Bait for nocturnal crappie fishing seems to be one area where fishermen actually agree — a rarity in the sport. The vast majority use and trust live minnows for the best results. 

Veteran angler O.T. Phonephet said jigs will certainly produce, but he believes the key at night is a live, wiggling bait.

“Minnows are ideal because they mimic what the crappie sees when attracted to the lights,” he said. “Forage is attracted to the light to feed, and crappie feed on minnows. I prefer shiner minnows, but that’s just a personal preference. For night-fishing during summer, I want a medium-sized minnow; even large minnows work well.

“It’s like a buffet of crappie food when we put out all our lines. We present the bait in such as way that the fish have depth choices and find it easy to take the bait.”

“But minnow management is a key, too, and it’s crucial during the summer when the water and weather is warm. Keeping minnows fresh and frisky directly impacts succes,s so I use a large aeration system to keep the bait fresh.”

Phonephet said a 30-gallon, live-bait tank with a filtration and aeration system is ideal for keeping bait alive and healthy, but a smaller system can work fine.

“We fish a lot of rigs, and if we have three or four people on the pontoon, we may be fishing as many as 25 rods at a time,” he said. “It can take over two-dozen minnows for one bait setup, so I prepare for success and get at least a pound of minnows. This equates to 20 dozen or more, depending on size. I need a good bait system to keep this investment alive and well.”

Phonephet said that he use minnow buckets and places one at each fishing station, enabling anglers to keep fresh bait handy. As the supply gets low, he refills buckets from the bait tank. Also, if anglers limit out or are ready to leave, the big tank makes it easy to keep them minnows alive until the next evening.