Academy Sports and Outdoors Logo
Academy Sports + Outdoors
Academy, LTD
skip to main content
Main content starts here.

Best Crappie Baits & Lures to Catch Your Next Slab

WriterAubrey McShan
ContributorAdam Cunningham
15 min read
Man Holding Up Crappie Fish Over Water

Fishing for crappie makes for an exciting day on the water and a delicious dinner for later! But before you can have all that fun catching the perfect fish, you need to know what the best crappie baits and lures are. In this guide, you'll learn all about a crappies:

What Are Crappies?

Crappies are part of the sunfish family and are one of the most popular freshwater fish in the United States — found in the 48 contiguous states. You may also hear them referred to by other names like speckled bass, calico bass, or even strawberry bass.

  • They have spines on their gill covers and prefer warm waters.
  • Crappies can be split into two main species: white crappie and black crappie.
  • Although native to eastern North America, you can now find them almost everywhere in the U.S.
  • They often swim around sheltered areas in freshwater lakes for protection from predators and to have easy access to food.
Angler holds a live crappie fish above the water

What Do Crappies Eat?

Crappies love small fish like shad! They tend to eat at dusk or dawn and rarely feed during the day. There are a few important differences between what live bait white crappie and black crappie eat.

  • Best Live Bait for White Crappie: White crappies usually eat more fish, insects, worms, and crustaceans than black crappies. Find them hunting shad or minnows in murky water.
  • Best Live Bait for Black Crappie: Black crappies do love to eat minnows, but a huge portion of their diet actually depends on invertebrates, zooplankton (including planktonic crustaceans), and nocturnal larvae. Find them hunting at night in clear, cool water!

Expert Tip:

Want to know the best artificial lures that mimic their favorite meals? Popular types of artificial lures for crappies are jigs, spoons, plugs, small tubes, spinner baits, and crankbaits.

Best Live Bait for Crappie

Crappies are usually eager to bite with the right bait on your hook! Live bait helps to entice them even more. They're less expensive than other options, so you can stock up without breaking the bank.

Swipe Right Icon
Best Crappie Baits & Lures Guide
Name Time Most Active Spring/Fall Water Depth Summer/Winter Water Depth Best Lure To Mimic Bait
Shad Dusk Shallow Deep Spinnerbait
Minnows Daytime Shallow Shallow Spinnerbait
Shrimp Mostly during the night; occasionally during daytime Deep Shallow Soft plastic
Crayfish Nighttime Shallow Shallow Jigs

Types of Crappie Baitfish

  • Minnows — One of the best live baits for catching crappies, they are delicate and defenseless but can last a while when properly stored. Buy or catch minnows, then present them under a float or on a bottom rig.
  • Shrimp — Freshwater shrimp (or grass shrimp) are a popular natural food source for crappies in the southern U.S. They make a good bait choice, too! Keep them alive for the best results.
  • Crayfish — As crappies grow from youth to adulthood, they tend to eat fewer insects and crayfish in favor of more baitfish. However, younger crappies still eat crayfish often. They're best to use in summer and winter since they're a natural food source and are one of the main sources available in those seasons.

Best Artificial Lures for Crappies

Many anglers swear by artificial lures for their best results. Crappies bite artificial lures during summer. But they most aggressively chase them down in the fall when they're fattening up for winter. Use a variety of artificial lures with fantastic success — just make sure they're on the smaller side and mimic their natural prey!

Why We Chose It: This swim jig is great for targeting freshwater panfish with its micro skirt and spear-shaped head that create realistic action in heavy cover and grass.

How to Use This: Swim it through vegetation in spring when the crappies are shallow and spawning.

Key Features:

  • Spear-shaped head penetrates through heavy cover and grass
  • Micro skirt offers lots of action
  • Single #1 hook
  • 2.5 inches long, 1/4 ounce

Best Crappie Tube Lure: Strike King Mr. Crappie Tube Baits

Why We Chose It: This 10-pack of baits offers a natural shape for a realistic-looking design and is suitable for freshwater use.

How to Use This: Pair it with lighter jig heads for shallow crappie or heavier jig heads for deeper crappie. Cast it out and simply let it fall slowly into the strike zone. Most strikes will come as the tube falls, so watch your line closely.

Key Features:

  • Made from plastic for long-lasting use
  • Natural shape offers a lifelike appearance
  • 2 inches long

Why We Chose It: Spinners mimic minnows with their vibration, flash, and motion to attract the attention of nearby crappies.

How to Use This: Retrieve the spinner with an up-and-down 'yo-yo' motion or buzz it along the surface and allow it to fall or 'die' right beside fish-concentrating structures like stumps or fallen and standing timber.

Key Features:

  • Curly tail made of soft plastic provides a rippling effect
  • Underspin blades create flash and vibration
  • Pre Rigged with a single hook
  • Weighs 1/16 ounce

Why We Chose It: The small body and 3D eyes provide a realistic appearance. The curved bill allows the bait to dive up to 11 feet deep.

How to Use This: Best when the water is muddy or dark. First, use your electronics to find schools of crappie. Next, use a 2-inch medium diving crankbait to troll through the school of fish.

Key Features:

  • Curved bill allows the bait to dive deep and track well
  • Size 6 treble hook
  • Weighs 3/8 ounce, 2 inches long

Best Crappie Soft Plastic: Bobby Garland Slab Slay'R Soft Baits

Why We Chose It: These soft plastic baits feature realistic appearances that you can match to fit the prey in the waters you're fishing.

How to Use This: When the fish are more aggressive near brush piles and other structures, it's best to cast past your target and then retrieve a 1/16-ounce jig with a soft plastic body over the top of the brush pile.

Key Features:

  • Unrigged plastic swimbaits
  • Solid, thin bodies with spear-shaped tails attract crappie in freshwater areas
  • 2 inches long, includes 12 baits

Best Crappie Scented Bait: Berkley® Biodegradable Crappie Nibbles

Why We Chose It: Scented baits are extra helpful in attracting crappies by releasing an appetizing scent that they can't resist.

How to Use This: Pair scented baits with your favorite presentation by either sliding them onto the hook point or pushing them up inside your tube bait or soft plastic grub to add a scent cloud around your lure.

Key Features:

  • Creates a scent cloud to attract crappie by dissolving slowly in water
  • Biodegradable design is environmentally friendly
  • 0.9 ounce

Crappie Bait by Season

Crappies' behavior patterns change significantly with different water temperatures and conditions. Always do some research about the water temperatures you can expect from your intended fishing spot. That way, you'll know what types of bait and lures to bring along.

Swipe Right Icon
Seasonal Crappie Bait Guide
Season Best Months To Fish Best Bait To Use Typical Fish Behavior
Spring Mid-March to mid-May Live bait like minnows, soft plastics Aggressive, spawning time
Summer July and August Jigs and tube baits Scattered, aggressive
Fall October to mid-November Artificial lures like jigs and spoons, live bait Hungry, feeding heavily for winter
Winter December and January Soft plastics, jigs, spoons Slower metabolisms, in deeper water

Crappie Fishing in Spring

Spring is one of the most popular times to fish for crappie! They often dwell in shallower water around brush and stumps. Much to the benefit of beginner crappie anglers, they are fairly easy to locate. Using live bait under a float is successful in spring when crappies are shallow and hungry.

Expert Tip:

Crappies spawn in the spring when water temperatures increase to around 60°F — though this temperature differs depending on what state you're in.

Crappie Fishing in Summer

While summer is by no means a bad time to fish crappies, you may find it more challenging. They'll usually scatter around the water in different depths near weed lines and structures. You may have to cover a lot of water to find them.

Expert Tip:

Artificial baits like crankbaits, jointed plugs, and tube baits work successfully in summertime. Live bait is also a dependable option for summer angling.

Crappie Fishing in Fall

Fall is a fantastic time to get back to fishing crappie! They feed primarily to prepare for winter. As fall continues, crappies migrate to the deeper areas of the water and to deep basins where it's warmer.

Expert Tip:

Live bait is a suitable option, but artificial lures that mimic food like spoons and spinners are often successful. Using jigs is another successful tactic for fall crappie fishing.

Crappie Fishing in Winter

Advanced anglers find the best success when it comes to winter crappie fishing. To get to the fish, you'll often have to fish through the ice. You'll find crappies in deeper water along weed lines and in the basin during colder months.

But the good news is that they still have to eat when the temperatures are cold! The trick is to present your lure slower and deeper. Artificial lures like jigs, swimbaits, and spoons tend to have the best success in winter.

Expert Tip:

During winter, fish in the afternoon when it's warmest out. Crappies like warmer water temperatures during the winter.

White Crappie vs Black Crappie

White Crappie vs Black Crappie

When you're out on the water, you should know how to discern whether you've caught a white or black crappie. Despite what you may initially think, their names don't always match what their names suggest.

However, there are a few easy ways to distinguish between a white crappie versus a black crappie:

Swipe Right Icon
White vs Black Crappies Guide
Characteristics Mature Black Crappie Mature White Crappie
Body Markings Black specks without a pattern Vertical stripes along the body
Dorsal Fins 7 to 8 fins 5 to 6 fins
Mouth Shape & Size Smaller mouths that are angled upwards Larger mouths, not angled up
Body Shape & Size Compact size; more stubby Longer and more slender bodies
Typical Weight & Length
  • 0.25 lbs - 4.20 lbs
  • Typically between 4-11 inches
  • 0.25 lbs - 3.67 lbs
  • Usually between 9-15 inches
What Food They Eat/Best Bait Insects, crustaceans, baitfish (like minnows or shad) Minnows, insects
Best Artificial Lures Crankbaits, jigs Crankbaits, jigs
When They Feed Early morning; Midnight to 2 AM Evening and early morning

Other Types of Crappie

  • Black-Nosed Crappie: A type of black crappie with a recessive gene that causes a black stripe from the lips to the dorsal fin
  • Golden Crappie: The rarest of the crappie species; has a golden color that is unique from other species
  • Stock Hybrid Crappie: This crappie was produced in a lab with a male black-nosed black crappie and female white crappie
  • Magnolia or Triploid Crappie: Also produced in a lab with a unique incubation process; created to stock in small areas where it's hard to maintain a healthy crappie population
  • Natural Hybrid Crappie: Naturally created throughout the country between different species of crappie; also very rare

Have Fun Out There!

You're ready to head out for some crappie fishing! Stock up on our expert anglers' favorite baits and lures so you catch all the crappies you want. These can stick with you as a staple lure in your tackle box.

Looking for even more expert insights on the best baits and lures for other popular fish? Read our other guides: