Crankbaits For Crappie

Catch Big Crappie With Crankbaits

crankbaits for crappie

Best Crankbaits For Crappie

In recent years I have come to enjoy a new way, for me at least, of chasing crappies. Crankbaits for crappie! In the fall months shad begin running the shorelines in large schools providing slab crappie opportunities to fatten up for the winter. It’s during this time that small crankbaits resembling shad work great at luring those slabs from shallow cover. Lakes with a lot of shallow is great for crankbaits for big crappies, but you must cover a lot of water because of all the cover that’s available. Rip rap and chunk rock banks attract shad as well. Big crappie chasing those shad. A single tree along that rock bank can create an ambush point for big crappie and will replenish so returning to that cover throughout the day can prove rewarding.

My favorite crankbait is any that resembles a shad. Smaller crankbaits seem to work best, but I’ve switched to a large crankbait with good results when the shad are running large. Color always comes up in conversations pertaining to crankbaits for crappie. Personally, I use shad color, but I know some anglers who have had great results with crawfish patterns and colors. Chartreuse is another die-hard color when fishing crankbaits for crappie.

Shallow Running Crankbaits For Crappie

When shad are running the shorelines in the fall, they tend to run really shallow. Big slab crappies lurk in the middle of tangled brush or they suspend just off the shoreline. They are waiting to feed on unsuspecting shad. Big crappie will utilize the shoreline. By not having to chase the shad all over open water the crappie can save energy. I have seen big crappie break the surface chasing shad in shallow water. These observations made me stick with a shallow running crankbait. Of course, there are always exceptions and I know people who have used deep runners very effectively when trolling open water for crappies. However, during the fall, shallow running crank baits work great. The Rapala DT Series or the Original Floater in a size that matches the shad works great.

The most effective way I’ve found for catching big crappie in the fall is to cover lots of water with a crankbait. Crappie can be had with a bobber and a minnow in the fall and when the shad are shallow, but to target the big crappie a crankbait rigged on medium light 6 or 7-foot spinning gear with 6-pound test line is a great when fishing crankbaits for crappie. Big slab crappie is very territorial and a bobber and minnow will attract smaller crappie and might be hard to leave when you’re catching a lot of crappie. Shallow crankbaiting is for big crappie and while crankbaits will catch some smaller crappie, it definitely cuts down on smaller fish bites so you can focus on big crappie.

Target Visible Cover

You should target any visible cover along the shoreline. Work your crankbait as close to shore as possible. I usually try to set the back hook on the shore. I’ve found that most strikes come on the first twitch within a foot from shore. These crappie are targeting shallow running shad. Expect to get a shot at a crappie right up on the bank so that’s where your crankbait should be. I fished a huge log several years ago and caught a limit of big crappies on a crankbait. If my crankbait landed a foot from shore those big crappie wouldn’t touch it because they couldn’t see it.

These crappies were caught so close to the bank that it didn’t seem that there was enough water to cover their backs. I noticed the crappie were laying just below the surface and out of sight and exploded on the crankbait as soon as it moved.  If the crankbait landed a foot or two from the shoreline there was no takers. To find a limit of big crappies on one brush pile is common in the spring, but to find one in the fall is special. I felt like maybe the fish were not schooled up on the log. They were using the shoreline and the log to trap the shad long enough to eat them and were following the school of shad down the shoreline. The log was just a good ambush point for the crappie.

Solitary Slab Crappie With Crankbait

Big fall crappie are more solitary and tend to stake out their own ambush points. They will scatter all over and is why covering lots of water works so well. The best way to fish crankbaits for crappie is to work the shoreline. Cast to any good cover that might hold a crappie. Let the crankbait float there for a few seconds then just twitch it. The first twitch should be just a slight jerk of the rod tip. Let the bait sit there for a couple more seconds then pull it a couple feet with your rod and reel up the slack. The bait is now suspending just a few inches below the water’s surface. Oftentimes, you will feel the fish on your retrieve because the strike went undetected. A big slab crappie will feel like you hooked a wet sock at first, so be ready.

Pulling Crankbaits For Suspended Crappie

Pulling crankbaits for crappie has become a very popular way to catch suspended crappie. The image featured in this article is from a trip I made on Barkley lake about 25 years ago. At that time I had never pulled crankbaits specifically for crappie. I will add that my dad was a plugger. We trolled with crankbaits all the time and we caught everything. When we did catch a crappie it was a giant. That was on Percy Priest Lake in Tennessee.

Today pulling crankbaits has become a go to technique for crappie anglers everywhere. Pulling crankbaits for crappie is very effective for targeting crappie that suspend with baitfish where they can be difficult to stay over with a jig or minnow. By continiously moving you intercept suspended crappie triggering strikes with the erratic and vibrating crankbait. Even when the crappie aren’t feeding a crankbait streaking past them will trigger a reaction strike and you can catch crappie even when they are not biting.

Fishing crankbaits for crappie is a lot of fun and very effective as well. So, if you are looking for new ways to chase a big crappie try crankbaiting for crappies on your next trip.

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About Ken McBroom 218 Articles
Ken McBroom is an accomplished outdoor writer and photographer. Growing up in Lynchburg Tennessee allowed him many opportunities afield as a boy and young man. Later in life, after Desert Storm, Ken’s wanderlust took him to Alaska to live and work and experience the last frontier. Married now with two beautiful children, Ken now calls Kentucky home where he continues to communicate our American outdoor traditions and the lifestyle it offers.

1 Comment

  1. Crankbaits are an underutilized technique for crappie. While trolling for crappie using crankbaits is popular casting these baits for crappie is not as popular. It isn’t a numbers thing when casting small crankbaits for crappie. The crappie are usually bigger though when you catch one on a crankbait. It is fun.

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