Crappie anglers have a variety of lure styles from which to choose in their quest for winter slabs. Common picks include various horizontal hangers, which are perfect for tipping with waxworms or plastics, and vertical teardrop styles that work so well with a variety of lively minnows. But few crappie hunters consider spoons their go-to lures, especially under tough-bite conditions. That’s a shame, because these metal masterpieces work wonders throughout the hardwater season.

One of my first epiphanies on spoonfeeding crappies came more than a decade ago, on a bitterly cold winter morning in southern Wisconsin during an Ice Team panfish tournament. An Arctic blast had dropped air temperatures past 20 below, and barometric gyrations or other unseen factors had the fish in a funk. Virtually all the competitors were wielding various finesse presentations including dainty dropper flies and other featherweight options. But one team boldly jigged beefy spoons—tipped with minnow heads, no less.

I watched incredulously as one of the men bit a large crappie minnow in half (not a recommended method of dissection), threaded it on a treble tine head-down, and dropped the spoon into the hole. Before I could say, “You’ll never catch anything on that,” he set the hook and hauled in a decent-size crappie: Proof positive in the power of a good spoon dance, even when times are tough.

A full spectrum of proven winter spoons ranging from stealthy to overt.

In winters since, I’ve experimented on lakes across the Ice Belt with various spoon sizes and finishes, as well as tipping configurations, and found many situations where spoons shine. One of my favorite clear-water setups is a 1/16- to 1/8-ounce spoon with either a baitfish paintjob or metallic finish (gold, silver or brass). Lindy’s Techni-Glo Frostee Jigging Spoon—which has paint on one side, metal on the other—is the best of both worlds. The glow is also a big plus in low-light conditions and at night.

Rattles can be a factor, too. I’ve had great success with small rattle spoons, particularly in low-light and low-vis conditions. They also work in clear water, where I can’t be certain whether the extra bulk on the spoon profile or vibrations from rattle is the real trigger. Regardless, rattles catch fish, so it pays to have noisemakers like the Rattl’n Flyer Spoon on hand. Besides vertical dancing, that particular flying-style spoon glides off to the side on freefall, so you can cover a wider swathe of water—even inch it across bottom if desired.

Tipping methods for rattling and silent spoons are similar. I favor the down-looking head of a medium-size crappie minnow, pinched (not bitten) just behind the gills so a bit of innards dangle appealingly. Other times a trio of waxworms—one on each tine—are just as good or better, with the bonus of bull bluegills always a possibility. Other treatments, including whole minnows and various softbaits, also have merit. Experiment with jigstrokes. If crappies rush up to the spoon as it flutters toward bottom on the initial drop, it’s hard to make a mistake. I often pause the spoon above the fish and jiggle it with side-to-side rodtip twitches. Slow risers and sniffers often fall for 3- to 6-inch lifts and flutters, with a jiggle mixed in here and there for good measure.

A frostee and a tail hooked fathead minnow is one of the top producing combinations of all time.

It’s worth noting that spoons trigger strikes in tough bites as well. I often go hole-to-hole plucking the most active fish before moving on. And even when hunkered down in a house with a spring bobber setup on one line, a spoon on the other serves as a great attractor. Just another use for the overlooked jigging spoon in the quest to ice more crappies.