They’re familiar. Second-nature, perhaps. A utilitarian element that’s just always there.

But, while jigheads might be far from fancy, they’re also far from inconsequential.

It’s not the hardest decision crappie fishermen face, but picking the right jighead definitely merits consideration.

The ball-head jig sees the most action, and for good reason.

Designed to fall straight, troll well and even cast nicely, it’s the shortstop of crappie fishing.

Toledo Bend Guide Jerry Thompson often fishes his ball-heads under a strike indicator (aka cork) over brush piles in the spring, as well as bridges in the late summer/fall period when crappie start staging in their autumn feeding areas. 

“You cast toward the pilings and you wind up fishing it vertically,” Thompson explained. “When the fall migration starts, one of the better ways to use a ball-head is to troll with a 1/8-ounce jig in 15 feet of water.”

Also productive in Louisiana waters are horsehead underspins like Blakemore’s Roadrunner family.

Thompson likes this style for spring fish staging outside their spawning areas, but these flashy attention-getters also get the job done when those fall crappie hug the bridges.

These attention-getters are also effective at stimulating lethargic fish during the depths of summer and winter. Often, you just need to trigger one crappie to bite and then the inherent feeding competition of schooling fish kicks in with more interest.

Whether underspins actually stimulate appetites or simply annoy lazy fish into a kill response — well, who cares? You get one crappie to bite and you’ll likely get several more to follow.

Complement these two crappie stalwarts with a few diversifying options: 

• Swimming head — Angled for less resistance, this option escorts paddletails like the Big Bite Baits Swimming Crappie Minnr for single-bait casting, or they can be grouped by threes on smaller umbrella rigs.

• Slider head — This one is great for long casts to brush piles, stumps, timber, grass lines or anywhere crappie seek cover. The head design creates an erratic fall like that of a wounded baitfish, so you’ll need little rod work to create a tempting display.

• Weedless — If brush piles or grass jigging leaves you hanging up too frequently, try something with a brush guard like the Eagle Claw Weedless Crappie Jig.

• Noisemakers — Jigheads designed with sound chambers (for example, the Rockport Rattler Panfish Rattling Jig) earn their keep in off-colored water, low light or those extreme-temperature months when crappie require a little extra nudge.

• Triple Threat — A specialized jighead from Rockport Rattler — the Outlaw Max — sports three hooks for optimal grabbing potential. Big, aggressive crappie have been known to actually knock the jig out of hooking position, but this trio of points is all about grabbing lip.

Size matters

For trolling and tight lining, Thompson prefers a 1/8-ounce jig, but around bridges he typically uses 1/16-ounce ball heads — in accented form: When working those pilings without a cork, Thompson crimps a 3/0 split shot to his line about 10 inches above a jig dressed with a tube or a shad like body.

Not only does this aid his casting on windy days, but it also mimics a predatory relationship likely to trigger something with an even bigger appetite.

“I like that in most of my applications, because it seems to look like the jig is chasing something,” Thompson said. “We tend to do a little better with that split shot in front of the jig.”

Thompson downsizes to a 1/16- to 1/32-ounce ballhead for jigging shallow water of 2 feet or less, or when he’s fishing close to docks and other structure.

The key here, he said, is balancing a light presentation with efficiency

“I like to fish a little faster, and a 1/32-ounce jig can be a little harder to fish, especially if you have some wind,” Thompson said.

On the other hand, dock-shooting innovator Wally “Mr. Crappie” Marshall goes right to the small stuff when he’s firing his offerings under the planks and platforms.

His 1/32-ounce Strike King Mr. Crappie Jig with a Shad Pole body skips better and allows for a longer presentation.

“You want that jig to skip up under that dock and have a slow fall through the water,” Marshall said. “Crappie are usually looking up, and if the jig falls past them too fast, they won’t see it.”