How to Jig for Crappie: Basics, Tips, and Techniques to Help You Catch More Slabs

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Jigs are perhaps the most versatile weapon in a crappie angler’s arsenal. From casting to tightlining, trolling to slip floating, they can be used in a variety of situations with a range of techniques that are virtually unrivaled.

In fact, if I were to choose only one lure option for crappie, it would probably be a jig. The range of bodies is huge, and I can’t think of many days on the water where a jig wouldn’t be just the medicine for sac-a-lait.

If you haven’t explored the options they offer, are new to crappie fishing, or just want to refresh yourself on jig know-how, keep reading! We’ll cover the basics before we dig down into the secrets of jigging techniques.

Jig Basics: What You Need to Know

We’ve written articles laying out our advice for choosing the best line, rod, and reel for crappie. If you have questions, be sure to give these a look before you worry about jigs.

If you’re using the wrong equipment, even the best jig and technique in the world won’t help!

What is a jig?

A jig is a lure composed of two parts. The first is a jig head, which is simply a hook that features a weighted, shaped section and an offset eye. These can be painted or plain lead, and they’re available in a wide range of styles and sizes.

We generally prefer painted heads, but plenty of folks pour their own or prefer to save a few bucks by buying raw lead heads.

The second component is a body. A jig head can accept everything, from a soft bait like a curly-tailed grub (pictured below) to minnow parts.

We’ll discuss these choices in depth here, but what gives jigs their incredible versatility is that they’re essentially blank slates just waiting for whatever you can rig on them!

Some jigs also feature a blade or spinner attached to the head. This helps them move more like crankbaits, and the vibrations and flash created by the blade can help to attract bites.

Jig Size for Crappie Fishing

For crappie, we usually recommend jig heads weighing 1/32 to ⅛ ounces. You’ll find that most anglers choose jigs in this range, though some do fish heavier weights in murky water or when jigging deep.

How do you select the best weight for you? Well, it depends on the conditions and the technique you’ve chosen. We’ll explore the techniques we’re about to mention, just bear with us for a moment!

Generally speaking, the deeper the water you’re fishing, the heavier your jig should be to help it sink quickly. You’ll also want to assess the distance you need to cast–and the wind– choosing heavier jigs when you need the greatest distance and the most wind-bucking.

But this only true when casting a jig. When you’re trolling or tightlining, you’ll often have additional weight on your rig, and you won’t need a heavier jig to help you out.

But when you’re casting a jig on its own, it’s important to maintain good “feel,” and you need to keep your line tight to avoid missing a strike. If your jig head is too light, you just can’t sense structure very well, and if the wind is blowing your line, you’ll miss bites you should have felt.

In these situations, we recommend you move up in size to ⅛ or so.

But a heavier jig isn’t always the best choice. For instance, if you’re fishing heavy cover, a smaller jig will be less likely to snag.

And most anglers will tell you that it’s best to run the smallest jig you can, especially in clear water.

Dan Meyer runs through this kind of advice in the video below:

But not everyone agrees, and in dark or stained water, crappie pro Kevin Rogers likes to fish a 3/16 ounce Bobby Garland Mo’Glo jig head rigged with a 3 inch Bobby Garland Slab Slay’r in black and pink as his go-to lure. He’ll start the day with that big rig, moving up but never down! His reasons are clear–better feel at depth–but he admits that this is an unorthodox approach.

It’s won him a lot of tournaments, though!

Check out his reasons here:

Jig Body Styles for Crappie Fishing

Four jig bodies are common for crappie fishing. The grub, the tube, the Maribou, and the minnow.

  • Grubs – feature a fat body and a long tail that’s designed to wriggle in the water. Common types of grubs include the Bobby Garland Slab Slay’r and the Zoom Fat Albert Grub
  • Tubes – are just what the name suggests–basically a soft bullet-shaped cylinder with a fringe tail. An excellent example is the Z-Man TRD Tube. But some tubes use a solid, grub-style head and a fringed tail. Among these designs, you’ll find the Johnson Crappie Buster and the Strike King Mr. Crappie Joker.
  • Maribou jigs – are a pre-tied, all-in-one combo of a fly and a jig. Made to be “hairy,” and trailing a long skirt, they create a lot of movement when jigged very gently. The classic example is the Eagle Claw.
  • Minnows – you guessed it, are designed to mimic the size, shape, and action of a live minnow, but in a range of colors nature never intended–and some she did! Our favorites include the always popular Gulp! Alive! Minnow and the Bobby Garland Baby Shad Crappie Baits.

What these designs share in common is movement. Whether that’s the wriggling tail of the grub, the dancing tentacles of the tube, the fluffy hair of the Maribou, or the jiggling fluke of the minnow, movement and action are key.

If you’re not sure how to rig these devils, it’s easy! Just watch the videos below:

how to rig a grub

two ways to rig a tube jig for crappie

how to rig your jig for straight running

Color Choice for Crappie

Color choice can be vital, and some days, crappie can be downright picky.If you show up with only one color to throw, it can be frustrating to watch your buddies kill crappie while you can’t get a bite!

Conditions and depth matter–that’s a simple fact.

Assess your water color

In clear water, crappie have excellent vision, and it’s essential that you select the shades you’ll find in nature. While bright colors can still attract a bite, subdued hues and natural tones are the best bet. But when the water is murky or stained, brighter colors are the key to triggering a strike.

Color disappears the deeper you go

Water, no matter how clear, absorbs light. The deeper you go, the more color is lost, but they disappear differentially.

Red is the first to go, followed by orange, yellow, green, and blue.

Take a look at the chart below, and note that if you’re fishing shallow water, color matters a lot. Most folks catch crappie in water that’s relatively shallow, and that makes color selection pretty important.

Bait Color At Depths

So what do we recommend? If I were choosing only four colors on my lures, it would be combinations of the following:

Black

Black is visible at depth in clear water, and works very well in shallow water in every light condition. It offers an attractive silhouette from below, and I like to run jigs with some black on them in most conditions.

Chartreuse

Chartreuse can be magical, and plenty of anglers already know this. High visibility and high contrast, like white, it’s effective in clear as well as cloudy water, and you can fish it pretty deep without losing its vividness.

Most of the jigs I throw have some chartreuse element, whether that’s the head, body, or tail/skirt.

Red, Pink, White, and Purple

Red, pink, white, and purple are also popular combo colors. So look for combinations like black and chartreuse, white and red, black and white, etc., that feature at least one of these colors.

Crappie Pro Tim Blackley offers his advice in this video:

How to tie a jig

Jigs are meant to be hung horizontally from your line, even when you’re jigging vertically! And to ensure that they do what they’re supposed to, you need to tie your knot to the right part of the eye.

To attach that jig to your line, we recommend the popular Trilene knot, the Palomar knot, and a simple loop knot. Watch the video below to see how these are tied, and note where Richard Gene attaches his knots to the eye to ensure they hang and move properly.

Jig Techniques to Catch More Crappie

There are many crappie fishing techniques you can use with jigs, and we’ll cover four of the most productive.

Vertical Jigging in High Summer and Early Fall

Vertical jigging is an often overlooked technique for summer and fall crappie. On warm summer days, crappie will disperse in a lake, looking for cooler water. And as fall encroaches on summer, they’ll migrate away from the shallows.

In both situations, they’ll often cluster in 10 feet of water or so, holding in or over cover like weed beds or brush piles, and if you can find them with your fishfinder, you can park your boat over their heads and gently jig them into your cooler.

The trick here is to use the right combination of jig head and body, and to go with gentle motion driven by your wrist. A good jig will pretty much do the work for you!

Just watch these anglers show you how it’s done:

Spring and Summer Trolling with a Spider Rig

In early spring, crappie will move from the depths to the shallows to spawn, congregating first in creeks and backwaters. After the spawn, and as the water warms further, they’ll move back to the depths, dispersing across their available habitat and schooling at varying points in the water column. When this happens, you’ll need to cover a lot of lake to find them.

These are the hottest times for trolling, and perhaps the best technique is spider rigging.

Where legal, spider rigging is a great technique for covering a lot of water, at varying depths, and with a lot of different color choices. By placing long rods in multiple rod holders, turning your boat into something that looks like a spider, you can run legions of jigs at varying depths, offering crappie their choice of lures. And by creeping across a lake with a spread of rods, you can cover huge areas of water relatively quickly.

Ideally, you want to use identical long rods like 12 foot BnM Jig Poles. “All the rods should be the same length, power, and action,” Barry Morrow, an Oklahoma crappie guide, explains, “and they should be adjusted to the same height in the rod holders, so that you are able to decipher the motion of the rod tips to detect bites. If you are using different types of rods, they’re all bowed differently and respond differently to strikes, making it more difficult to interpret rod-tip and line movement.”

You’ll also need rock-solid rod holders, of course!

Those long rods also help to prevent tangles as you turn, though they can still get tied up when a crappie takes a jig and starts to fight.

Watch this video to get a good sense of how it’s done:

Casting the Shallows During the Spawn

Jigs are in no sense limited to vertical presentations, however, and they’re an excellent choice when casting. Whether you need to cover a lot of water quickly or want to target inaccessible cover, casting a jig is a fantastic option.

Especially in spring, when papermouths are spawning in shallow water, holding back with your boat and casting into the shallows can be amazingly productive.

While some anglers use braid for ultimate casting distance, we don’t think braid is ideal for setting the hook on papermouths. Instead, we use high-quality mono for the cushion it offers on hooksets.

We like to cast over submerged cover in the shallows, or next to stumps or downed trees, and slowly retrieve.

Slip Float Near Cover

Slip floats are an ideal way to jig. Pretty much any time we want to stand off and cast near stumps, pilings, or other crappie habitat, we find that a slip float is an awesome addition that deserves a place in every tackle box.

We really like the popular Thill Crappie Cork, as it allows you to cast flawlessly while still controlling the depth of your terminal tackle. And with this float, there’s no need for beaded stops–a simple knot will do. That makes it easy to use and a snap to adjust to varying depths.

Check out these two gentlemen using slip floats and tube jigs to terrorize crappie holding near stumps:

just this technique!

If you’re not sure how to rig a slip float, don’t worry. It’s easy:

rigging slip floats

Final Thoughts

Jigs are versatile, easy to use, and deadly on crappie. And while spinners and Rooster Tails have proven their effectiveness, nothing beats a jig.

The next time you take to the water for crappie, give a jig a chance to shine. We’re sure you’ll be impressed!

Please leave us a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

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