Crappie Spawn
Crappie Spawn

Crappie Fishing With Minnows

A live minnow is more appealing to crappie than any soft bait or jig. This is a fact that any experienced angler will tell you.

It’s quite common for minnows to take a minnow, even if they don’t hit any other bait in your tackle box.

Minnows are the best choice for crappie fishing. They can also be used to tightline or troll, slip flounder, cast and cast if you are a skilled fisherman.

We’d love to help you get started this spring if you are a novice to crappie fishing or if you have a lot of questions about minnow fishing. Below is a detailed guide to how to rig minnows as well as our top tips and tricks.

Crappie Fishing with Minnows: Basics of Buying Bait

You’ll find minnow shops near any crappie honey-hole. It may seem easy to walk in and pay a few dollars, then walk out.

You can get the best out of your minnows by following some simple rules and knowing what to look for in a live bait.

Which Minnow should you choose?

The two types of minnows that are most commonly found in bait shops are the fathead and the golden shiner. As you can see, these tiny guys are easy to distinguish.

Golden Shiner Minnow

Fat Head Minnow

This is because fatheads tend to be a little more durable than golden shiners. They can take a lot more abuse and still come out of it alive and kicking.

If you have the choice, take them.

A Healthy Minnow: Signs

You should assess the health of farm-raised minnows when you observe them in a tank. Minnows that are sick will be more likely to die and they will not be as active as bait, which is a bad thing.

Your bait must be in top condition to get the best out of them. We recommend looking for minnows with tight schools rather than loosely clustered. You should also look for brightly colored and unaffected fins.

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You should probably not allow them to swim listlessly in the tank’s top, or if you notice damaged fins or dark skins, it is best to leave.

How to Catch Bait Basics. What you Need to Know about Minnows

However, not all fisherman purchase their bait. It is estimated that half of the crappie baitfish caught are caught and not bought. You can catch any type of minnow and crappie will be attracted to it, so don’t worry about what species you are catching!

Important: You must not release invasive species to new habitats. You should either catch your minnows in the area you intend to fish or purchase them at a bait shop.

These young anglers will show you how it’s done.

Take care of your minnows

You must treat your minnows well, regardless of whether you have bought them or not. These little guys will benefit greatly if you follow these three rules.

Temperature shock

There is no better way to kill minnows than to shock them with rapid temperature changes. You can keep them healthy and strong by slowly adjusting the temperature of their water.

If you purchase them in a bag, then fill the container or bait bucket with water and then seal the bag. This will allow the water in the bag to gradually move towards the lake temperature.


This is especially true if you keep minnows for longer periods of time. More than a few hours without new oxygen will lead to death, and if you’re planning on an all-day trip, it’s worth investing in a bait bucket aerator like the Marine Metal lid aerator. This aerator is designed to fit into a standard bucket and provide oxygen for your minnows.

No chlorine

Chlorinated water should never be used in a bait bucket. You should also make sure you don’t transfer lake water from one location to the next, as this could release invasive species to new habitats.

Important: You must not allow invasive species to be introduced into new habitats. You should not mix water from different sources.

You have two options: either you use water from the lake where you intend to fish or you can let the tap water stand for a few days to get rid of the chlorine.


Minnows will die if they get too hot. It is best to keep your minnows in cool water, but not freezing cold. We recommend a water temperature between 50 and 65 degrees.

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Hook Choice and Rigging a Minnow to Catch Crappie

We’ve written about choosing the right hook for crappie before, and we’ve reviewed some excellent choices, too. It’s worth reiterating what we wrote there.

Hook Size

Crappie are sometimes called “papermouths” and it’s not a mistake. Their mouths are huge, but their fragile nature makes them very delicate. You might use a #8 for bluegill or other similar-sized fish, but you will need to increase the size of your hooks for crappie.

We recommend you use no smaller than a #6 and often use a #4 or #2 for large minnows.

Hook Selection

Most crappie anglers choose Aberdeen hooks. They are made for panfish and have a long shank, wide gap and delicate construction.

  • Long shank –This long shank gives your minnow plenty space to do its job, and it also makes it much easier to retrieve the hook from a crappie’s mouth.
  • Wide gap –When rigging minnows, the wide gap of the Aberdeen is a great help. The wide gap helps to keep the hook from getting into delicate mouth tissues.
  • Construction delicate –Aberdeen hooks are made of very thin wire. It helps keep the minnows alive by minimizing injury. This is vital. It also allows you to remove snags from your hook by deforming it. This is something that crappie love to brush.

The Mustad and Eagle Claw are our top picks for crappie hooks. Other options include the Tru-Turn or Matzuo Sickle, both of which are excellent choices.

Crappie fishing with minnow

There are many ways to hook crappie with live minnows. You need to be aware of how fast a technique kills the minnow, and that crappie will strike the head first.

  • Tail hooking –You can allow minnows to swim and kick by running your hook through their tail about 1/4 inch from the fins. This is a great way to keep them happy and healthy. It’s important to pause to allow the process to work. Ivo Coia explains this in the video.
  • Dorsal hookingYou can also run your hook through the back of the minnow, just below its dorsal fin. This will allow it to twitch its head and tail by not reaching its vital organs.
  • Lip hooking –This technique involves running the hook under the minnow’s neck, and through the lips. This will cause the tail to kick furiously but it kills the minnow faster than other methods.
  • Hooking the snout –This is a modified lip hook. In this instance, the hook is run down the front of the minnow’s head and out its mouth. This allows the minnow to move freely like lip hooking but doesn’t kill them as fast.
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These 4 techniques can be demonstrated

Crappie Rigs For Minnows

There are many ways to rig your hooks, including tightlining, trolling, and slip floating. Let’s look at some of the most popular.

Most crappie rigs feature two hooks on separate leaders, both of which will be attached to a weighted main line. The basic setup is the same regardless of whether the rig is dropped to bottom, suspended from slip float cover, or tightlined or troled.

You can’t go wrong with either the Bullet Weights Mr. Crappie or the Eagle Claw Crappie rigs if you are looking for a basic rig. These rigs are both simple and cost-effective, and they have proven to be very reliable. Attach a small weight to the end of your line and you’re ready to go for minnows.

You can make your own rigging style if you wish.

The diagram below shows how the “crappie” or pickerel-rig is similar to the Eagle Claw. These wire spreaders reduce tangles and allow minnows to swim along the main line.

The “Kentucky”, and “Basic”, rigs are without spreaders. The most important difference is whether the weight is attached or lowered directly below the lower minnow.

We’d recommend something like the Kentucky rig for fishing the bottom, though we’d switch that standard sinker out for a pencil sinker, because it’s a touch less likely to snag. When you are suspending your minnows in water column while trolling, tightlining, or using slip floats, the basic rig is an excellent choice.

You can experiment with different barrel swivel options, such as one that is above your rig and three for each dropper.

Last Thoughts

Crappie anglers have used live minnows for generations. We hope our guide helped you gain the confidence to try them.

Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.