Face it: Crappie can be very finicky feeders when you’re using artificial lures.
Better known as sac-a-lait where I’m from, or white perch by the folks in North Louisiana, I grew up fishing for them almost exclusively with an 11-foot jigging pole in my hands.
Now, no matter what type of rod and reel I use, my artificial lures will almost always be tipped with an enticer like Berkley’s PowerBait Crappie Nibbles.
Usually during the first or last hour of daylight, crappie will hit just about any minnow-looking lure with no extra attractant needed. But for the rest of the day, many times a plastic tube or feather jig won’t even get a second glance without the addition of a nibble.
A real grass shrimp works best for tipping a hook, but fresh grass shrimp aren’t always easy come by, whereas crappie nibbles are cheap and readily available in the tackle box.
These nibbles work great for perch, bass and catfish, too. They have scent and flavor combined with bright colors to help attract fish. In my opinion, other common jig enticers like a plain kernel of corn just don’t work as well as a crappie nibble.
If you think nibbles don’t work, just test them out: Fish with a normal crappie nibble on your tube jig when the fish are difficult to catch. When a fish bites but isn’t hooked, your crappie nibble will usually get stolen. Re-throw for that same fish, and many times your plain lure will be ignored. For the third cast, put on another crappie nibble, and nine times out of 10 that panfish will bite back instantly.
The biggest problem with nibbles is they fall off the hook just from casting, or even on the faintest bite.
But here’s the solution: make your nibbles tough by drying them out.
I discovered this trick long ago after accidentally leaving my nibbles out of the jar, where they dried in the sun. These “jerky-fied" nibbles are still favored by the fish, but they just don’t fall off the hook.
My largest-ever white crappie was caught near a dock on a Beetle-Spin tipped with a dried nibble where I had fished for almost an hour. I had tried several different lures after pulling out lots of smaller crappie, but my first cast with a larger spinner tipped with a yellow nibble produced a huge bite.
The fish got wrapped around one of the dock’s pilings and I thought for sure I was going to lose what I first suspected was a large bass. Instead, after magically coming free from the dock, I was face-to-face with a 15-inch sac-a-lait that weighed 2 1/2 pounds.
The only hassle with this tactic is drying your nibbles in the sun all day before fishing. On a low-humidity, sunny day it takes practically from dawn to dusk before the nibbles are perfect for fishing. With any clouds or maybe a rain storm, the batch will take days - or could even be ruined.
That’s why I invented the food dehydrator process. With a simple 1- to 2-hour session at 125 degrees, the dried-out nibbles become tougher than the jig you’re fishing with now. In fact, I can usually catch several fish on one dried nibble.
One tray in my dehydrator can dry out more than a dozen jars of nibbles, and within a couple hours my tackle box can be stocked for the whole year.
After showing my friend the trick, he couldn’t believe how the nibble stayed on the hook after constantly getting pulled through submerged moss and scum. Even after violently slapping the lure to the water’s surface to get scum off, the nibble remained.
Using your microwave can speed up the process, but I find the nibbles can get overcooked quickly, and become hard as a rock and unusable. (Plus, after cranking up the microwave, my wife wasn't happy with the smell of burnt fish bait coming from the kitchen.)
Usually, I use yellow crappie nibbles, but I have caught on white, chartreuse and pink ones, too. I also started using the glow versions of the nibbles which are more visible to fish in stained water.
I have even caught on the glitter-style nibbles that are offered in silver, gold, chartreuse and red. After the drying process, I find the glitter stays on the dried nibbles much longer than the undried ones.
Berkley Gulp also makes a larger form of corn-sized nibbles in white and yellow. The glow, glitter and larger Gulp corn nibbles work great for catching saltwater fish, too. Trout under the lights and species like sheepshead, flounder, kingfish and spadefish will tear up these nibbles when bait shrimp isn’t available.
The major benefit of the dehydration technique - besides catching more fish - is additional dollars in your pocket. A bottle of dehydrated crappie nibbles will last many times longer than a bottle of unaltered ones - that usually means about 20 times more fish from that same $4 jar.
So spice up your lure with a dehydrated crappie nibble to entice that picky panfish to guzzle down the bait.