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Crankbaits for Crappie

Crappie fish caught with a crankbait

They’re often called “slabs.” It’s not a derogatory term, but a description of these tall, flat fish. Crappie are often overlooked by anglers drawn to the lure of largemouth bass, the taste of walleye and perch, or the vicious action associated with rainbow trout, musky, and Northern Pike, but crappie are a favorite of many.

Crappie are a schooling fish that prefers heavier cover than similar behaving perch. You’ll find crappie nesting in the brush, rocky outcroppings, and submerged trees. They’ll feed near the surface at times, but they enjoy the moderate depths in most lakes and slow-moving rivers from five to 15 feet beneath the surface.

Crappie were once a species for southern anglers, but they’ve spread north and west, and you can now find them in almost every state. The original habitat for these freshwater style flatfish remains the best place to hook into large schools of big crappie, but even the huge reservoirs dotting the west in Montana, the Dakotas, and Wyoming now hold good crappie populations.

Crappie prefer smaller baitfish and are often caught on red wigglers and nightcrawlers, but they’ll hit crankbaits when the lure matches the baitfish in the area. Game fish such as walleye, bass, perch, and trout need a little extra incentive with crankbaits like a rattling action, or a dipping, jumping motion on the retrieve, crappie aren’t as picky, they’ll hit a crankbait reeled back in a straight line when it comes close by.

Since crappie prefer heavy cover, the chance of snagging your lure is much greater than with other species. Controlled casts and retrieves are much more important with crappie than with other game fish. Color, size, and matching the available natural bait are all equally important in crappie fishing.

Recommended Crankbaits for Crappie

Crankbaits that are easy to cast, and easy to control around obstacles are key with crappie lures. Bright colored crankbaits work well on sunny days, and since crappie feed best at eight to 10 feet depths, the sunlight helps present your brighter crankbait. Once you locate a school of crappie, you can get into a rhythm of cast, hook, and retrieve that can fill a limit in just a few minutes in ideal conditions. Crappie were once caught on just a bare hook wrapped with red yarn. Many anglers still prefer a bright red crankbait, but others, including natural patterns, work as well.

Rapala Glass Shad Rap Deep Diving

Is it green? Is it blue? Or is it purple? The magic of the Glass Shad Rap is in the reflective coating that augments the natural pattern of the crankbait in perch, shad, or crawdad design. The holographic foil reflects the surrounding light and changes the appearance of the lure to match light conditions. The comparison to a chameleon is easy to make.

The Glass Shad Rap weighs 3/16 of an ounce, giving it a bit of heft on an ultralight rod. The 2 ¾ inch length is an ideal size to mimic the baitfish that larger crappie seek. The other attribute of this crankbait aside from the color scheme is the ability to alter depth from five to 11 feet on your retrieve just by speeding up or slowing down your crank rate. Rapala is renowned for manufacturing high-quality crankbaits and this one is a great way to catch crappie.

Color 11 patterns
Size 3/16 ounce – 2 3/4 inches
Depth 5-11 feet

Rapala Glass Shad Deep Diving

If you’ve ever marveled at the “see-through” tropical fish many people keep in their aquariums you’ll get an idea of how the Glass Shad Deep Diving crankbait works. The lure comes in only one pattern, a natural yellow perch design, but the belly of the crankbait is translucent. The opaque feature allows light to pass through, reflect and create a dazzling effect that makes the hard plastic crankbait come to life.

The ideal depth for crappie in late spring, early summer, and again in early autumn is shallower than in the heat of summer. The depth range of five to eight feet is a good one for working around submerged structure. Crappie and perch often share a similar habitat. Crappie feed on fingerling perch as one of their main food sources so a lure that looks like a small perch desperately seeking cover is candy for a hungry crappie.

Color Perch pattern
Size 1/8 ounce – 2 3/4 inches
Depth 5 to 8 feet

Strike King Slab Hammer Crappie

Those bright red colors you’ve heard that work with crappie lures come alive with the Strike King Slab Hammer series. The six brightly patterned crankbaits feature color schemes usually reserved for hot rod enthusiasts. The bright colors bring back the days of red yarn on a hook dragging endless strings of fish onto the stringer. This is a lure for hot mid-summer days when the light is intense from dawn to dusk.

This is a slightly larger crankbait at three inches and is easier to cast thanks to its 3/8-ounce weight. Designed to work at the optimal crappie depth of eight feet, this is a bright, quick-action lure with extra sharp hooks that could quickly become your favorite crankbait for those hot days on the dock or out on the water casting and retrieving above the submerged nests of crappie.

Color Six bright colors
Size 3/8 ounce – 3 inches
Depth 8 feet

Jenko Fishing Crappie Crank

It looks like a cartoon character with its bright colors and oversized eyes, but this lure is all business and one that can fit a lot of angling niches when working for crappie. Every experienced fisherman knows that an approaching storm, with its low pressure, often creates a spark in fishing on an otherwise slow day. While almost every species responds to this, crappie are excessively prone to feeding during a fast-moving rainstorm.

The Crappie Crank is an effective lure in every setting, but the 3/8-ounce weight combined with the shorter two-inch length makes it a great lure in windy conditions. The compact, dense lure is easy to direct, and the depth range of five to 16 feet is the best we’ve found in a crappie crankbait. When the wind picks up, and you put on your rain gear, it's time to snap a Crappie Crank on your line.

Color Eight bright colors
Size 3/8 ounce – 2 inches
Depth 5 to 16 feet

Strike King Bitsy Pond Minnow

Crappie fishermen love this lure. It’s a great lure for a wide variety of fish, and one that will attract fish of all sizes, but for crappie, it is excellent. The only caveat is the 3/32-ounce weight which makes it hard to cast in windy conditions. The small 1.25-inch length is perfect for bouncing around the heavy cover that crappie prefer. It is close to the size of an average minnow, or an immature shad and these are always on the menu for crappie. This is a great crankbait for working near the surface in rivers as well as from a boat on a lake.

This crankbait is offered in 11 different styles. Immature crappie are often the favorite prey of largemouth bass, and crappie will return the favor with bass fingerlings. The Bitsy Pond Minnow is one of the few made in a bass pattern. Crappie usually feed at depths below five feet, but when baitfish begin to boil from a passing walleye or rainbow, larger crappie will often follow, and this is where a surface crankbait earns its keep. This is a great lure to work in shallow water.

Color 11 shad, baby bass patterns
Size 3/32 ounce – 1.25 inches
Depth 0 to 12 inches

Bandit Lures Bandit Series Crankbait

Bandit approached the challenge of creating a solid crappie crankbait from a different perspective. Most other manufacturers often have several, sometimes dozens of color patterns in their lures, and they often have different weights and lengths for the same crankbait. This Bandit has just one pattern, a bright metallic green with oversized yellow eyes. Bandit offers more colors in their 100 and 200 series crankbaits, but this one will do the job in most settings.

The unique approach with this bright green crankbait is the offering in various depth settings. Without changing anything else about this successful design, Bandit has changed the bill to adjust the depth on the retrieve. The most aggressive bill will take the crankbait to 12 feet and hold it there, while the next shorter setting allows anglers to vary depth from four to eight feet based on the speed of their retrieve. The final, shortest, bill length works the crankbait in relatively shallow three to five-foot depths based on the anglers’ speed on the crank.

Color Metallic green
Size 1/4 ounce – 2 inches
Depth 4-8, 3-5, or 12 feet