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Both species of crappie belong to the sunfish family and are fun to catch and good to eat. Their diverse diet means that lures in a wide variety of colors, shapes and designs can be used to trigger bites — although jigs are traditionally thought of as the best lures for crappies. They work year-round and are compatible with a number of different fishing methods. In this article, we look at our top picks for several jig styles, as well as a few other categories of lure that can work well for crappies, ranging from soft plastic swimbaits to hard plastic crankbaits.
Best Feathered Jig: Eagle Claw Crappie Jig
Jigging is especially effective in the spring when crappies tend to congregate in large schools — enabling you to send a jig into the middle for an almost guaranteed bite. Some of the best crappie jigs are also the simplest, and many Amazon reviewers label the Eagle Claw Crappie Jig as their overall favorite lure for this species. Weighing 1/16 or 1/32 ounces, it can be fished in a number of different ways, from vertical jigging to twitching underneath a bobber.
The jig features a metal head and shaft, a thread body and a feather tail for subtle in-water action that creates just the right amount of vibration to trigger interest. The head is also painted with a contrasting dot that mimics the eye of a baitfish. Choose lighter colors such as chartreuse or pink/white for the best results on sunny days or when fishing in clear water and darker colors such as black or yellow/black when fishing in stained water. With six jigs per packet, you’ve got backups if you have to cut one loose.
Best Soft Plastic Jig: Berkley PowerBait Power Minnow
The Berkley PowerBait Power Minnow is perfect for use as a jig trailer or for a spinner or bottom-bouncing rig. Its split-tail design gives it a life-like motion that echoes the action of a wounded baitfish and works well as a finesse presentation for pressured lakes. It also looks incredibly realistic, thanks to holographic inserts and a pair of 3D eyes. The minnow is impregnated with Berkley’s iconic PowerBait scent and flavor formula, which has been developed over 25 years to tempt fish to hang on up to 18 times longer, allowing you the leeway to set your hook properly and reel in at leisure.
It measures two inches in length, which Amazon reviewers claim makes it the ideal size for crappie (although it also works for other freshwater species including bass, perch and trout). The jig linked here is the black shad color pattern, with firetiger and smelt available elsewhere on Amazon. There are 10 minnows per pack, with two pre-rigged on the hook and ready to fish.
Best Plastic Tube: Strike King Mr. Crappie Thunder Bait
A collaboration between tackle company Strike King and pro fisherman Wally Marshall (better known as Mr. Crappie), the Strike King Mr. Crappie Thunder Bait is specifically designed for targeting these tasty panfish. It can be used with a vertical drop shot rig or connected to a jig head for casting, trolling or bouncing along the bottom. Made of high-quality silicone, the lure measures 1 3/4 inches in length and has a solid ripple body that attracts crappies by resembling a tasty grub.
Other features include a multi-strand tail that flares out at 90 degrees to cause vibrations that can be picked up by the fish’s lateral line; and glitter flecks that replicate the shimmer of baitfish scales. This canny combination of different factors is intended to trigger a feeding frenzy — and often does. Choose from a range of colors, including tuxedo black sparkle, blue grass and junebug chartreuse glitter tail. The soft plastic is susceptible to nibbles and doesn’t last particularly long, but with 15 grubs included in a packet, this product still gives value for money.
Best Swimbait: Strike King Shadalicious Swimbait
If you prefer trolling or cast and retrieve fishing, the Strike King Shadalicious Swimbait could be your ideal lure. It works best with a slow, steady retrieve and can be rigged on an open jig head or with a weighted hook. The soft, hollow body and paddle tail give the lure a life-like side-to-side swimming action that proves irresistible to hungry crappies. The accuracy of the swimbait’s movement is matched by realistic color patterns including blue gizzard, ghost shad and ayu. If you prefer a more attention-grabbing shade, opt for sexy shad or pearl chartreuse belly instead.
This lure comes in four sizes: 3.5, 4.5, 5.5 or 6.5 inches. Match the size of your hook to the size of the lure for targeting different sized crappies (with a little practice, you can even tailor your catch to suit the number of people you want to feed). Amazon reviewers report that although these lures tear quickly, their effectiveness more than makes up for their short lifespan.
Best Shallow-Water Crankbait: Rapala Jointed Shad Rap 04 Fishing Lure
Though not as popular as jigs, crankbaits are a good choice when you’re working in unfamiliar waters and need to search a large area in a short space of time. At 1.5 inches in length, the Rapala Jointed Shad Rap 04 is the perfect size for crappies. A quick-diving lip gives it a shallow running depth of four to six feet, while the body’s lightweight plastic construction allows the lure to hang suspended in the water column when paused. This gives it a vulnerable presentation that proves deadly for unsuspecting fish.
When you continue reeling, the jointed design gives the body a wide swimming action that mimics the movement of a baitfish in distress. This is exacerbated by the sonic vibrations emitted by the lure’s loud rhythmic rattle. Color patterns like bleeding olive flash and bleeding chartreuse shad perpetuate the wounded baitfish illusion, while options such as baby bass and red crawdad win top marks for realism. Other highlights of this lure include its hand-tuned and tank-tested quality and its premium VMC black nickel treble hooks.
Best Deep-Diving Crankbait: Norman Deep Little N
The Norman Deep Little N crankbait features a rounded, angled lip that helps it to dive quickly to between nine and 12 feet. This deep-diving option is a great choice for fishing in fall when crappies tend to move into deeper water. At 2.5 inches in length, it’s also ideally sized for targeting larger crappies and is likely to work well for other game fish, too, making it a worthy multi-species addition to your tackle box. It weighs 3/8 ounces and comes armed with two sharp treble hooks.
The crankbait’s plump shape gives it a distinctive medium-wide wobble specially designed to trigger aggressive strikes. If you find that it works for you, consider buying several lures in different shades — after all, there are no fewer than 83 detailed color patterns to choose from. These include lavender shad, rainbow trout and spring craw. Some patterns use glitter to achieve a life-like iridescent shimmer, and all are protected from wear and tear by a hardy gel coat finish.
Best In-Line Spinner: Yakima Bait Worden’s Original Rooster Tail Spinner
Worden’s Original Rooster Tail Spinner is a classic lure that has been catching freshwater game fish since the 1950s. According to Amazon reviewers, it works just as well now as it did when first launched. It comes in several different weights, but experts recommend choosing a smaller 1/32- or 1/24-ounce lure for targeting crappies. The in-line weighted body provides a unique spinning action, while the pulsating hackle tail hides a sharp treble hook that converts strikes into catches. The key to the spinner’s appeal is the blade, which sends out tempting vibrations and is made from silver, brass or copper for maximum flash.
There are over 100 colors to choose from, each one tailored to work best in specific conditions that range from time of year to water clarity and location. Some, like brown trout, crawdad and frog, are realistic interpretations of natural crappie prey. Others, such as metallic flame tiger and glitter chartreuse, use bright colors to trigger the fish’s curiosity and encourage bites. UV finishes are also available.
Best for Ice Fishing: Rapala VMC Tumbler Spoon
If you plan on going crappie fishing in Canada or the northern United States in winter, you may need a lure especially designed for ice fishing. Rapala’s VMC Tumbler Spoon is just such a lure. It measures one inch in length and weighs 1 1/12 ounces. Its unique knuckle bend gives it a slow, tumbling action perfect for encouraging finicky biters or for matching the lethargic behavior exhibited by game fish in cold water. A small metallic attractor blade rubs against the spoon and hook for added flash and vibration.
The lure linked here is the emerald shiner color pattern, but there are 12 to choose from in total. Some have UV bright finishes that reflect light to make them more visible in the dim conditions that are synonymous with ice fishing. Ultra Glow models take things a step further still by glowing for up to 15 minutes, making them impossible for hungry fish to ignore. All models have a holographic eye and a sharp treble hook.