3 Tactics for Catching Summer Crappies with Live Bait

Tips for Summer Crappie Fishing with Live Bait

The summer bite is on! Many anglers have just spent the last two months trout fishing and are looking for a new target now that the streams are warming and trout are becoming scarce. One option is grabbing a few rods, a container full of live bait and heading out to the water to find some crappies. Luckily wherever you may live, you can probably find a lake or pond full of crappies within a 15-minute drive. Crappies are one of the few fish species that are plentiful, can be caught throughout the year and make a great choice in your fish fry.

The crappie spawn is over so no more slab filled shallows, but rather big schools have broken apart to seek out submerged cover and steep drop-offs. Unlike during the spawn when just about any crappie fishing techniques worked, live bait will be your go to heading into summer. Live bait fishing for crappies is one of the most reliable lure presentations to catch crappies in warming lakes during hot days.

Summer crappies are still very much catchable but like other fish species, their patterns have changed since the spring. They are still feeding but have spread out and are no longer found in shallow water. To catch them during the summer months, start by following these three tactics for fishing for crappies.

Fishing with Live Bait for Summer Crappies

As the water temperatures rise, crappies will move deeper in search of creek and river channels. These areas have a little cooler water and typically hold more baitfish for forage than other warmer parts of the lake. To find these spots, use your electronics to locate the channels then look for submerged cover like flooded timber alongside them. Paired together, channels and nearby structure will hold both big crappies and lots of them.

Fishing with minnows for crappie is one of the most common and successful tactics in the summer. The best crappie jig is one tipped with a minnow. Crappies suspended along a channel will be stacked one above the other so you need a fishing bait with the ability to move vertically in the water column. Use a large enough jig head to reach the bottom, typically 1/8- to 1/4-ounce with a short shank. Rig the minnow through the mouth and slowly jig and reel it to the surface.

Follow the Weather to Find the Crappies

Weather plays a big factor in summer crappie activity. Typically, if you know the forecast you will have a good idea where to find schools of crappies. High sky and hot days push crappies close to cover and tight to channel bottoms. However, on days when clouds blanket the sky and the wind picks up, crappies will venture away from structure and disperse more making them easier to catch. These are the best days for crappie fishing with minnows and bobber with youngsters or from the bank because crappies will be less docile and more reactionary to live bait moving nearby.

Hot, sunny days are tough to keep minnows alive but with a good live bait container, you are better able to have a fresh, lively minnow to rig up. Fishing for crappies on these days requires you to take your bait right into the middle of thick structure and fish vertical. If the weather is cloudy and windy, find the same structures you would fish on sunny days but back off of it and use a live minnow hooked in the back on a drop shot rig. Finally, for days when there is an approaching front (check the barometric pressure stats), you will find schools along pronounced drop offs near shore and steep lake points. Cast the same drop shot rig here and work it from shallow water down off of the drop.

Cover is Always Key for Summer Crappies     

Besides the spawn, crappies can always be found around some type of cover. In the summer, they will be looking for any type of submerged cover they can find. Not all cover is equally desired, however. For instance, docks will be used by crappies if no other option is available but they are less preferred than submerged stumps, flooded timber or bridge piers. Crappies will also be found in deeper grass if no good structures are available or they have all been taken by other fish. Knowing the differences in cover will help you prioritize spots to fish, especially during times of high fishing pressure when all the other anglers head to the stumps and you head to the grass. Crappies will even move to grass cover on cloudy, cool days to find baitfish. Running live bait like minnows through the grass on a spinner rig or dropping one in on a jig can produce some large crappies in areas that many others anglers have passed by.

For those choosing artificial lures over live bait fishing for crappies, your arsenal should include a variety of small crankbaits in natural colors for fishing near sunken rocks and bridges. In addition, keep a collection of soft plastics (twister tails, tubes, etc.) in various colors and sizes (1-3 inches) for jigging structures in heavy cover. Vary speeds of retrieve and jigging as deep summer crappies can be slow to bite and changing speeds may be all is needed to trigger a reaction bite.

Bonus Crappie Fishing Technique for the Summer

Some anglers are either going to be live bait fishing or throwing artificial lures on any giving day on the water, but there is a benefit to fishing both. Crappies are highly sensitive to color, which means you can often trigger bites by using flashy colors and changing baits often. Having artificial lures with you gives you more options when various live bait choices like minnows and worms may not be producing. This is the only way how to catch crappies in the summer when schools are dense. They quickly catch on to the jig tipped minnow and throwing something different every few casts will let you stay on one school longer and catch bigger fish.

The easy times are over for crappie fishing, but you can still fill your frying pan trip after trip if you focus in on the above tactics when trying to figure out how to catch crappies in the summer. Live bait, a few artificial lures and good electronics are all needed when fishing for crappies in these next few months to consistently land slab after slab.



Live Bait Guide | Live Bait Selection by Fish Species

Live Bait Selection Guide for Various Species


Fishing with live bait is where it all starts. No fancy, expensive lures but only a worm or a minnow on a hook tied on the end of your rod. Almost every angler has used live bait in the past and still does today either when teaching kids to fish or going after a particular species of fish. Live bait selection is just as varied as fishing with artificial lures. To be successful, whether on the shore for panfish or downrigging for walleyes, you have to decide which bait is your best choice for the situation and the fish species you are targeting.


Catching Panfish with Live Bait


Panfish are some of the more common and easy to catch fish out there. They are found in nearly every lake, pond or stream across the country. With panfish, we are lumping in all species of sunfish, crappies, and perch. Besides making great table fare, panfish are the category of fish species where fishing with live bait makes the most sense.


When panfish are tight to banks of lakes and ponds, among all the different types of fish bait the best live bait selection is a worm. You want to choose a small worm such as either a red worm or trout worm so that the small mouths of these species can actually eat it. Hook the worm on a small single 8- to 10-size hook with the worm wrapped a few times through the hook so it stays put even after a few light bites. Add a small spilt shot about 12-inches above the hook so the worm sinks. Bobber or no bobber? It comes down to preference in most instances, but bobbers are great for kids or if you are fishing multiple lines at the same time. However, fishing without one gives you the ability to jig your worm or cast in tight cover.


If you are offshore fishing for panfish, like suspended crappies or schools of perch, your best fishing bait will be a small minnow. One option is to use a small painted jig head and hook the minnow through the mouth. This rig lets you work drop-offs over suspended fish and also allows you to cover ground until you find these fish. Another successful setup for fishing with minnows for crappies is one hooked in the back with a ½- to 1-ounce egg sinker attached about two feet up your line. Your minnow is free to move off the bottom and swim around areas where crappies may be hiding such as in submerged trees or shallow stumps.


Live Bait Selection for Targeting Bass


Bass, both smallmouths and largemouths, can be reliably caught using live bait techniques. For largemouths, there are several live bait options that work consistently better than the many types of artificial bait options. Instead of using plastic worms, replace them with large nightcrawlers. A nightcrawler hooked up on a drop-shot rig when fishing suspended bass on deep drop-offs is deadly. Nightcrawlers are also good live fishing bait for bass when targeting shallow spawning beds. Attach one to a jig head and slowly bounce it off the bottom to trigger reaction bites.


The best fishing bait for bass is minnows. Big shiners attract trophy caliber largemouths. Do not be afraid to go big either as bass will take minnows anywhere from 3- to 6-inches long. The bigger the minnow the bigger the bass in most cases. Depending on minnow size, use a 3/0 to 5/0 hook to rig a live minnow through the back if you are free-line fishing without a bobber over submerged grass flats or through the mouth for fishing with a small bobber near shore. It is important to keep your minnows alive as a dead minnow will seldom be taken by a bass.


Smallmouths love crayfish and if you can get your hands on some, you will crush them in big rivers. Have a hook as long as the average tail length and then hook them weedless by putting the hook through the end of the tail and up underneath the tail like you would rig a long plastic worm. The crayfish will crawl across the bottom naturally and you will stay snag free until a big smallmouth swims by and picks it up.


Live Bait Techniques for Trout Fishing


Fishing with live bait is one of the best ways to catch trout. For this fishing bait guide, the focus is on going after trout in streams. Fishing for trout in moving water, especially if you are wading, adds a whole new set of challenges beyond trying to catch fish. Wading, carrying live bait, pulling something squirmy out and rigging it up is all but impossible without a good live bait container. The first live bait technique for trout starts with a minnow. Thread one using a needle and a loop in your line through the mouth and out the back end with a split treble hook in size 14 or 16 to secure it. Cast it into moving water and slowly reel and jig as it comes in. This tactic works well in swift water in small creeks for rainbows and browns.


Without question, the worm is also a popular live bait selection for trout. The best technique for catching trout with worms is to hook one on a size 8 to 10 single hook with a part of the worm dangling off the shank. Add enough split shot to get it on the bottom and drift it naturally from upstream to downstream. Additionally, trout will take crickets and meal worms drifted in slower pools near the shore. Try floating these with no weight during the summer in streams that have a lot of pressure or in creeks that hold native trout.


Fishing with Live Bait for Walleyes


More and more walleye anglers are switching from one of the many types of artificial bait and coming back to live bait for catching walleyes. Reason? Because live bait is much more productive in various situations and conditions than artificial lures.


First, if you are trolling for walleyes, you want to ditch everything but the nightcrawlers. Get your depth and speed right then rig up a large nightcrawler to a spinner rig. Bottom bounce this setup for deep walleyes or add a snap weight to target suspended walleyes. The second best live bait selection for walleyes is the minnow. Similar to panfish, hook a small minnow on a painted jig head. Jig over deep structures and along the edges of grass. Lastly, leeches are effectively used as a trailer with artificial lures for walleyes. Bucktail jigs paired with a live leech are perfect for deep river walleyes around large rocks or shelving.


Live Bait Fishing


What fish likes what bait gets simplified when sticking with live bait. Live bait selection comes down to primary choices like worms and minnows and several other specialized choices such as crayfish, mealworms and leeches. Although by no means comprehensive, this live fishing bait guide should give you the basics when it comes to fishing for panfish, bass, trout and walleyes with live bait.

Live Bait Fishing | Keeping Minnows Alive Longer

Tips for Extending the Life of Minnows in Live Bait Containers


The benefits of using live bait are numerous but the most convincing fact is that fish, whether they be trout, crappies or bass, are used to eating natural forage. Fishing with live bait takes all the guesswork out of trying to mimic natural food in the water. Often the most prolific live bait to fish with is minnows or some other type of baitfish. Few anglers use minnows or baitfish because most live bait containers fall short when it comes to keeping them alive.


Minnows are used less and less by anglers for three simple reasons. First, it is becoming more difficult to find bait shops who carry minnows. Second, there is additional time required to keep them alive before and during your fishing trip and third most live bait storage containers are hard to use efficiently while fishing.



The last reason is one of the biggest drawbacks to using minnows. Transporting them with traditional live bait containers is ineffective and limits you when you are on the water. Most strap-on bait containers are clunky and are not designed for easy access to minnows, both of which leads to angler frustration and dead minnows.


4 Tips on Keeping Minnows Alive While Fishing


Alive minnows and baitfish are much more effective at catching fish. They provide more action by swimming naturally, which tricks a fish into thinking it is just another passing meal rather than a trap. Here are four tips on keeping minnows alive for your next fishing trip.



  1. Constantly replace the water. Fresh water is the most important tip when it comes to keeping baitfish alive for extended periods of time. Stale water is warm, poorly oxygenated and contains toxins, all of which will reduce the lifespan of your minnows. Replace the water in your live bait storage containers regularly like every hour while fishing or as needed depending on its coloration or temperature. Be careful when replacing water so as not to lose any minnows. Bait storage containers like the innovative ones from Bait Up make it simple to change water without having to worry about losing any minnows.


  1. Not all water is the same. Avoid tap water as much as possible when filling your live bait containers because it can have additives that can be toxic to baitfish. Use water from a local stream or lake and if neither are convenient for you to access then buy natural spring water.


  1. Know your maximum capacity. Overfilling bait storage containers limits the amount of space each minnow has available to survive. Crowded live bait containers mean less oxygen for each minnow and more toxins they are exposed too. An overfilled minnow bucket will have more dead than alive minnows once you reach your fishing destination. For long-term storage, limit your containers to no more than two layers of minnows. When fishing, minnows can be crowded in more than two layers if you plan to fish through them in a single day.


  1. Minimize stress. Stress on baitfish can be caused by poor quality water like mentioned above or it can be from trying to grab one unsuccessfully time and time again from a poorly designed bait container. Most live bait containers are designed for transport, think bucket style containers, but those are not so great when it comes to pulling out a minnow to put on your hook. A good live bait storage container will reduce the time spent trying to net or grab a minnow and keep them alive longer.


From Live Bait Containers to Hooks


Fishing with live bait, especially minnows is relatively easy if you hook them correctly. A properly hooked minnow will do all the work for you by swimming around naturally enticing whatever it is you are fishing for.


Now that you have some tips to keep your minnows alive, there are a few different ways to hook one so it stays alive long enough to catch a fish. One way is to hook the minnow through its lips. The minnow can swim freely with this rig, but it will eventually die from the reduced water intake with its mouth being hooked shut. Another way to hook a minnow is through its back just in front of the dorsal fin. If you do not hit the spine, a minnow rigged this way will stay alive longer than one rigged in the mouth. Finally, you can hook a minnow through the tail. Even fishing with live bait, there are times when you encounter finicky fish. Hooking baitfish through the tail will let them swim more naturally and help to get more bites when fish are reluctant to commit.


One of the best ways to start fishing with minnows is threading or sewing a minnow.

Check out this video on how to fish with a minnow, going over exactly how to thread a minnow:


Extending The Life of Your Baitfish


Sometimes you may be planning a fishing trip that lasts several days or you may have to buy or catch minnows well in advance of when you plan to fish with them. Bait shops have the luxury of large commercial live bait tanks that most anglers do not have available. In those cases, you will have to replicate that environment without all the fancy equipment to keep them alive for an extended period of time.



How to keep baitfish alive at home is more than a five-gallon bucket with clean water every day or day. If you are going to keep minnows for more than a day, you will need some type of bait aerator system, a cooler and access to clean untreated water. Fill a cooler approximately two-thirds of the way full with spring water or water from a local stream. Start up your battery powered bait aerator to oxygenate the water before putting in the minnows. Add your baitfish and change about two-thirds of the water each day to keep them alive. If you plan to store them for more than 3 days you should plan to feed them once a day with generic fish food flakes.  Once you are ready to fish, simply fill your Bait Up live bait container full and hit the water!


Live bait containers have a lot to do with how alive your minnows are when you go to reach for one for your hook. However, without effort on you part, you could be left with a few dozen dead, less attractive minnows when you hit the water. Use these tips on how to keep minnows alive to reel in more fish when you hit the water fishing with live bait.

Why Fishing with Live Bait Makes Sense

Choices Between Fishing with Live Bait or Lures This Season

Lure choice, one of the biggest and most challenging choices for anglers, is more complex than ever. There are aisles of fishing lures at sporting goods stores and anglers are toting overflowing tackle boxes with them on each fishing excursion. In reality, all these artificial lures are only trying to mimic live bait.

Live bait fishing has many advantages, first and foremost you are fishing with exactly what the fish are feeding on. Whether it is worms, insects or minnows, fish are used to consuming natural bait. Instead of trying to pick through tackle box after tackle box, all you need for fishing with live bait is a few hooks, some weights and a good live bait container.

Natural bait has received a bad rap over the last decade or so. Philosophically, live bait techniques for catching fish are thought of as reserved for younger and beginner anglers. In fact, many of us have landed some of our first fish ever using worms and minnows. Fishing with bait should not be thought of as a separate form of fishing, one left for those younger or less skilled, but rather it should be thought of as just a different approach to fishing, with its own benefits and challenges.

No One is Ignoring Artificial Lures

The choice to use live bait when an angler is heading out to the water is often an afterthought. Clearly, there is a push in fishing society to move towards artificial lures and for several good reasons.

fishing with live bait makes sense


First, technologies in fishing lure manufacturing and design have made them highly realistic in replicating just about any type of food fish are feeding on. From minnows to frogs, the variety of lures available provides seemingly unlimited options in your tackle box, which is a big advantage when finicky fish are not biting. An angler can simply change lures until one finds which lure is enticing bites. Second, unlike fishing with live bait, lures can be used repeatedly to catch fish. Bait fishing is almost always a one and done. Catching a fish on a minnow means to catch another fish you usually need to dig into the live bait storage container for another. Finally, many lures have enhanced features added to them such as attractant, rattles and action. All of which can aid in getting fish to bite when natural bait fails to catch a fish.

Live Bait Fishing is Rooted Among Us as Anglers

There is no coincidence most of us have started our fishing careers casting worms and fishing with minnows. Fishing with bait is a technique with its own benefits. For example, learning to fish with live bait teaches us what and how fish actually eat. An important concept that only improves how we evolve as anglers in terms of lure choice. Also, fishing with bait is somewhat rewarding. Being able to gather bait from the ground or the stream rather than buying it and ultimately catching a fish brings a sense of accomplishment more so than tying on a purchased lure.

Reasons to Fish with Live Bait

Fishing with live bait is extremely effective because you are presenting a fish with an option they are already used to eating. It is natural, from the smell to the texture, to what they actually eat day in and day out. Here are three reasons to fish with bait:

  • Bait is cheap or free. Natural bait, like the name suggests, can be obtained by yourself for free and doing so can be rewarding. If you have to buy bait, either at a bait store near you or buying live bait online, it can still be significantly less expensive than the $5-$10 dollar artificial lures on the store shelves.
  • You will catch something. Almost no fish will turn down live bait. In just about any waterway or for any species, natural bait will increase your chances of catching something.
  • Fewer lure choices. Fishing with lures can have you spending all day tying on lure after lure trying to figure out what the fish are biting on. With bait, you know fish like trout or panfish feed on other small fish so it is only a matter of time until you hook into a few when fishing with minnows.


When Fishing with Live Bait Excels

Live bait techniques are no different than other fishing techniques, there are no guarantees to catching fish. There are, however, times when live bait fishing can excel over artificial fishing lures.

  • Fishing at night. Species like trout and walleyes will consistently feed throughout the night and can be caught more frequently on natural bait after daylight hours.
  • Discolored Muddy and murky water forces fish to rely on their senses other than sight to find food. The natural scents and movements you put in the water when bait fishing will bring more bites in stained water.
  • Waters that are overfished. In areas that see high fishing pressure, another artificial lure is just noise to a fish. Fish may have been fooled before by spinnerbaits or plastic worms but overfished waters quickly go tight-lipped to many lures. The best fishing bait in these waters is live bait.

Why Not Fish Natural Bait All the Time?

Live bait fishing excels in a variety of conditions and for many reasons, so why not fish with it all the time? Because there are a few disadvantages to bait fishing. The first is supply. Fewer bait shops are around, with most of them giving way to large retailers that often do not carry bait like minnows. It can be hard to just buy bait. Second, fishing bait that is alive requires care. Worms need to be kept cold and minnows need to be in good live bait containers that keep them alive but allow you to access them. Not every angler wants to put out this effort each fishing trip. Lastly, certain areas do not allow fishing with live bait. Tournament fishing is usually limited to lures and also certain waterways are artificial lures only for various reasons.


It is not an either-or question when it comes to live bait or lures but rather which fishing technique makes sense for your situation. Lures will be advantageous in certain conditions but live bait will win out in others. The main point is live bait fishing should not be left to the kids, but instead kept as a fishing technique to catch more fish.

fishing with live bait makes sense

The Essentials of Keeping Live Bait Alive

Fishing With Live Bait | Tips on Keeping Live Bait Alive

Spring fishing season is officially here, and the dog days of summer are not far behind.  Many anglers are stowing away their parkas and ice shacks in exchange for lightweight windbreakers and sunglasses as they begin spending countless hours on the water in search of fish. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself a professional angler or just a weekend warrior, you likely understand how important factors like variety and presentation are when it comes to catching fish day in and day out.  This is why anglers, regardless of fishing saltwater or freshwater species have countless fishing lures and rigs set up and ready.  What is enticing to a fish right now may not be enticing tomorrow, neither ensuring that you have plenty of tackle and fishing lures at the ready is often what is necessary to ensure that you see some action during the course of the day.

As far as fishing lures go, most anglers likely cut their teeth by fishing with live bait.  Whether it was a night crawler, shad, or perhaps a crawdad or shrimp, fishing with live bait is an excellent way to introduce someone to the sport of fishing and not only that, fishing with live bait is a dynamite method for putting more fish in the live well!

The Live Bait Fishing Legacy

There are several reasons why fishing with live bait will always be an effective tactic regardless if you are a beginner or an expert.  For starters, it is easy!  Lure presentation doesn’t get any more effective than when you let the lure do the work, and that is exactly what you get when you fish with live bait.

Second, it is really hard to beat the real thing.  No lure can exactly mimic the smell, movement, color, and texture of the real thing. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many fishing lures you have in your tackle box, fishing can still be tough.  Often, all it takes is to make a switch to fishing with live bait and you can turn the slow trip into an action packed memory.

Finally, when it comes to fishing with live bait, when the timing is right the action can be second to none.  Simply put, if the fish are actively feeding on baitfish, crawfish or insects and you happen to have those at your disposal, you can’t help but catch fish!

keeping minnows alive

Keeping Live Bait Alive

While there is an amazing upside to fishing with live bait, there is a catch.  Simply put, when it comes to fishing with live bait, the fresher the bait the better the results.  No matter what type of live bait you are fishing with, there is a typically a little maintenance involved to ensure that your bait stays fresh and active for the long haul.  If you take care of your live bait, your live bait will certainly take care of you, and allow you to spend more time fishing and less time in the tackle shop. There are several factors that combine to determine live bait life.

Bait Up | How Long Does Bait Up Containers Keep Minnows Alive?


You would be hard pressed to find a variety of live bait where the temperature wasn’t a factor.  Understanding the needs and requirements of the bait you are using is a good first step, so do yourself a favor and do a little research.  You just might be surprised by what you learn!  All too often, if the temperature becomes a factor, it is almost always a result of your bait overheating.

keeping live bait alive

Simple tips like ensuring your bait is out of direct sunlight or monitoring the water temperature in the live bait container are all simple tips that can ensure that your live bait doesn’t overheat.  There typically exists a “sweet spot” where live bait will remain extremely active while waiting to be used, which maximizes the presentation.  You want to try you best to maintain that temperature and ensure your bait is working for you, to the best of its ability.


How would you act if you struggling for air?  Chances are you would be very stressed and sluggish, which is exactly the way your live bait will be acting if they find themselves in this predicament.  Ensuring that your bait has the proper aeration is not only critical in keeping your live bait fresh, it also ensures that your bait will actually remain alive! Also consider the amount of bait in the container. Stress is a big reason that bait will die before being used, so ensuring that they are relaxed and happy is important. The video above shows the general time frame you are looking at when using live bait such as minnows. With considering the bait, temperature, and number in the live bait container, be sure to stop for a quick change of water between casts.

Quality of Life

Regardless of your live bait choice, using live bait comes with a cost.  While the cost may be your time collecting the bait, or your hard earned dollars, the reality is that in order to really reap the benefits you need to maximize the lifespan of your bait.  In order to accomplish this, you need to make sure that you are addressing the previous two factors while at the same time simply taking the time to keep an eye on the overall health of your bait.  Be sure to change the water, often. Keeping the bait alive will keep your fishing alive!

keeping live bait aliveLive Bait Container Considerations

Instead of lugging an aerated bucket or container around, check out what we at Bait Up have to offer. The simple innovative design has taken live bait fishing to a whole new level, and has not only made it easier for the angler to monitor and maintain the quality of their live bait, but has made it easier to access the live bait as well.

Bait Up live bait containers are portable, and can easily be carried with you anywhere you go, making it easier to switch or replace your bait!  Say goodbye to the ole’ Styrofoam bucket, “cage”, or heavy bucket, as well as the days of dead bait, and improve your fishing experience!