While minnows make be the best live bait for crappie year-around, there are times when jigs are equal, or even better for the task at hand.
I divide jigs into 4 categories.
1. Jigs with real feathers or bucktail.
2. Jigs with plastic bodies on the hook.
3. Jigs that insert into plastic bodies
4. Horse-Head jigs with spinners
The first category is the simple, long-lived and incredibly successful Marabou jig. More crappie have been caught on this jig than all the others put together. It is simply a colored ball-headed jig with a corresponding color of marabou, or sometimes bucktail, and chenille tied to the collar. The usual sizes are 1/16 and 1/32 oz. This is the stereotypical crappie jig. It can be fished at any depth, singly or in tandem, or under a bobber. It has produced crappie when absolutely nothing else works. They are cheap to buy, or easy to make yourself. No crappie fisherman should ever be without a selection of these in white, yellow and chartreuse.
Next are the standard jig heads, either ball or bullet head, with a plastic curly-tail, minnow body or similar shape body impaled on the hook and around the collar. These are very handy because they allow you to change bodies quickly without removing the jig-head from your line. This allows you to switch colors rapidly until you find the right combination. Like the marabou jig, they can be fished at any depth, singly or in tandem, or below a bobber. The most famous of this type of jig is probably the Sassy Shad, and Sassy Grub. Again, the best colors are white, yellow and chartreuse.
About 30 years ago, a new type of jig hit the market. It was revolutionary in that the entire jig-head fit inside the jig, giving a life-like look and feel to it. It has almost replaced the marabou jig as the industry standard for crappie. They are extremely successful, especially with moody, suspending fish! Like the marabou jig, it can be fished at any depth, singly or tandem, or under a float. They come in every color combination imaginable, and in every usable size to catch just about everything that swims in fresh or salt water. For crappie, you'll want to stick to the 1-1/2 to 2" sizes. Any combination that has the colors yellow, white or chartreuse in it will work. The most popular brand of these is called the Gitz-It. Every crappie angler needs a selection of these in the appropriate sizes and colors.
Lastly are the Horse-Head type jigs. These have a bent-down nose, giving them the horse-head appearance. This imparts a slight wiggling action to the jig that some feel enhances its fish catching ability. They have a body of chenille and marabou, or use plastic bodies, much as other jigs do. It is a bit heavier than the other jigs, so they are a good choice when crappie are deep. They sometimes have a small spinner added to them to provide more action and flash. They are usually fished singly, and retrieved like a crank-bait, only slower. They are not a good choice for suspended or moody crappie.