When most people think of crappie fishing tactics, they think of small jigs and plastics either fished spider style or jigged on a single rod. Another technique that allows you to cover much more water is trolling crank baits on small inline planer boards. Offshore Tackle has been making reversible sided planer boards to the small boat angler for quite some time and even has a large presence on the major crappie tournament trails.
There are many styles of crank baits that will work for crappie but the most prevalent is a minnow imitator such as small stick baits in the 3" length. these can be pinned following a single split shot up the line or even on a snap weight depending upon the depth that is needed to be achieved.
Another minnow imitator that is popular are smaller sized Shad-Rap style baits. These allow a depth to be achieved without adding anything further to the line and makes the process easier if the fish will eat that style of bait on any given day.
Perhaps the most surprising crank bait that is effective on crappie is the smaller sized square bills. these can be minnow patterns, craw patterns, or just plain custom "hot" colors as attractors for reaction bites. These hot colors can also mimic the minnow or craw patterns and can often be trolled a little quicker due to the triggering effect they have on the more aggressive fish. A personal favorite of mine is a very bright chartreuse or orange and black craw pattern in about 3 differing sizes of small square bills. These baits can be dug right into sand and rock and even ripped through the tops of weeds with great success. Check our Lou's Lures for some great examples of these baits.
The next time you see a bunch of boats anchored for crappie and other panfish, try dropping your electric motor and trolling some inline boards with cranks following behind. You will be surprised at the results and will often find new spots to anchor on yourself on days when the fish are much too inactive to trigger with other means.
Good luck to all and stay safe.