The next best thing to live bait is the very best fake bait. For spring fishing, when most lake water at depth is still cool to cold, live bait is hard to beat for realistic look and action. A silver minnow is just about as good as it gets. Little wonder why crappie go after them with such energy.

However, when live bait is not available, or for a variety of other reasons anglers want to try a different attack, the everyday plain ol' commonplace jig is the best choice. For crappie, bream and other small panfish, the jig is the perennial favorite for one simple reason: It works.


Jig attraction

The jig probably got its name from the type of action a fishing pole was designed to impart to the artificial lure. The ever-so-light rod tip flipping up-and-down to make the bait dance the "jig" was likely the idea behind this one-of-a-kind crappie lure.

The jig attracts fish because of the rapid up-and-down motion sent from the rod holder down to the tip and through the fishing line to its connection to the lure. This jigging action must look awful real to fish, because when they are hungry and biting, crappie in particular go after this bait with a vengeance. One assumes they mistake the jig for a live baitfish of some kind.

"The big factor in the success of the jig as a fishing lure is the many options in weight, size and color that can be found for anglers to choose from," said Eddie Slater of Slater's Jigs of Indianola. "The variety of these babies is virtually endless.

"The jighead comes in numerous colors including white, red, black, yellow, green, pink, blue, silver, lime, purple, brown and others. The color options for jig skirts and collar wraps are expansive as well. In total we offer 130 different styles of crappie jigs and 40 styles of our original jig."

It would take a mathematician to calculate all the color combinations that could be assembled.

"The fishing versatility of the crappie jig is also the reason this lure is so productive," Slater said. "Our jigs come in four standard hook sizes and weights including the No. 2 1/8-ounce, No. 4 1/16-ounce, No. 6 1/32-ounce and the No. 8 1/64-ounce jig.

"This range of hook size and weight gives the panfishing angler maximum options for different fishing conditions and fishing structure."

All of these factors add up to making the simple jig a first choice for crappie and bream fishing.


Angler choice and function

"When I'm fishing the lake behind our house in Vicksburg, I like to use jigs up tight into fish structure like downed trees or submerged Christmas trees," explained Ben Harper. "I usually choose the brightest jig I have, because I have always thought the brighter colors like silver, pink, yellow or lime would be the first thing crappie or bream might see. I like white tails for the same reason.

"Early in the season, when the water is colder, it also is typically a lot clearer than later into late spring or in particular summer, or after a heavy rain falls to muddy up the water. The lighter-colored jigs make a flash in the water as you work them. Visibility and the jigging action is what gets a big slab crappie's attention."

Harper also likes jigs because they're so simple to use.

"As I ease around the lake, I slip in close to cover and hold up against the bank or anchor," he said. "Then I can reach out with a long pole and drop a jig right down in between downed branches and limbs.

"The lake in these spots is not 10 feet deep, which is perfect for the kind of jig fishing I like to do.

"The real trick to effective jig fishing is in the rod-tip action. It is more important to have a long, limber rod as opposed to a stiff one. At least the last foot end of the rod and tip needs to be highly pliable. I like a crappie rod in the 12-foot range, which seems to make the best compromise in its use overall."