When crappie favor minnows, either on bare hooks or jigs, keeping your live baits alive is of paramount importance. Live wells will do the trick, but when they are situated at the stern fishermen kill a lot of time walking back and forth for reach replacements.
Keeping a dozen or so minnows at your feet in a small bait bucket is the simplest option, but the moment you transfer them from the oxygenated environment to that of a standing bait bucket, the clock starts ticking on their survival.
Ranger’s new aluminum boat series includes a crappie model featuring an elongated livewell on the forward deck. Transferring a supply of minnows here keeps the bait at close reach, right behind the pedestal seats.
Lacking such design features, experienced crappie anglers like Whitey Outlaw keep their minnows in a cooler rigged with oxygen infusion systems. Outlaw buys his 20- or 40-pound O2 tanks at welding shops.
“This seems to keep the water cooler and minnows more active,” he said. “We use a high pressure regulator on it and a high pressure stone. The stone makes small bubbles because the smaller the bubble, the better the oxygenation of the water.”
Outlaw’s fellow tournament competitor Matt Morgan stresses the importance of careful bait maintenance. For him and partner Kent Watson, selecting a high-quality 50-quart cooler and a dependable oxygen system was an investment in their fishing consistency.
“Years ago, we use to use a standard cooler with 12-volt air pumps that would keep a small amount of bait alive for no more than 48 hours,” Morgan said. “Now, we can regulate the temperature of the water much better (we like to keep it between 55 and 60 degrees). Filling the cooler with as much water as it will hold prevents sloshing as we’re driving going down the road or on the water and this minimizes bait stress because they’re not banging into one another.”
Pure oxygen adds to their success.
“When we switched over to using pure O2 it was a tremendous advantage to see how the bait was so much livelier,” Morgan said. “During a normal day of fishing it is not uncommon to see the bait literally jumping out of the cooler! This was never the case when using air pumps.”