Catching slab crappies on the ice is a blast. But it’s not always easy. Your fishing location and lure selection are critical to the success of your day on the ice.
- Crappie are a structure and cover oriented fish. The cover provides ample feeding opportunities for the small baitfish, insects, and larvae they love to eat during the winter.
- Crappie also tend to feed upward and respond well to vertical lure presentations.
Knowing what, and how, crappie eat in winter tells you what kind of lures to use. Today we’ll cover 10 crappie ice fishing lures that are sure to put more crappies in your freezer this winter.
What Types of Ice Lures Catch Crappie?
Knowing crappie prefer structure, and they feed on minnows, insects, and larvae, the best ice fishing lures for crappie are small jigs tipped with soft plastics, 1-2 inch spoons, and jigging lures.
Jigs are available in an amazing variety of shapes, sizes and colors, and glow-in-the-dark options. In general, the natural colors work best in clear, shallow water, while bright colors, chrome, and glow colors work best at the deeper depths and low light times.
Many crappie ice fishing jigs are made of tungsten, a metal that is denser and heavier than lead, which means you can have a heavier jig in the same size. Tungsten sinks to the desired depth faster and gives them a better response to your jigging technique. Tungsten is a harder metal as well, which gives it a little more sensitivity to detect light bites. Here’s a quick look at the different types of crappie ice fishing lures.
- Small Jigs – Smaller size jigs are a perfect match to the types of things crappie like to eat and the way they attack their prey. They can be jigged vertically, horizontally, or held stationary on the bottom or at a precise depth, making them an ideal lure for fishing through a hole in the ice. The size jigs for ice fishing crappie are 1/32-1/64 oz for shallower water, and 1/16 oz for 20 feet or deeper.
- Soft Plastics – Plastics are manufactured in a wide array of shapes with features like tails, eyes, and cilia-like appendages. Soft plastics have an alluring wiggly and wavy action, the kind of thing that makes a crappie’s mouth water. Ice fishing crappie plastics are great additions to ice jigs, especially when the bit gets tough, and when live bait isn’t working.
- Small Spoons – Spoons imitate the look and movement of a frightened or wounded minnow or shad. Concave sides and rattles put off flash and vibrations that to catch the fish’s attention, and sometimes aggravate them into biting. Spoons in the 1/16 to 1/8 oz sizes are all around good performers, go larger/heavier when crappie are holding deeper.
- Jigging Baits – These solid-body baits resemble baitfish or other forage that typically provide a horizontal lure presentation often with wings and fins attached to create an erratic swimming motion. With nose, tail, and treble hooks, airplane jigs have excellent hook-up ratios.
10 Best Crappie Ice Fishing Lures
Gulp! Alive! Minnows are not only deadly for crappie but work well on bluegill, bass, trout, and catfish too. This plastic minnow has a very lifelike appearance and the long tail gives a realistic swimming action to the lure.
Gulp! is specifically formulated and scented to smell and taste like the real thing. Gulp baits come in jars or tubs and are only available in the natural pearl color. Gulp! Alive! is not the most durable soft plastic, but that sure beats hauling around live bait.
Pair Gulp! minnows with one the best crappie ice jigs below for one of the most effective ice fishing crappie rigs around.
Berkley PowerBait is a well-known line of soft plastic lures for bass fishing, but they also have some awesome ice fishing baits. Crappie Nibbles makes use of their patented scent formula to attract fish and keep them on the hook.
The scent slowly dissolves in the water to permeate the area around the lure. It has a proven track record of effectiveness. These are also impregnated with glitter so that they mimic the sparkle of the scales of a minnow or shad. They can be used all by themselves or on a jig, worked with short jigging actions.
Berkley says it has put over 20 years developing its Gulp line of products and claim to be more effective than the real thing. Judging by their popularity with ice anglers, many would agree. The Gulp! Leech certainly does a fantastic job imitating a real live leech or nightcrawler (in pumpkinseed).
Gulp! Leech baits are water-soluble (and biodegradable), allowing the scent formula to disperse over a much larger area than a standard scented plastic lure. Gulp! Leeches are available in several shapes and sizes and two natural colors – black and pumpkinseed. The 3-inch Leech is perfect for ice fishing for crappie, walleye, and many other species.
VMC has a reputation among fishermen for quality ice tackle and the Tear Drop jig is no exception. It’s a great all-around crappie getter and works equally well on other types of panfish too.
The jig features an extra-wide baitfish body and one large, realistic eye. The Tear Drop comes in a half-dozen bright and sparkly colors and their Ultra Glow pigments made to last for up to 15 minutes in the water before needing a quick recharge.
Tip the Tear Drop jig with live bait or your favorite soft plastic baits. These jigs even work well under floats, rigged on tip-ups, or on a deadstick rod.
5. VMC Waxy
The VMC Waxy is similar to the Tear Drop but with a raised lumpy profile and muted glow colors. The huge eye painted on the underside is intended to imitate baitfish and any number of other underwater forage.
The Waxy Jig works well on crappie, as well as bluegill, sunfish, yellow perch, and the occasional bass. The single, large VMC hook is sticky sharp with plenty of shank to let you tip it with worms, maggots, insect larvae, or soft plastic baits.
All the Waxy Jigs boast glow color schemes with “Ultra Glow” pigments for an enduring glow-in-the-dark presentation. The jigs range in size from Micro (1/100 oz) to Large (1/16 oz), the perfect size ice jigs for crappies at any depth you might encounter.
Here’s a great example of a tungsten-bodied jig that mimics many kinds of insect nymphs and larvae. The Probe Jig is deadly, thanks to its long, slender body, quivering tail, and micro profile soft plastic Trigger X worm body.
The Probe Jig has the looks and action of real mealworms, bloodworms, and small minnows. The jig comes in crappie catching sizes (1/16 and 3/32 oz) and colors (we like Red Glow and Orange Glow), along with the proprietary VMC Power Gap hook to generate penetrating hook sets.
Typical lipless lures weigh in the 3/8 to 1 oz sizes when used in open water season, but the Ultra Light Rippin’ Rap has managed to miniaturize the tight vibration and shimmy into 1/16oz (1-1/8”) and 3/16oz (1-1/2”) sizes.
The Ultra Light Rippin’ Rip combines a realistic baitfish look complete with textured scales, fins, and mouth, and 3-D holographic effect eyes. The result is a thin vertical profile that creates a fluttering action on the drop which can be irresistible to rising crappie.
The body of the bait features an interior BB rattling system to catch the attention of every fish in the neighborhood. That’s all backed up with two heavy-duty treble hooks, great for vertical ripping with short rod tip jerks.
This Chubby Darter is designed to have a slow sink rate and to wobble and circle around the area as it descends, fooling crappie into thinking they’re about to sink their teeth into a wounded or disoriented baitfish. This unique action gives the lure the ability to cover a wider area with vertical up and down jigging.
The Chubby Darter has great finishes, with realistic holographic scales, gills, and eyes in several proven colors. The Darter sports Salmo’s durable High Density Space-Age Foam body with VMC treble hooks. The Chubby Darter is a must-have lure for your ice fishing arsenal, no matter the species you’re after.
The Leech Flutter Spoon lives up to its name by providing a tumbling, fluttering action on the drop, and then swimming like a leech on the retrieve. The shiny and colored zinc alloy spoon is combined with a feather trailer and stand out belly holes to make it a deadly lure. Equipped with a fast snap clip and a treble hook, the Leech Spoon is a killer for crappie and panfish.
10. Northland Tackle Bro Bug
This jig is a staple with anglers, sporting an extra-large fish eye on its lead body, and their patented BarblessWire Bait Collar along the hook to help provide a horizontal presentation to the bait. Use live wax worms, larvae, or maggots or tip with any of the plastic lures on this list or your own favorites. Use with a light 1 or 2lb test ice line for vertical jigging or with a bobber.