When it comes to lure fishing for crappies, soft plastics are the ultimate choice. They are available in numerous sizes, shapes, colors and even scents; can be fished in every way imaginable and will keep producing fish even in the worst of conditions. But what are plastics, and how do you choose the right one?
What are Crappie Plastics?
To put it simply, crappie plastics are various imitations of small minnows that crappies feed upon. Ok, not necessarily the imitation of minnows. Crappies will eat almost anything that moves and is small enough to eat, and soft plastics can also imitate almost anything edible!
So, apart from minnows, crappies will be more than eager to attack various imitations of worms, larvae, small crustaceans – or, as a matter of fact, anything that even closely resembles their natural food, and moves underwater (although they will sometimes even eat a plastic that is not moving!)
As crappies are rather small compared to other game species targeted by lures, crappie plastics are also rather small compared to average plastics. Generally, any kind of plastic under 3” of size can be used for crappies, with 1-2” being the dominant and most used sizes.
There is a whole industry related to crappie fishing, so you will have plenty of options to choose from. It is impossible to miss the shelf with crappie plastics – they are abundant in shapes and colors! Now you only need to know how to choose the plastics and fill your crappie fishing box.
How to Choose Crappie Plastics?
As with all other lures, there are simple lures you need to stick with. Choose the colors according to the color of the water and light conditions you are facing.
Murky water or overcast weather – you need bright, high visible colors. Clear water or sunny sky – you need natural or translucent colors. It is worth noting that black and chartreuse are the most popular colors out there, so do not skip them!
Considering the size, 1-2” is the way to go for almost all situations, but both smallest 1” and biggest 3” lures will have their moments.
If the crappies are small, or hard to catch, finesse fishing with small lures will do the trick. If the crappies are big, they will react aggressively on bigger plastics – and also, if you are fishing a mixed school, it is easier to target larger specimens with bulkier plastics.
There is also a question of lure body style. You will encounter 6 distinctive shapes: Tubes, Curly tails, Solid bodies, Stinger tails, Paddle tails, and Split tails. It is impossible to say which one is best, as each of them is designed for a different fishing technique.
Tubes, for example, have a decades-long legacy in crappie fishing, but modern finesse fishing trends have somewhat favored stinger tails, which are now the most popular body shape. Curly tails are great for jigging, paddle tails for straight retrieve, split tails for drop-shot, etc. Choose accordingly to your fishing style preferences, and do not be shy to try a variety of options!
As you never know what kind of conditions you will face on the water, it is best to fill your box with enough variations to cover most of the expected situations. Crappies will change their mood as the day passes, and it is important to have enough options to find what type, color, and size of lure they will prefer at the moment. Crappie plastics are cheap, so that should not be a problem!
Best 10 Crappie Plastics
Although there is a near-infinite supply of various crappie plastics out there, there are certain models that have proven themselves as the very best. Here are some of the lures you might consider adding to your favorite crappie lure box:
1. Bobby Garland Baby Shad
From all the lures out there, those made by Bobby Garland are always one step ahead. Being the biggest and best-known producer of crappie plastics is not something you can achieve by making average lures, and Bobby Garland’s plastics are far from average.
What makes them so unique is their incredible softness, both with smartly designed shapes and an incredible color palette. Try taking a Bobby Garland lure in your hand and holding it so that it does not move its tail. Hardly achievable! Well, this is the main reason why crappies find these lures so irresistible – no matter the technique you are using, or the level of your fishing skill, these lures will work their magic and get you some crappie action!
If you do not know where to start, definitely go with 2” Baby Shad. It is the best-selling model of Bobby Garland, one of the most popular crappy baits in the whole market, and a firm favorite of many crappie fishing professionals!
2. Berkley Gulp! Alive Minnow
Gulp! Series from Berkley is famous for having one of the best scents on the market. The scent is so good that you can use these plastics like you would use natural bait, and it will produce strikes.
Now, when you combine this scent with a 1” imitation of fry, you got yourself a killer crappie lure! Small in size but strong in scent, you can use Alive Minnow in various fishing scenarios with consistent results, but it is especially efficient when the fishing is slow and crappies need time to get persuaded into biting. Long pauses between lure movement are the way to go, and crappies will take these scented plastics from the bottom just like the real minnows!
These lures are also excellent for finesse fishing due to their small size and elongated shape. Armed with a small jig head or even fished on a drop shot rig, they can give you a whole day of fun!
3. Southern Pro Lit’l Hustlers
Tubes have always been considered as a classic crappie lure, and their success is still not fading. These small tubes from Southen Pro are one of the most proven crappie plastic on the market – they are simple, yet extremely efficient, and available in a considerable number of colors. To be more precise, there are 80 colors to pick from!
Lit’l Hustlers are produced in 1” and 1.5”, and are a must-have addition to any serious crappie fisherman box.
4. Strike King Mr. Crappie Thunder Bait
Made with a combined effort of tackle company Strike King and professional fisherman Mr. Crappie, these plastics are renowned for their quality and success rate in every situation imaginable!
Thunder Bait is shaped similar to a classic tube but is designed with a solid body and multi-strand tail made from extremely soft silicone material – which enables a lot of movement and vibration even with the supplest movements of the rod tip. It also has glitters that add a visual effect you might find very effective on some days.
It is produced in a 1.75” size, and has 15 great colors including the incredibly popular Junebug Chartreuse Glitter Tail: a no-brainer favorite!
5. Southern Pro Hot Grubs
There is no crappie fishing without one of the most simple, yet most effective lures out there – grub!
And from a huge variety of grubs on the market, Hot Grub from Southern Pro made his way among the best ones. Made from soft and responsive silicone, these versatile grubs will do a perfect job either used as a vertical fishing lure or jigged along the bottom. Classic swimming action produces a lot of vibrations, and it works even with dead slow retrieves!
They are produced in a standard 2” size, and offered in more than 40 colors, which makes them a universal plastic for all kinds of fishing conditions!
6. Strike King Mr. Crappie The Joker
Tired of ”normal” looking plastics? Then try The Joker!
At a first glance, this sure looks like an alien. But behind the looks, there is a clever design by Mr. Crappie, that makes this plastic a unique, versatile lure. Equipped with 3 tails, it produces a lot of vibration no matter the way you are fishing it. It can be fished vertically, straight retrieved, jigged, or even trolled! It does a great job of pulling crappies out of the cover and is also known to produce quite big fish.
It is available in 2”, and in 17 distinctive color patterns. It is worth mentioning that this is the most popular split tail-bodied crappie plastic at the moment – for a very good reason!
7. Mr. Twister Curly Tail Grubs
Talking about plastics and not mentioning Mr. Twister is a straightforward blasphemy!
These legendary grubs have all it takes. They are available in a huge selection of colors, made from high quality, soft but durable material, produce a lot of vibration even on a slow retrieve, suitable for many fishing techniques, and most importantly – they catch fish!
Curly Tail series consists of 6 models, and the ones interesting for crappies are the smallest: 1” Lil’ Bit, 2” Teenie, and 3” Meeny.
8. Keitech Easy Shiner
Keitech is a Japanese company famous for producing soft plastics of extraordinary quality. And Easy Shiner is their flagship lure!
This is a finesse paddle tail plastic infused with salt, and famous for being able to produce vibration even when fished extremely slow and without any weight added! This makes it a perfect finesse lure for those days when your regular setup is not producing any bites. As it is available in a great selection of natural colors, it is also a great option for clear water fishing.
Easy Shiner is available in a lot of sizes, but for crappie fishing 2” is perfect!
9. Arke Sexee Tail Shad
Although this plastic has an extreme resemblance to popular Boby Garland Baby Shad, it is impossible to list crappie plastics without mentioning it.
Made from extremely soft material in a classic 2” size, it is incredibly responsive and produces vibration even when not moving at all. Proven body shape is a crappie poison, and combined with 20+ colors there is hardly a situation out there where Sexee Shad will not do its magic. Some will argue that this lure is completely the same as Baby Shad, but the market has decided there is room for both!
10. Berkley Powerbait, Crappie Nibbles
Just to make it clear – these are not soft plastics. Crappie Nibbles are some kind of rubbery pellets made by Berkley, designed to be fished as a natural bait on a bobber setup.
But! Turns out these Nibbles are a magnet from crappies! Something in their scent makes them irresistible, and anglers have learned to use this as a boost for lure fishing. When fishing is slow and hard, just add a Nibble on your plastic, and you will be surprised how much of a difference it can make!
There are a LOT more crappie plastics available, and it is quite impossible to try them all in one lifetime. The ones listed are proven to be among the best, and you will not make a wrong decision by purchasing any of them.
But do not limit yourself! Every plastic is a good plastic if fished with skill and the right timing! And exploring new possibilities is one of the most beautiful aspects of fishing!