Fishing is fishing right? After all, your catfish pole is good enough to catch catfish, buffalo, and carp. Heck, it’s even good enough to catch bluegills (aka pan fish, sunfish, perch) which are a close cousin to crappie. Unfortunately, you must have some specific crappie fishing equipment to have any consistent success when going after crappie.
I found this out the hard way when I drove to a local barge that was known for its crappie fishing. I brought in my tackle box and 3 fishing poles. I soon found out that I was very much unprepared because I had the wrong crappie fishing equipment. After a few hours I had not even felt a bite while the folks around me were pulling in crappie after crappie. So I walked around the barge watching the pros do their thing.
I soon fell in love. My frustration melted away and I started to notice that there were two types of crappie fishing techniques. Some were jigging while others were using live bait. The technique you use will drive the type of crappie fishing equipment that you will need.
ESSENTIAL CRAPPIE FISHING EQUIPMENT
Whether you jig or use live bait, there are two pieces of equipment that you will absolutely need:
- A fishing rod
- A reel
Before I proceed, I want to clarify that I do not own a boat, so all of my fishing is done from the banks, barges or docks. This is different from fishing from a boat so I will be speaking from my perspective. I will try to clarify differences when I can, in order to give my readers the most complete information.
So what kind of fishing pole is best for catching crappie? The answer really is personal preference, but here are my feelings about it. Crappie are super finicky and require finesse to land. While they are aggressive in the spring, they can be very lethargic during the rest of the year. This makes their bites hard to feel. The “thump” can be very light at certain times of the year.
Crappie also have paper thin membranes around their mouth. That is why they are also called “paper mouth”. If you respond to a thump too aggressively you will probably rip the hook from their mouth.
Because of their soft mouth and the need for finesse when fishing for crappie, a fast or medium action rod are the best type of crappie fishing equipment. They are sensitive enough to feel the smallest thump and have enough “give” not to rip through the mouth. Not to mention that they are super fun to reel fish in with. You feel every bit of the fight!
As far as length is concerned, it really depends on the environment you will be fishing in. Since I crappie fish mainly on barges and docks, I prefer short fishing poles. They allow me to navigate around other fishermen/women, as well as fish in really tight spaces. I can walk around the barges and through doors much more easily with shorter rods. I like anything shorter than 5 feet. All of my fishing poles are the 2 section poles but I think I am going to buy a collapsible one so I can easily carry it in my fishing backpack.
While I don’t fish from a boat, I have a ton of friends who do. Many of them fish around brush piles and they have told me that they prefer to use long crappie fishing poles. That way they can keep their boats a bit farther from the brush and still reach their spots.
In my mind, the reel is completely up to individual preference. I have always used spinning wheels. Having said that, the docks and barges are full of people that use Spincast reels (not just kids) and baitcasting reels.
The reel is a crappie fishing equipment that is extremely important. Pick any that you are comfortable with but make sure that it is of good quality. You don’t want to be dealing with spaghetti line or unspooled line while you are trying to reel in a slab. Here is the reel I use.
I use 6 lbs test line so I always use smaller reels. Although they are small they can hold a lot of 6 lbs test line! The small size of the reels makes them comfortable to use especially if you are jigging and walking around the barge or docks for hours. Whatever reel you pick, make sure that it is a high quality reel!
CRAPPIE FISHING EQUIPMENT FOR LIVE BAIT FISHERMEN/WOMEN
I prefer to use live bait when crappie fishing. I know! It’s not as cool as jiggin’ but hey, it works for me. Most barges allow for 2 or 3 poles and I like to set my poles and watch for the action. Maybe I am a bit lazy ????
Fishing with live bait requires its own crappie fishing equipment. You need:
- Minnow bucket
- Split shot
I read on the internet that crappie will eat any sort of live bait. The articles say they will feed on grubs, worms, crickets or minnows.
I found that to NOT be the case. Maybe that holds true in other areas. Maybe I am not doing things right. The only live bait that I know crappie love are minnows. They absolutely love them (except in 35 degree weather where the minnows actually freeze stiff in the minnow bucket- seriously that happened to me last winter).
I like to use medium and large minnows. I am not sure that there is any scientific backing behind what I am about to say but I tend to think that when I use large minnows it may attract bigger crappie. I don’t really know for sure.
I would not get too hung up on the size of the minnows. As long as they are healthy and lively, the crappie will love them.
A good minnow bucket is an essential piece of crappie fishing equipment. Remember I said that the minnows needed to be healthy and lively. A good minnow bucket ensures that the minnows stay happy for long periods of time.
The $1.98 minnow bucket from Walmart will work fine if you are going to immerse it in the lake while you are fishing. But if you are in 105 degree weather and have to keep your minnows close to you, you will need an insulated bucket. Otherwise your minnows will boil (not really but you get the point). Same holds true if you will be outside in 30 fish degree weather. They will freeze stiff.
I use my insulated minnow bucket all year round. The problem is that after a few hours of being in the bucket, the minnows will use up all the oxygen and literally drown in the bucket. Make sure you have an aerator attached to your bucket to provide a steady flow of oxygen to your minnows. Here is the aerated minnow bucket that I use
A dozen or two of dead minnows is useless for crappie fishing. I use a bubble machine to keep the oxygen in the bucket. As long as I have batteries, the minnows will stay happy and healthy.
I use simple split shot sinkers. This is an easy crappie fishing equipment to get. Just go to your local Walmart and pick up a bag of split shot. It does not really matter how big as long as it is heavy enough to get the minnow to the depth you want and keep it there.
The best hooks for live bait crappie fishing are Aberdeen hooks. There is no mystery here. These hooks are light wire and long shanked. There is a good reason for both attributes.
The light wire makes it a bit easier for the hook to bend and free up when snagged in brush (where you are usually fishing for crappie). It also makes it a bit harder for the crappie to see it.
The long shank makes it easier to remove the hook when the crappie inhales it. Don’t complicate things and get the Aberdeen hooks at your local outdoor store for cheap.
I get either size 2, 4 or 6 . I use the appropriate hook depending on the size of them minnows that I can get. The smaller the size number the bigger the hook. For big minnows I use size 2. For medium minnows I use 4 or 6
GOODIES FOR JIGGIN’
While I prefer using live bait, I do quite a bit of jigging as well. I find that a lot of crappie pros love to “feel the thump” and are therefore exclusively using jigging to catch crappie. I like to hang out with a few of them so every once in a while I will pack up my live bait poles and rig up a jigging pole.
We usually walk around the barge, moving from spot to spot every few minutes if we don’t get any thumps. Interestingly enough, I used my fitbit one time while jigging around the barge and hit my 10000 steps within 3 hours! Fishing and exercise to boot!
Anyways, back to jigging or jiggin’ as my local pro’s call it. Essentially this technique involves dropping a jig to a specific depth and retrieving it in a smooth manner interrupted by abrupt up and down jerks every few feet. The 2 things you will need are:
- Jig heads
A jig head is basically a hook with a weight at the top. The weight can be plain metal, but most of the time it is painted with a rendition of an eye. Jig heads come in many colors and a few different sizes.
I like to use 1/32 oz, 1/16 oz and 1/8oz (although these are a bit too heavy). Mostly I use 1/16 oz because they are just right to drop the jig at the right speed and give the best presentation. This is just what I think. You will need to experiment to see what meet your preference.
Jigs are basically the artificial bait that gets attached to the jig head. There are many types and many colors. They come in fuzzy skirts called Marabou, as tadpole looking things in many different colors. They also come in tubes and curly tails. You can get a kit that has a variety of these jigs in terms of styles, sizes and colors.
Try different colors and depths and eventually you will find what the crappie like. I always start with chartreuse, chartreuse and black or sparkly blue jigs. From there I will expand to other colors and shapes depending on the water and weather conditions.
Please understand that there really is no science as to color and size preference. Remember how I said that crappie fishing was an art? This is what I meant. You need to experiment and get feel for what will work when jigging!
YOU DON’T NEED THESE BUT THEY SURE HELP!
Over the last few years I found that there are a few items that make my fishing life easier. You don’t need them but they can be a blessing. The items are:
I use a fishing backpack to carry all of my gear. It has space for a tackle box and everything else I will need. I fish year round, rain or shine. The backpack is awesome because I always have rain gear, spare socks, bug spray and emergency equipment like matches and glow sticks. Oh yes, i also carry toilet paper.
I have a few stringers to keep the fish alive while I am still out there fishing. These are easy enough to find and extremely cheap to purchase. They come in different lengths which is useful depending on where you will be fishing.
The shorter length stringers are useful in barges and docks while the longer ones are useful while bank fishing ( you have to find a tree or structure to tie it to and it has to be long enough to reach the water).
If there are turtles around, a stringer won’t do. They will attack your fish and take chunks of them out without you ever noticing. There is nothing worse than pulling your stringer out to find your catches mangled. Not very appetizing. For these occasions you will need a basket.
Here is the fishing basket that I use
The baskets are heavy enough to sink in the water and keep your catch alive and protected. The downside is that baskets are bulky. Another thing to keep in mind is that baskets suck for keeping crappie that are at the exact legal limit. I have seen this happen a hundred times. You catch a crappie and you measure it. It meets the minimum size- exactly (10 inches in TX). You put it the basket and happily go on about your fishing business.
A few hours later, the game warden shows up. He/She pulls your crappie out and measures it to make sure it is legal. To your utter dismay it is just shy of 10 inches!!!!! What happened? Well, the tail rubbed on the sides of the basket mesh for the last 3 hours, tearing it up and making it less full. It is now just shy of 10 inches and you are stuck with a big ticket.
I have seen this happen a couple of times. This is why the pro’s at the barge prefer stringers. The crappie stays alive and the tail does not get frayed. Keep that in mind.
NOW GO CATCH SOME CRAPPIE!
I hope I covered most of the questions regarding crappie fishing equipment. Let me know if you have any questions and I will try my best to answer them. I will be publishing many more posts on different topics related to crappie fishing in the near future. Keep checking back and make sure you leave comments below. Now get out there and catch some crappie!
Do you want to make sure you always come home with a stringer full of crappie? Want to learn how seasoned pro’s do it?
Good fishin’ !