Minnows are live bait that crappies have a hard time passing up. Crappie that grow to 14 and 15 inches long, called "slab crappies" by veteran anglers, have the ability to eat larger minnows, but most crappies will want a downsized version. Species such as fathead minnows that are an inch or two in length are a good choice for crappies. Hooking the minnow through the bottom lip and back out through the upper lip allows the minnow to appear natural as it swims. Crappie anglers will use a fishing float and suspend their minnows beneath it, casting out over structure such as brush piles and downed trees where crappie hang out in the spring. Ice anglers will rig small to medium sized minnows and shiners on their tip-ups and position them in deeper waters.
Another crappie tactic involves the use of insect larvae such as maggots, wax worms, spikes and moussies. This type of live bait is very small and difficult to present all by itself, but perceptive fishermen will add them onto a tiny jig head. By placing these larval baits on the very tip of the hook and then lowering it down into a school of crappies, you will get plenty of bites. Ice fishermen in particular will employ this strategy, dropping the presentation into a school of crappie using a small jigging rod, raising it a few feet and then allowing it to gently float downwards. Crappie will hit the jig along with the larvae typically on its downward flight.
Crappie will strike small artificial baits such as marabou jigs, curly-tailed grubs and spinners, according to the Crappie.com website. The marabou jig is a small jig, equipped with fine, downy feathers that cover the hook's shaft and disguise the hook. A selection of colors and varied sizes exists and the marabou jig is useful as suspended bait or as one that you cast out and retrieve. The soft plastic curly-tailed grub features a tail end that wiggles about as you reel the lure in, creating action that turn crappies on to attacking it. You can rig these baits, in the range of 2 inches long, on small jig heads that vary in size. The smallest spinners and spinnerbaits on the market will get the attention of crappies. Choose a variety of colors and blades shapes, such as the oblong willow blades and the circular Colorado type blades.