I remember as a boy listening to the Grand Ole Opry while fishing for crappie at night under a Coleman lantern. The fishing was fast and furious and we would catch a hundred or so each in a few hours. It was fun fishing and it felt like we had the lake to ourselves. The trick to successfully fishing for crappie at night is locating the baitfish. Today we have complex electronics to help find those baitfish quick and set up for a great night of fishing for crappie.
Lights: There are many lights on the market for night fishing for crappie and they all work. Some sink into the water column and you fish your minnow or jig above the light. The floating light is very popular and seems to be the light used most today. My grandfather swore by the Coleman lantern and refused to use those floating headlights for his night crappie fishing. He said, and of course like most things your grandfather told you it seemed logical, that the Coleman lantern was better because it burned the bugs that landed on it and they dropped into the water attracting baitfish which attracted crappie. Makes sense huh. Well I guess I fall into the new generation and I use the floating headlight and still catch crappie, but I tend to agree that the lantern might be better in attracting baitfish from a longer distance, which is great for those without electronics. There is a great lantern hanger on the market for hanging the lantern over the side of the boat and you don't have to worry about the battery going bad on your boat. We used to attach aluminum foil to the back of the lantern to keep it from blinding us which helped us see our line and those sometimes subtle bites. You be the judge as to the light you prefer, but I can say the sinking lights and the floating lights are much more convenient and you will never have to worry about spilling fuel in your boat. It's a good idea to rig a separate battery for the crappie lights or use your trolling motor battery and be sure to disconnect one of the batteries if you have a 24 volt trolling motor to save your fishing light.
Bait: In the old days minnows were the bait of choice, but again out of pure convenience the jig or grub gets the nod these days and really seems to catch just as many crappie as the minnow if not more. The exception is during the colder months when the bites are so subtle you might need the taste and texture of the minnow to entice the crappie to take it all in. It is amazing how many different crappie jigs and grubs are on the market today and every angler has their own favorite. I like the old school marabou jigs because they work and a quality jig will stay together the entire night. Grubs are great and I use them a lot especially when the crappie refuse to take the marabou jig. This is usually due to the wrong color and you can find every color imaginable in a plastic grub and sometimes the right color is the only thing you need to spark a crappie feeding frenzy.
Tackle: Crappie fishing at night doesn't take high dollar tackle. All you need is a light action rod and the reel of your choice. 4 to 6 pound test line is perfect for crappie fishing at night. The light line not only makes it harder for crappie to see your line, but it allows for the greatest sensitivity which is important when the crappie are biting lightly. I have had one rig with 10 pound test and another with 4 pound test side by side when night fishing for crappie. The rod with the 10 pound line hardly caught a fish while the one with 4 pound test did very well. Many people want to argue that crappie can't really see your line. I believe they can, but smaller diameter line out performs larger line for other reasons than visual. The lighter line allows more action in your bait. This is whether you are using a crappie minnow or a jig. The smaller diameter allows the bait to move easier and more naturally, enticing more strikes. Smaller line also transmits light strikes to your rod tip so that you can see them. The larger line might be getting as many strikes, but you never know it because the heavier line is absorbing the strike. I have seen strikes from finicky crappie that don't even kill the minnow. They will take the crappie minnow or jig in and won't move and with light line and a light rod you can detect these bites and set the hook before the crappie decides that something is wrong.
Locating: Crappie fishing at night takes a little planning on the crappie anglers part to be successful. Crappie will be in the same place at night as during daylight hours. The crappie might move around some searching for baitfish. The light should attract the baitfish and the crappie will follow. Look for nighttime crappie to be on deep points and sharp drops where summertime baitfish congregate. While puling crappie into your spot is possible with a light, setting up for your nighttime crappie fishing near known schools of crappie will only increase your chances of a successful night crappie fishing trip.