When it comes to crappie fishing, the jig can be argued to be the most used and most versatile fishing lure on the market. Why? Jigging for crappie simply catches fish.
A jig is a fishing lure that consists of a weight, typically a piece of lead, that has been molded to a fishing hook and includes an artificial bait of choice (grub, swimbait, or worm). Despite the many names (jig, weighted jig, jig head, or lead head), all jigs accomplish the same goal – to get into the strike zone and catch fish fast!
When targeting crappie with a jig, a few things should be considered to give yourself the best possible chance of a successful day on the water. A few of these are water depth, water clarity, the predominant food source of the body of water you are fishing, and the type of water you are fishing (pond, river, lake).
We will cover all this and more down below.
Jigging For Crappie Basics
Starting with the lure itself, we will cover the details of your set up prior to being on the water and getting your line wet.
Jig Size for Crappie Fishing
Crappie jigs typically hover between 1/32oz – 3/16oz in size. The size is determined based on the weight of the jig itself. For a 1/32oz, 1/24oz, or 1/16oz jig, you can expect a very lightweight jig that supports a smaller hook and is used to rig smaller baits for a light and subtle presentation. For jigs weighing 3/32oz, 1/8oz, or 3/16oz, expect something that provides a bit longer cast range, faster sink rate, better trolling depth control, and more options for bait choice. In addition, it sports a larger hook to accommodate a wider selection of baits properly. For a versatile, all-around jig, you are best served with a lure ranging from 1/16oz – 1/8oz in most circumstances.
There are multiple styles of jigs to choose from nowadays. We will discuss the main options that will land you more fish to keep it simple.
This is the most used jig amongst crappie anglers and is also the most widely available jig. The rounded jig is just as it sounds – it is made up of a lead ball molded to either a straight shank hook or a slightly offset hook.
The wonderful thing about rounded jigs boils down to two things; they are the best jig for catching crappie and the best bang for your buck. You can typically find these sold in large quantities and assortments based on weight, the size of the hook used, and the color of the jig. Check out the below links when considering rounded jig heads.
\While a rounded jig head is the go-to for most anglers, it is worth noting that there are many other variations to choose from. These include, but are not limited to, bullet heads, wobble heads, and mushroom heads.
From the selection of jigs listed, most brands will offer a jig option that includes a blade, or spinner, as part of the overall jig. Often overlooked, a bladed jig can be exactly what is needed to get the fish to bite. Many anglers tend to agree that bladed jigs see the best results when fished during overcast, cloudy weather conditions. As far as when to throw a bladed jig – look for opportunities where you know you’re close to schools of bait fish.
There are two primary types of blades – a colorado blade and a willow leaf blade.
A colorado blade is typically wider and almost shaped into a circle. Colorado blades allow for slower fishing retrievals thanks to the bigger, wider blade design, which helps by creating more resistance during the retrieve. The colorado blades’ nature of creating more resistance in the water leads to another reason to choose this blade type: it produces more vibration in the water.
The other blade choice for anglers is the willow leaf blade. Willow leaf blades get their name from being designed in the shape of a willow leaf and have a much more narrow, quieter profile than a colorado blade. They tend to be retrieved a little bit faster for proper blade action. For both blades, you will typically find them in either a chrome/silver or gold color. The success of each will depend on your unique situation presented. Can you get away with a larger profile lure, more noise and vibration? The colorado blade jig may be best for you. If your fishing conditions require a more subtle and quiet approach, but you still want to provide the fish with a flashy visual indicator, then a willow leaf blade may be your best bet.
Shaky Head Jigs
This is a great jig to use when targeting fish directly on the bottom (spawn season). The neat thing about a shaky head jig is that it is designed to keep your bait off the bottom despite the jig head itself being in contact with the bottom. This gives your lure a different presentation when fishing heavily targeted areas. Remember, crappie use suction to pull their prey into their mouth. Since shaky heads present the bait just off the bottom, this provides crappie with an easy-to-eat meal that allows for the fish to quickly inhale your lure leading to more hook ups for you. A shaky head jig is a good opportunity to go against the norm and fish a small 3″ worm. You may be surprised by how many bites you get.
Crappie Jig Colors
Crappie jig colors vary greatly but tend to still follow standard color patterns that make it easy for the angler.
When choosing your jig color, consider first basing it on the clarity of the body of water you are fishing. A general rule of thumb is to fish natural colors in clear water with a lot of visibility (5 or more feet). These are your whites (shad, pearl), browns, and greens (watermelon, green pumpkin). Consider brighter colors (fire tiger, chartreuse, red, orange, pink) in water that has little to no visibility (0-5 feet).
One exception to the rule can be the color black. Black is extremely versatile and typically provides good results in both high and low visibility situations.
Jigging for Crappie Rig
When setting up your crappie rig, consider a setup that allows you to fish as light as possible. Remember from above, your lure weights can range from 1/32oz all the way to 3/32oz.
For the rod, consider something in the 7 ft range that has a medium-light action. This rod selection will be easy on your arms during a long days’ worth of fishing and provide you with great sensitivity to both feel what the lure is doing underwater as well as when the fish bites. Again, choosing an open-face spinning rod will provide you with the most options when selecting your rod of choice.
The reel, and specifically the drag system of a reel, is the “make or break” of landing a fish or losing a fish. When selecting a reel choose an option that is designed to be matched up with your size line of choice (typically around 4 lb test). Most reels have listed on the spool the line capacity they are manufactured for. For the most part that is represented as such; 4 pounds – 250 yds, 6 pounds – 200 yds, 8 pounds – 150 yds.
Once you’ve narrowed down the size reel, you need to do some research to make sure you are selecting a reel with a good drag system. The drag system is used to strip line from your spool if a big fish takes off with your lure. One brand to consider is Shimano, widely known for its smooth drag systems. Other options to consider are Okuma, Abu Garcia, and Daiwa.
If you’re considering a top-notch, high end reel look no further than a Shimano Stradic.
If you’re on a budget another great option is the Abu Garcia Max series. I wouldn’t hesitate to use any of these options.
For line choice, strongly consider using fluorocarbon. That being said, fluorocarbon can be easily paired with a braided line backing to increase casting distance and reduce the overall cost of buying multiple spools of expensive fluorocarbon.
Consider spooling your reel with 20 lb braided line. This closely mimics the line diameter of 4 lb mono/fluoro. Once spooled and you’ve ran your braided line through your rod guides, get yourself about a 4-8 ft section of fluorocarbon to be used as a leader. A good knot choice for braid-to-fluorocarbon is the Albright knot.
Braided line doesn’t have memory (those swirly loops you get in your line over time) like fluorocarbon does, which leads to better casting performance, and due to the nature of fluorocarbon being virtually invisible underwater, your fluorocarbon leader isn’t spooking fish. It’s a win-win! A tough knot to beat is a Palomar knot when tying your lure onto your fluorocarbon leader. Give it a try!
Jigging Techniques for Crappie
Trolling with a Spider Rig
The spider rig is a very effective crappie fishing technique when trying to cover a lot of water. Picture a bird’s eye view of a fishing boat with 4 poles hung over both the port side and starboard side of a boat and you would understand the name “spider rig”. As the name suggests, you are using multiple fishing poles (that act as the legs of the spider rig) to increase your likelihood of getting a bite. The spider rig does require a boat but for those that have access to one, the right amount of rod holders, and rods you should consider trying out this fishing method. Consider fishing jigs that imitate a moving fish. In these situations, a good bait to consider are paddle tail and ribbon tail swim baits rigged on either a round or bullet head jig head.
Spider rigs can be fished simply by drifting with the current or trolling. When trolling a spider rig, one thing to pay attention to is your speeds. The faster your speeds are the higher up in the water column your baits will run. When trolling, consider a heavier jig to ensure your lures remain in water depth you plan to fish. In most cases your troll speeds should not exceed 2 mph. For reference, these speeds can be accomplished with just your trolling motor as opposed to needing to crank up your outboard. After you’ve got your speeds figured out keep an eye out on your rod tips and wait for them to load up!
Vertical Jigging for Crappie
Vertical jigging is a preferred method by many anglers when targeting crappie. Outside of the spawn season, crappie like to suspend off various cover and structure types typically in the lower third of the water column. Some of those include the following: submerged brush piles, flooded timber, bridge pilings, and ledges. For all these areas, vertical jigging is an ideal choice for a crappie angler.
Vertical jigging is accomplished by suspending your lure in the appropriate depth where the fish are located and methodically raising and lowering your rod to give your lure the up-and-down action needed to get a fish to bite. This method is primarily done from a boat as well and allows the angler to keep their lure in the strike zone for long periods of time. Consider trying these two vertical jigging techniques when targeting crappie.
1. Try for a long slow pull of the rod upwards and quickly drop your rod tip down to allow the lure to sink based on its weight naturally.
2. Use short jerks of the rod then dropping the rod downward to allow the lure to naturally sink. As soon as you lose the slack in your line and feel tension from your lure repeat the process.
For both of these methods fish tend to take the lure while it’s falling so be ready to set the hook if you feel the slightest tick or change in tension of the line.
Casting a jig
Casting a jig is great for both fishing from a boat and from the bank. The only big difference is the retrieval of your lure. Consider these three techniques when casting a jig.
Dragging: Dragging a jig is great for getting a feel for the bottom and what type of structure or cover is underwater. Simply drag your lure by raising your rod tip towards you. The only time you are reeling is to retrieve your slack line. Start with a slow retrieval to avoid snags and to figure out what the fish want. Speed up your retrieval as needed.
Hopping: To hop a jig use erratic wrist movement to provide the needed action for your lure. Keep all the action in your wrist as opposed to using your arms. Quick sudden flicks of the wrist will get your lure “hopping” underwater thanks to the tension you’re putting on the line. Consider different cadences: jerk – jerk – jerk – pause, jerk – jerk – pause – jerk – pause, jerk – pause – jerk – pause. Let the fish tell you what they want. Like dragging a jig, only use your reel to retrieve slack line. Keep the action in your wrist. This technique is great in almost all circumstances, but a word of caution is to slow down this method when you sense you’re in submerged timber or the like to avoid snags.
Reeling: A slow steady retrieval can be super effective especially when fishing bodies of water that have grass. This would be a prime situation to use a bladed jig and bait that imitates a swimming bait fish (paddle tail or ribbon tail soft plastics).
Jigging with a Float
Using a float while jigging is a great way to keep your lure in a dedicated water depth as well as provide a visual strike indicator to the angler. Jigging with a float can accomplish the same things fishing from a bank that a spider rig does fishing from a boat. Consider a steady retrieval technique or a technique similar to hopping above with a jerk – jerk – jerk – pause. Get ready to see the float go under on the pause!
Frequently Asked Questions
What color jig is best for crappie?
Fish natural colors in clear water where there is a lot of visibility (5 or more feet). These are your whites (shad, pearl) and browns (watermelon, green pumpkin).
Fish brighter colors (fire tiger, chartreuse, red, orange, pink) in water that has little to no visibility (0-5 feet).
How do you rig a tube jig for crappie?
A tube jig is typically rigged using a round jig head. To rig them start with your jig head and tube bait. Push the jig head all the way up into the hollow-bodied tube and push the hook eye out of the top of the tube. Proceed by tying on your lure to your line. You should find that the majority of your jig head and hook is completely concealed. Tubes have hollow bodies which make them great for targeting spooky fish since being able to hide the jig inside the body of the bait.
What is the best size jig head for crappie?
An appropriate jig head size will typically vary anywhere between 1/32oz – 3/16oz depending on your conditions and situation. Strong currents when river fishing or trolling a spider rig may warrant a heavier jig head (3/16oz). Tough, slow fishing conditions where the fish are lethargic or require a slow fall fishing presentation try going as light as possible (1/32oz).
Do I need a sinker with a jig head?
You do not need a sinker when fishing a jig. Due to the nature of the setup, the sinker is built into the head of the jig.