Besides working the shallow with long jigging poles and trolling with spider rigs there's another approach to slabs that’s not nearly as common or as well understood: the crankbait.
If that leaves you puzzled, keep reading!
Quick glance at the best crappie crankbaits:
Table of Contents (clickable)
Available at Fish USA
Strike King’s Slab Hammer Cranks are miniaturized versions of their wildly popular crankbaits. Armed with shimmering paint schemes, 3-D eyes, and an irresistible wiggle, these 38-ounce cranks run about 8 feet deep.
“Fire engine” is a great choice when hungry slabs are actively feeding on crawfish, despite the idea that they only hunt “up!”
Available at Amazon
Bandit makes some of the best crappie cranks on the market, and their 300 Series is sized right for trophy slabs. I prefer craw and shiner patterns in the Bandit, and there are quite a few to choose from.
These cranks run about 12 feet deep, driven by that big rounded lip.
Great action leads to intense vibration, and these crankbaits really turn the noise up!
Available at Fish USA
Rebel is well-known for its lifelike lures, and that incredible attention to detail keeps the fish biting when other options just won’t deliver.
That’s certainly true of the ⅕ ounce Wee Crawfish, and it's available in a perfect range of colors to suit the tastes of the crappie in your neck of the woods. It runs between 5 and 7 feet deep and is just murder in shallow channels adjacent to spawning sites.
Available at Bass Pro
Rapala pretty much wrote the book on crankbaits, and the Ultra Light Crank is darn near perfect for crappie.
Just 1 ¼ inches long and a scant 1/5 ounce in weight, this little guy wriggles for all it’s worth. Buoyant, it dives to about 8 feet, driven deep by its enormous lip.
I really like “Silver Blue” for crappie.
Available at Amazon
The venerable Rat-L-Trap has been ringing the dinner bell for trophy fish for decades, and the Mini is just the medicine for hungry slabs.
Designed to offer unparalleled vibration and rattle as it wriggles, this ¼ ounce Rat-L-Trap is so effective in turbid water that it should be illegal.
Crappie, specks, sac-a-lait, papermouths--call them what you will, two things define them for our purposes today.
The first is an oversized appetite. Especially in the pre-spawn and spawn, crappie will be looking for a quick meal.
The second is an oversized mouth. As every slab fan knows, the crappie’s mouth isn’t just sensitive; it’s also big, allowing it to swallow large prey items.
Add to that the often turbid waters of spring and a good crankbait starts to make a lot of sense.
Designed to run with a tight wiggle, crankbaits impart vibration to the water that summons strikes even when visibility is poor.
Marc Deschenes, a crappie guide in South Carolina, notes, “Even if the water is brick-red, a crappie can sense a crankbait from a long distance away. That means you don’t have to cast it right into the cover. If there is a particular stump or laydown that is holding fish and you snag it, moving too close to free the lure can scatter the crappie. You might have to wait a long time for the crappie to return so you can catch them again.”
They cover a lot of water quickly and run at predictable depths, making them ideal for slow trolling.
Looked at from this perspective, crankbaits for slabs start to make a lot of sense.
But don’t take my word for it. Kent Driscoll, a pro staffer at B’n’M, recalls the success of brightly-colored crankbaits on the ponds, lakes, and rivers of Mississippi. “One guy had a whole box of Bombers that hardly had any paint left on them because they’d been chewed off by all the crappie he’d caught on them.”
Any of these amazing crankbaits will work wonders in the spring, and because they create an attractive vibration, you don’t need to run them into the mean stuff as you do a jig.
Instead, identify structure that’s likely to hold fish and run these crankbaits near, but not through, it. The combination of action, color, and vibration will draw crappie from cover and may even attract an entire school!
One technique that works well is to identify a shallow channel near a spawning bed. Orient your boat so that you can cast down, rather than across, this structure. Select a crankbait that runs at the right depth, and run it lengthwise along this feature.
The results are surprisingly effective!
And for trolling, these tiny crankbaits just couldn’t be better. Slow way down, and keep those crankbait wriggling as they should, not thumping like mad.
We hope this article has helped you reconsider your spring slab arsenal, including tiny crankbaits in the mix.
If it has, we’d love to hear from you, and as always, we encourage you to leave a comment below.