Several years ago, I had the opportunity to handle a really big crappie. A local fisherman, a retired preacher in his 80s who spent almost every morning on the pier at a municipal lake, caught a 3-pound, 7-ounce slab that broke the lake record.

The fish was around 18 inches long, and fat as a Thanksgiving gobbler. But what struck me most about that crappie was the size of its mouth. There was little doubt in my mind that the slab could have easily swallowed a golf ball, and it wouldn’t have surprised me if he could get a goose egg back to the crushers in his throat and at least choke on a tennis ball.

That made me think about the size of baits we use for crappie, and what a couple of North Carolina slab hunters think about them.

“Have you ever looked at the mouth on a big crappie?” asked Maynard Edwards of Yadkin Lakes Guide Service in Lexington, N.C. “It’s not that small. It can swallow a pretty good-sized bait.

“Shoot, I’ve caught a lot of big crappie on crankbaits, and two of the biggest I’ve ever caught, close to 3 pounds, were when I was trolling 3-inch grubs for stripers at Badin Lake.”

Tom Sprouse, a crappie pro from Advance, N.C., said big baits mean big crappie.

“I’m a firm believer in big baits,” he said. “With big baits, you weed out little fish. I know a lot of crappie fishermen believe bigger fish are more aggressive to larger baits. 

“I know if you clean crappies, you’ll be surprised at the size of the shad that are inside them.

“I know they’re very aggressive; I’ve caught them with big shad tails sticking out of their mouths.”

Edwards upsizes from a 2-inch to a 3-inch soft-plastic grub and the larger, offset hooks that come on Slider jigheads.

“Most of the hooks you find on jigs are No. 6s,” he said. “I’ve gone to No. 2, and I use the Slider head. I think they’ll hold a big bait better.”

Sprouse goes with a bigger bait, often adding a live minnow.

“I’ll use a Kalin grub and tip it with a No. 6 minnow,” he said. “Most people by No. 4 minnows, because they can get more of them per pound, but you can buy No. 6s. 

“I’ll use a No. 2 hook; there are people I know who will use a No. 1. If fish are real aggressive, you can get away with a 3-inch grub, but I normally thick with a 2-inch grub and add a bigger minnow. The combination of the grub and minnow does it for me.”