suspended crappie during the heat of late summer.
There are, of course, other lures that can catch crappie. I’ve even caught them on the surface by fly fishing in reservoirs during evening mayfly hatches. But if assembling a small tackle box of my best crappie lures, I’ll have plenty of small jigs, a couple of petite, minnow-resembling crankbaits, and some type of spinner or two. Check regulations when renewing your fishing license. Harvest sizes and quantities can vary even within bodies of water in the same state.