Baits and Lures – Which Ones Make a Crappie Happy?
By Mike Rustler, Author of The Mega Guide to Crappie Fishing
The choice of crappie lures can seem overwhelming, but it’s not really that hard to find something that works for you. Here are a few tips to make it even easier.
Every angler knows the excitement of trying out a new lure – making that first cast, wondering how it’s going to perform. That’s what makes choosing them so much fun, too; browsing the shelves in the store, imagining each one swimming through your favorite stretch of water and trying to guess what the crappie will make of it.
Experimenting with both lures and baits is all part of the game, but you can do it more productively – and save some cash – if you know the basics of what works for your target species.
This is the traditional way to go after crappie, and it’s still popular. There’s a reason for that; live baits are the most natural, tempting lure you can put in the water, if you do it right, and you can seriously boost your chances with any game fish if you use them.
Crappies are opportunistic feeders and they’ll take pretty much any small live bait. There are species preferences though – black crappie favor insects and crustaceans, while a small fish is perfect for white crappie. Don’t be surprised to find these rules aren’t ironclad!
There are three ways to get live bait. They all have plus and minus points, so let’s look at them in more detail.
You can catch it. This is a great – and cheap – way to get fresh bait that suits the water you’re fishing. You’ll also learn about the bait you catch, and where to find it. That’s good to know – if you understand where minnows gather you also know where crappie will feed on them. It’s not 100% reliable though – some days you just can’t find any bait.
If you have space and time you can raise your own bait at home. This will need tanks, soil boxes or other suitable containers, depending on if you’re raising worms, insects or fish. It can take some effort to get the best results but once you have the hang of it you’ll have a good supply of bait all ready to go.
Finally you can buy live baits from a sport shop, or even online. If you’re short on time or don’t have room for a bait farm this is an ideal solution. Just don’t buy it too far in advance or it might lose condition – or even die – before you go fishing.
As good as live baits are, there’s definitely a place for artificial lures too. They’re convenient – if you get a chance to go fishing at short notice and don’t have time to get bait in, lures will be available in your tackle box. They can also be very effective. For crappie stick with small sizes, as that maximizes your chances of attracting a fish.
Here are a few classic designs that work well:
Spinners. This is the classic lure – a shaped metal body that spins and weaves erratically as it swims through the water. These are great for using around areas where there are a lot of obstructions, like rocks or overhanging branches – places crappies like to gather.
Plugs. Also known as crankbaits, divers or minnows, these are floating lures with a vane that draws them just below the surface as you reel them in. They’re usually made of hollow plastic and shaped like small fish or crustaceans.
Topwater lures. These are similar to plugs, in that they’re floating lures. The difference is they don’t dive as you bring them in, so they simulate surface animals like insects. Crappies love to snatch insects from the surface, so a good topwater lure is an excellent choice. Around dusk they can be combined with lightsticks.
There’s a huge variety of baits and lures that will attract a crappie, so play around a bit to find what works best for your style and the water you fish. Getting the right one can make a big difference to your day’s catch.
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