By Tim Huffman
Summer is known as a prime time to troll crankbaits for crappie. The trolling method targets suspended, scattered fish. These fish are often difficult to catch with other methods, but trolling puts a lot of baits in front of many fish.
Choosing the right bait is important. Here are a few proven choices.
Tommy Skarlis and Kyle Steinfeldt, an Iowa fishing team, won the 2013 Crappie Masters National Championship. They used Off-Shore planer boards for a walleye-style trolling technique to win the tournament. The team out-fished all the experienced, local fishermen from Mississippi, and fishermen from around the country, to take first place. Their key baits were cranks. More specifically, Berkley Flicker Shad and Salmo Hornet. The moral to the story: crankbaits catch fish in many waters from around the country. Picking the right bait and right spot can lead to a livewell full of fish.
The following is a review of a few of the crankbaits that will catch crappie.
Bandit Crappie Crankbaits 200 & 300 Series
Bandit was one of the first, and for sure the most popular, crappie crankbait player in the crappie trolling market. For over two decades, fishermen have been using them to slam crappie on Sardis, Grenada and other waters.
The baits are state-of-the art molded baits using premium grade plastic. They have a huge selection of over-all colors. Their special Crappie Series have their own colors, come with red hooks and includes internal rattles. The company owner, Chris Ross, takes pride in their ‘Runs true out of the box’ slogan. The 300-series runs deep; 200 medium depths. Specials available from manufacturer, www.banditlures.com. For $5.99 from Bass Pro Shops.
Strike King Slab Hammer Crappie Cranks
The company used their popular Series 3 and Mini 3 cranks to create their crappie cranks. They brag on having great crappie colors with baits made for pushing, trolling or casting for crappie. They come with premium hooks, internal free-floating rattles, and are made to handle big slabs. Other features include a tight wiggle, lifelike eyes, and a small-bodied profile.
Pro staffer Jackie VanCleave says, “We use the Mini 3, Series 3 or 3XD. They are excellent baits that pull or push and will catch fish as well as any other crankbaits.” At www.strikeking.com. For $5.79 from Bass Pro Shops.
Skarlis and Steinfeldt on their way to a Crappie Masters National Championship. Circled in white are planer boards they are using to pull crankbaits.
Rebel Crappie Crank-R
This bait is a great pulling crank. The shape, action and color patterns are all specifically designed for crappie. Brilliant colors in crappie favorites designed by a professional crappie angler and the colors help attract more fish. The bait can be trolled or pushed. The baits are made to track true out of the box. They are made by a long-time leader in the crankbait industry.
“All baits must run straight out of the box to prevent tangle and frustrations, and I don’t like frustrations when fishing,” says pro staffer, Todd Huckabee. “The Crank R has provided some excellent fishing for me and others in my boat.” The Crappie Crank R has a MSRP of $4.99. www.lurenet.com.
The Flicker Shad has been around for a while and is known as a multi-species bait, especially popular with walleye fishermen. However, the wide variety of sizes allow many species to be caught using them. The #6 is a good size for crappie and is one of the sizes used to win the Crappie Masters Classic last year.
The baits were designed by professional fishermen and have the size, profile and action to mimic a shad, the primary bait of crappie. The weight transfer allows long cast. Mustad Ultra Point Hooks improve hook-ups. MSRP is $4.95. www.berkley-fishing.com.
Vicious Crappie Series, the VCP, is one of the newer kids on the block. They include quality molding and a durable multi-coating finish. An enhanced sound chamber, snag-deterring bill and oversized eyes are included. www.visious-fishing.com.
Salmo Hornet is a high-density foam for toughness. The bait is a great multi-species choice and works great for crappie. It has a great shaking action and is available in four sizes. www.salmofishing.com.
Bass Pro Shops Crappie Maxx features a tight wobble, highly detailed design, and 3-D lazer eyes. Their price and availability makes them a good choice. www.basspro.com.
Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap is a good lipless crank that will catch crappie. They imitate smaller forage. The Traps have lifelike detail and the ability to produce sounds nearly identical to those of schooling baitfish under attack. www.rat-l-trap.com.
There are many other crankbaits that will catch crappie, Rapala and Norman for example. The key tip from most fishermen who troll cranks is to stay consistent with your bait. For example, if you fish a Bandit 200 all your baits should be the same model and style. This helps with fewer tangles and more consistent depth control.
Now is the time. Get out and give crankbait trolling a try.