Perhaps it's because of the long winter and high snow banks, but I'm itching — big time — for some spring crappie. I'm a bit of a fishing tackle junkie when it comes to baits, no matter the species. Here are five of my favorite baits for early-season slabs.
The Rapala X-Rap hardbait models XR04 and XR06, which measure in at 1.5 and 2.5 inches, are awesome crappie search lures. Fan casting these baits over flats and using them to dissect sun-drenched shorelines have put a ton of fish in my boat. When prospecting new lakes for papermouths this is a crappie lure that's always tied on.
Mister Twister Nymph
The Mister Twister Nymph is a perfect copy of a mayfly nymph. This 1.25-inch plastic is a must-have in black and yellow brown. These small baits have saved the day on more than one occasion when crappie had tunnel-vision for nymphs. I typically rig one on a 1/32- or 1/16-ounce jig head and dangle it beneath a float.
Road Runner Original Marabou Jig
No panfish tackle box is complete without some marabou crappie jigs and the Road Runner Original Marabou Jig is a reliable classic. In addition to the many standard advantages that marabou provides, the small blade of these baits takes its potency to another level. Flash and vibrations call in fish and trigger bites. Plus, when you suddenly lose the feeling of the little blade thumping it means a fish has sucked in the bait and it's time to set the hook.
Bass Pro Shops Magnum Squirt
"At 2-1/4 inches this isn't your grandfather's crappie bait!" reads the Magnum Squirt's package. This is a big-fish tube and the one you want tied on when you're hunting trophy crappie. The Magnum Squirts are salt-impregnated ensuring the fish holds the bite long enough for a solid hookset. Vertically jig it, cast and swim it, wind-drift it, or work it beneath a float — this tube does it all. Buy a few extra packs too, because if you're friends don't have any you can bet you'll be sharing your stash.
Bass Assassin Shad Assassin - 1.5" Tiny Assassin
The fat belly design, soft feel, and enticing teaser tail of the Bass Assassin Tiny Shad Assassin are what make this bait such a winner. Good color pattern variety is another plus for this plastic. A 1/32- or 1/16-ounce jig completes the offering. Crappie and other panfish love 'em! Great finesse bait for bass too. Fish it on top or below the surface, and you'll see why the appealing tail action is so enticing to all fish. When up against discerning crappie, I've seen this little bait load the boat and out-fish a lot of other time-honored crappie baits.