They are second only to bass as the most popular freshwater sportsfish in the US and renowned for being good eating too.
And crappie also just love lures.
But sometimes they can be picky and it pays to learn what are the best crappie lures and how to fish with them.
In this article we will take you through the various types of crappie lures and give you our 16 favourites.
Types of crappie lure
There are four main types of crappie lures that we find most effective: spinners/spinner baits, soft plastics, jigs and crankbaits – we admit there is some crossover between categories with some jigs having a spinner blade.
Below we break down our favourites in each of these categories. Small versions of all of these lures will put you on the way to crappie fishing success.
Favourite choices for the lures below, except where stated, are white, chartreuse, yellow and silver. We use darker colours for deeper or murky water.
Our 16 best crappie lures
Best spinners/spinnerbaits for crappie
1. Mepps Aglia
Mepps spinners are a top crappie lure. They are easy to cast and help you to cover lots of water and are very high quality. A great choice in spring when crappie are in the margins for spawning. The best sizes for crappie are size 0 (1/12 of an ounce), size 1 (1/8 of an ounce) and size 2 (1/6 of an ounce).
An innovative lure that combines a jig head and a spinner and is a very popular choice among successful crappie fishermen and women. Throw a soft plastic on the hook and you’ve got a triple threat. Throw this lure on a light line with an ultralight rod and you’ve got a crappie catching combination. Best in ⅛ or 1/16.
At a tiny 1/8 of an ounce, the Strike King Mini is a small spinner bait with a great action that works great for crappie when retrieved nice and slowly. Lots of anglers swear by these as their top crappie lure.
A great crappie lure that’s comprised of a jig hook with an innovative spinner blade and soft plastic with a trailing spinner blade. A firm favourite of some top crappie anglers.
Combines a soft plastic on a jig head with a spinner blade. Crappie just love them fished nice and slow in either ⅛ or 1/16 of an ounce. A nice ultralight spinning reel combo spooled with braid makes for a nice outfit for throwing these very light lures.
The best soft plastic grubs for crappie
The Southern Pro Lit’l Hustler is a real fish catcher that you can fish for crappie with confidence. The plastic is impregnated with scent and the tail tentacles wave transmit vibrations throughout the water column. This is another lure that’s stood the test of time in the crappie fishing world.
No other crappie bait offers this much action from head to tail! The Bobby Garland Stroll’r soft plastic was specifically designed for slow trolling, or ”strolling” for crappie. The Stroll’r produces an unbelievable tail action and vibration at any speed, whether it is cast or trolled. Durable body provides a tempting target for slabs
Z-Man ElaZtech® plastics are world renowned for their lifelike movement and ability to catch fish in any conditions. With a vibrating curved paddle tail, these will fool a range of freshwater sportfish, but are tailor-made for crappie in the smaller sizes.
9. Z-Man GrubZ
We reckon GrubZ offer more movement than any other soft plastic and are the first choice for us when we are fishing for species that love to key in on that. We’ve had good success with lots of colors in the ZMan range but we really like the Bloodworm and Motor Oil colors. In the 2″ size on light jigheads these are great for targeting crappie. They even move well on the drop so be ready for a strike!
The best jigs for crappie
These are a staple lure in most old-time crappie fishermen’s lure box from way back. Just as deadly today as crappie love the tinsel flash on these simple lures.
No other feature imparts the same amount of movement as marabou – fly fishermen know this well and have been using it in their streamer flies for centuries. These marabou jigs are a cheap and effective way to catch crappie. Because jigs for crappie are so simple, sometimes it is better and more cost effective to make your own lures in this category. That is easy with a DIY lure kit.
The best crankbaits for crappie
13. Rapala Fat Rap
The Rapala mini fat rap is a 1.5-inch shallow-running crankbait. This is a sinking lure that weighs 1/8 ounce. Deadly on crappie, this is the baby version of the Rapala Fat-Rap which is a deep-diving bass plug.
A legendary lure that was sold out the back of its creators’ car in the early days, the Rat-L-Trap is the best lipless crankbait for crappie and has the added attraction of a rattle inside to really get the crappie fired up.
Strictly speaking more of a vibe than a crankbait, the Cotton Cordell Gay Blade is popular with crappie anglers for its tight shimmy on retrieve. It is also effective on the drop.
A great lure that has really stood the test of time (it was launched in the 1960s). Floating crankbaits are great for targeting shorelines where you can drive them into the structure and let them float seductively back up through the strike zone.
What do crappie eat?
Crappie feed on small minnows such as shad and the young of other sportfish. They also eat crustaceans and insects.
What are the best times of day to fish for crappie?
Dawn and dusk are active feeding times for crappie, but they can easily be caught deeper in the water column and near various kinds of structure during the day.
Best gear for crappie fishing
Crappie grow to a maximum size of 6lb and anything over 1.5lb is considered a large fish, so it’s no surprise we recommend ultralight spinning reels and rods for targeting crappie.
They are sometimes called papermouths in recognition of the fragility of the skin around their mouth, so it’s important to fish with light and sensitive tackle that won’t rip the hook out of the fish’s mouth.
Line is also an important consideration as crappie are put off by too thick a line or leader. We fish 4lb or at most 6lb and choose the best monofilament line or the best fluorocarbon line we can buy.
Fluorocarbon, while stiffer than mono, is practically invisible and is a good choice. Just take care with your knots using flouro.
Using braid will help cast light lures a long way, but just keep in mind there’s no stretch in braid when it comes to fighting the crappie so take extra care and use an ultralight rod, paired with an ultralight spinning reel, to your advantage to avoid ripping out the hook.
What is the best season for crappie?
They can be caught year round including right through winter, when they are a highly regarded target for ice fishermen and women.
Crappie spawn in spring and move into shallow waters to do so, where they can be easily targeted using the full range of lures and flies.
Summer’s higher temperatures sees crappie usually sitting a little deeper where jigs and plastics are a good way to reach them.
Fall sees crappie at their most aggressive and keen to take lures sitting in the upper part of the water column.
Crappie is one species for which fishing is particularly productive in winter, when they tend to school up. A very slow retrieve works best when ice fishing in winter and when you catch one, keep honed in on the same spot as there will likely be more around. They are a schooling fish as anyone who fishes with a fish finder knows – you can often see decent schools of crappie on your sonar.
There is nice summary of the seasonality of crappie fishing and the techniques and locations to use on the Missouri Department of Conservation’s site: https://huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/fishing/species/crappie/crappie-tips-fishing
Fly fishing for crappie
While it is far from the most popular way to fish for crappie, fly fishing is an effective method to target these fish, particuarly when they are in relatively shallow water.
Using a light (4 – 6 weight) rod and a floating fly line, you can target crappie using a Woolly Bugger or light marabou jig suspended below a strike indicator.
Just like trout fishing, watch for the indicator to go down, lift the rod and set the hook. As with trout, you need to lift the rod firmly but gently. For crappie, you don’t want to pull the fly through their relatively weak mouth tissue.
For targeting crappie in deeper water, a bead headed Woolly Bugger can get down relatively deep. For deeper water, you may want to switch to an intermediate or sink-tip fly line.
Is a boat needed for crappie fishing?
No, not all. Crappie are very often found close to the shoreline so a boat is by no means necessary in lakes and rivers. You can catch a decent feed of crappie on foot fishing land based.
That said using a boat or kayak with a fish finder opens up a few more options as your can use the sonar to track down the densest and most active schools of crappie and make sure that you target these fish.
This can lead to increased catch rates, but there’s still a lot to be said for just going down to the lake or river with a telescopic rod and a box of lures in your backpack for a successful fishing session.
Do you use scent on lures when fishing for crappie?
This very much depends on who you ask! Some people swear by scents for crappie, whereas others say they are predominantly visual feeders and are attracted by the movement of the bait or lure. We tend to agree with that – and the selection of lures here certainly bears that out. These soft baits, spinners, crankbaits and jis all have one thing in common – they create seductive movement when retrieved that just screams “eat me” to the crappie.
For crappie fishing, we only use scent when the water is heavily discolored or the bite is really slow! Bass fishing, on the other hand, we are more likely to use a good bass attractant.
We’d be confident tying on any of the lures mentioned here as we know they are perfect for targeting crappie and have worked on a variety of waters and stood the test of time. Choose your lure based on the depth you are fishing and the kind of structure, while taking into account the mood the fish are in.
The good news is crappie rarely shut down like some of your more fickle fish and they can usually be relied on to chomp on a lure.
Crappie fishing is fun, cheap and addictive from casting from the lake shore in summer right through to ice fishing in winter. And it can often supply you with a fine tasting meal.