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The 6 Best Bluegill and Crappie Baits

There is nothing like a trip out to catch bluegill and crappie. Both fish are prone to schooling, which means you can catch hundreds in a day of fishing if you’re lucky.

Want to ensure that you are the one catching all those fish next time out on the water? Then read below the best baits you can use to catch both bluegill and crappie. These are effective for almost any panfish you might have around! So you’ll be sure to catch a ton of fish on your next adventure.

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Bait #1 - RoadRunner Jighead

My number 1 producer for crappie and an underrated bluegill bait is the road runner jig. It may not look like much, but the brightly colored head with a small underspin beneath it really brings in crappie and big bluegill.

The jighead has a good weight that helps it easily get down to the right depth you need to catch fish. So you can fish it in just a foot of water down to 10 feet or even deeper. The spinner underneath it is big enough to provide a flash and vibration without being too large to ward off smaller bluegill as well. 

One of the best things about a road runner jig head is you can pair it with any type of small soft plastic. So you can try mini swimbaits, curly tail grubs, and a lot of other types of lures on the back of the jig. My personal favorite is this Bobby Garland baby shad

Colors that will work for crappie and bluegill are white and chartreuse. Every now and then you’ll find bluegill biting pink lures as well, but that is more geared for crappie specifically.

Bait #2 - Berkley Gulp! Alive! Minnow Jar

Next up is an artificial bait that doesn’t look or smell like it to fish. This fake minnow comes in a jar surrounded by a smelly solution that continually absorbs into the bait. So when you pull it out, it’s still freshly infused with additional scent unlike other baits that have sat in plastic.

Fish can smell up to 1000x better than humans, so having something with a new scent can make your bait stand out about the rest. Gulp! Alive! Minnows also have a very lifelike subtle action in the water and come in a lot of natural colors to mimic smaller baitfish.

My favorite way to fish Gulp! Alive! Minnows are on small jig heads without a spinner. This adds to the lifelike appeal and makes it a little more subtle presentation that bluegill and crappie can’t get enough of. Fish them in particular around dock pilings and you’ll be on fish in no time!

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Bait #3 - Marabou Jigs

Marabou jigs are a really underrated bait that is great for catching both bluegill and crappie. They are very similar to a road runner jig with a heavy, bright colored jighead on the top and usually accompanied with a small underspin. Though some are bare.

What is different is the back looks more like a traditional hair jig. This brightly colored hairs on the back resembles more of an insect or other small creature in the water instead of a smaller fish. This can be really helpful to catch those fish that just aren’t eating baitfish for whatever reason.

Your traditional chartreuse and whites will be good here, but you can get a little more colorful. Pinks, greens, and reds also are really good colors to mimic different bugs and get bites from crappie, bluegill, and really any type of panfish!

Also in the best month to catch crappie, this is the number one bait I’m using!

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Bait #4 - Live Worms

Maybe no bait is as universal for bluegill as live worms, like nightcrawlers or meal worms. But most people don’t know that they can be an effective crappie bait as well. 

The beauty of worms is they are very cheap, even free if you’re willing to look for them, and will do the work for you as far as enticing a fish to bite by wiggling around on your hook. They smell real as well because, well, they are.

The only reason people don’t catch more crappie on worms is because they normally don’t get them to the right depth and use the wrong types of worms. Nightcrawlers will catch you a crappie here or there but mainly targets bluegill. I’ve had much more luck using smaller worms like mealworms instead when I want to catch crappie and bluegill.

Pro tip – you can always get mealworms from your local pet store as they are also great food for many types of lizards. Or you can buy prepacked worms like these.

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Bait #5 - Beetle Spin

Another tried and true bait that will produce both bluegill and crappie cast after cast is the beetle spin. This bait differs slightly from the road runner jighead style as it has a much longer arm that goes into a larger spinner above the bait rather than a small one below it.

This leads to creating more thump in the water and usually providing more reflection to really get those aggressive fish going. Then when they hone in, they see the small two-legged beetle bait on the hook and think they have a nice easy meal.

You’ll even catch a few bass on a beetle spin as it can be a really effective bait to catch those fish that are very aggressive. Which, usually is the bigger fish in the fishery. Colors are less important here as you want the blade to do the work, but try normal yellows and greens for the most success.

I use beetle spins a lot after a rain for crappie or bluegill.

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Bait #6 - Rooster Tail

When I go wade fishing in the creek behind my house, I almost always have one thing tied on. A rooster tail.

There is no one bait that produces a variety of different fish like a rooster tail in my opinion. They come with small spinners like most other baits in this list, but this spinner is in line with the rest of the bait making it easy for a fish to easily hone in on and bite without getting confused between a bait on a hook, and a spinner beside it. 

I catch all kinds of crappie, bluegill, sunfish, and even bass using rooster tails, also called inline spinners, in every fishery I go to. The only real downside is because they are so light and small, it’s hard to fish them in very deep waters. So keep more in the shallow areas under 5 feet deep or so.

Color variation can be key to finding one the fish want to bite that day. A plain white is usually great on clear, sunny days. Pink and chartreuse produce better for me on cloudy days or in dingy to muddy water. But always keep experimenting and let the fish tell you which one they want to bite that day.

If you want to learn more about color variations, read this article.

Conclusion

There are a ton of great lures out there which will catch both crappie and bluegill. Many people think you need unique lures or setups for both species, but there is a lot of overlap! You can use the same lure and try catching both species at once!

Do you have a bait #7 that you think is great for crappie or bluegill fishing? Leave it below so we can all know. I love learning new baits and always want to try new techniques and lures to share what works best with you!

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