What is the Best Live Bait for Crappie Fishing?
Crappie are one of the most popular freshwater game fish in North America. While they can be caught by anglers using artificial lures, a lot of crappie are caught on live bait. There are several effective live baits for crappie fishing. However, there is one live bait that stands out above the rest.
Live minnows are the best live bait for crappie fishing. While crappie feed on crustaceans and insects, the majority of their diet consists of smaller fish. Crappie have a fairly large mouth relative to their size which enables them to easily inhale a small minnow. There are a wide variety of live minnows available for anglers to use that can be either caught locally or purchased at bait shops.
Crappie fishing minnows
Anglers have two choices when it comes to using live minnows, they can purchase them at a bait shop or catch their own. Most anglers choose to purchase live minnows at a local bait shop, as they are reasonably priced and it is quite convenient. Each region has minnows that are popular for that particular area. Missouri minnows are famous for being extremely hardy and easy to keep alive. Emerald shiners are popular for northern anglers fishing both in open water and when ice fishing for crappie.
Some anglers prefer to catch their own live minnows, and are of the opinion that the local forage is more desirable to game fish species. Live minnows are caught in baited minnow traps as well is in seines and in dip nets. For some, this is just part of the fun and adds to the adventure of crappie fishing. Anglers should check local regulations to make sure they are in compliance.
The best live minnows for crappie fishing are between 1 inches long and 2 inches long. Anglers who specifically target the largest crappie may go up to 3 inches long. Modern fishing boats have live wells that easily keep bait fresh and lively all day long. However, a simple bucket with a battery operated aerator works fine as well.
Crappie fishing tackle
Anglers have several choices when it comes to the tackle they use for crappie fishing with live minnows. Most anglers opt for spinning tackle these days. It is very versatile, reasonably priced, and easy to use. The old push button spin cast reels still work fine for anglers that prefer them. Some anglers keep it simple and just use a cane pole with a hook in a float. Conversely, serious crappie anglers use specially designed rods up to 14 feet long called “spider rods”. These allow anglers to troll several rods at one time.
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Crappie seasonal migrations
Crappie are a schooling fish and once located, anglers can usually catch quite a few in one spot. They have a fairly reliable seasonal migration. In the cool and warm months, crappie school up in deeper water, normally over offshore structure. This can be channel edges, submerged islands, deep weed beds, and even bridges.
In the spring time, crappie move into shallow waters to spawn. This is the time of year that many anglers pursue them, as they are aggressive and relatively easy to find. Just about any type of cover will hold the crappie in the spring time. Fallen trees are particularly attractive to crappie. Some serious crappie anglers even create their own artificial structure using tree limbs, cinder blocks and Christmas trees.
Presentations for crappie fishing
One of the great advantages of fishing for crappie with live minnows is the simplicity. Anglers basically present live minnows to crappie in one of two ways; under a float or on some type of bottom rig. Some anglers will add a live minnow to and artificial lure, particularly a jig. This can be the best of both worlds as it combines the action of the lure with the smell and taste of a live bait.
Shallow water crappie fishing
Most freshwater anglers have fished for panfish using a worm or other live bait under a float. This is a very simple technique which continues to be effective to this day. Obviously, fishing with a live minnow under a float for crappie works best in shallow water. This usually occurs in the spring time when crappie move in close to the bank or on shallow bars and flats to spawn.
The rig for fishing a live minnow under a float for crappie in shallow water is very simple. It begins with simply tying a hook onto the end of the running line. Many anglers opt for thin wire hooks with a long shank. Crappie have a very thin membrane in their mouth and a thick heavy hook will often create a large hole, enabling the hook to fall out.
The hook size should be matched to the size of the minnow being used. In most cases, 1 inch long to 2 inch long minnows are best for crappie fishing. Therefore, hooks and sizes from #6 down to #2 work best. The float is then attached to the line 2 feet to 3 feet above the hook. If required, a tiny split shot can be added near the hook to keep the minnow down.
Deep water crappie fishing
While fishing for crappie in shallow water is relatively easy, pursuing them in deeper water is a bit more difficult. However, it can be very rewarding as once a school is located a bunch of fish can be caught in short order. Also, and some fisheries, the larger fish are caught in deeper water. Prime spots are point drop-offs, flat drop-offs, main River and tributary Creek channel edges, submerged rock piles, submerged weed beds, sunken islands, and bridges.
Most anglers fishing in deep water with live minnows for crappie use a two hook spreader rig. This consists of two hooks projecting out from the side of the main running line a foot or so apart. This allows anglers to present multiple baits at multiple depths. A sinker is used to get the baits down to the desired depth. The same hooks used in the above section 4 shallow water fishing work fine when fishing for crappie and deep water as well. Anglers should use the minimum amount of weight required to get the rig to the desired depth.
One very easy technique used by anglers to fish for crappie with minnows and deep water is to simply add a live minnow to a jig. This is an extremely effective way to present a live minnow in deeper water without the hindrance of sinkers and special rigs. Small marabou jigs are perfect for this. The angler simply hooks the minnow through both lips up from the bottom that fish is the jig the same way he or she would without the minnow.
Anglers can also fish in deep water for crappie using a float. This is done so with a sliding float or slip float. The running line passes through the float and then a hook is tied on. A small split shot is added 1 foot to 18 inches above the hook. A special stop is used on the running line at the desired depth. This is usually a piece of yarn or a rubber band or some other clever device that is small enough to pass through the rod tip, allowing anglers to make a long cast. Once cast out, the line slides through the float and then stops at the desired spot.
Crappie fishing with lures
While live minnows are the best live bait for crappie fishing, there are many effective crappie lures which will catch plenty of fish as well. Just about all of these lures imitate live minnows, which is the primary forage of crappie. Jigs are by far the most popular crappie fishing lure. Small spoons and tiny plugs are also effective as well.
More live baits for crappie fishing
While live minnows are the best live bait for crappie fishing, there are other baits that will produce as well. Nightcrawlers and worms are traditional freshwater fishing baits. Both will produce crappie when presented under a float or on a bottom rig in the right location. Grass shrimp are a terrific live bait for crappie, but can be difficult to obtain. Crickets and grasshoppers will catch a few crappie as well.
In conclusion, this article on the best live bait for crappie fishing will help anglers catch more of these terrific freshwater fish!