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One-Thump Fishing for Fall Crappie

Skill and strategy in a single-pole approach to can fill your stringer this time of year.

One-Thump Fishing for Fall Crappie

Photo by John Felsher

Today, many crappie anglers hang multiple poles off holders on both ends of their boats to cover wide swaths of water with numerous baits fished simultaneously.

Undoubtedly, spider rigging and long-line trolling can cover more territory and put fish in a boat quickly, but they can’t easily get into constricted areas. Crappie typically seek thick cover such as logs, stumps or weeds where they can snatch prey. With a single pole rather than an array of them, anglers can more efficiently probe the tightest cover.

“With a single pole, we can work a bait through really thick stuff all the way down into cover much better than with spider rigging,” said Gerald Overstreet Jr., a professional crappie angler and guide at Overstreet’s Guide Service from Gainestown, Ala. “We can also pull out hooked fish easier.”

As water temperatures drop, crappie move into tributaries to hunt shad and fatten up for the winter. These old creek channels generally create a shelf along each side that drops off suddenly into deep water. Those drops usually mark the original creek shorelines before the reservoir flooded. Some people call that “the bank of the channel.”

Sometimes, old stumps, branches, fallen trees or other cover sits either on top of the shelf or at the bottom of the drop.

“In the fall, shad are usually plentiful in the sloughs and feeder creeks and crappie are gorging themselves,” advised Steve Danna, a professional crappie angler from Farmerville, La. “I look for sloughs or feeder creeks with 10 to 17 feet of water and abundant shad.”

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In the fall, channel bank drop-offs make excellent places to look for crappie. With electronics, follow the drop-off edge. Also look for secondary cover such as a brush pile, fallen tree, stake bed or other places that could hold fish.

“My favorite way to fish structure is with a single pole,” commented Danna, who designed his own pole, a B’n’M Tree Thumper, just for this type of fishing. “I love feeling that thump. I’ve won many tournaments by single-poling.”

Danna holds a pole in each hand and moves forward very slowly, hitting every piece of cover in these feeder creeks. He tips his line with a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce jighead holding a 2- to 2 1/2-inch soft plastic bait and adds a Crappie Nibble. He fishes 6-pound-test high-visibility line and watches the line to detect even the slightest movement that could indicate a subtle strike.

Shooting jigs under docks close to deep water can be an extremely effective way of boating a limit of crappie in the fall. (Photo by John Felsher)

“When I’m single-poling, I fish the jig straight up and down,” Danna explained. “I keep the line vertical while just barely moving my boat. I don’t move the jig at all. I do not believe in jerking a jig up and down. In a strong wind, I peg a 1/4-ounce slip sinker about 6 to 8 inches above the jighead with a No. 4 or 7 split-shot to keep the jig vertical.”

Other anglers prefer to cast jigs with light spinning rods. Toss baits to likely cover, such as a fallen tree, and slowly retrieve the jig toward the drop-off. At the drop, let the bait sink into deeper water next to the edge.


“Casting for crappie is my favorite kind of fishing,” remarked Rollin McFarland, an angler from Russell Springs, Ky. “It’s very challenging. Anglers need to be able to feel the brush and distinguish between pulling up on a limb or an actual bite or they’ll stay hung up. Frequently, when someone pops a jig over a limb, a crappie hits it on the fall.”

In lakes or rivers with docks, anglers can fish every nook and cranny by “shooting jigs.” Grab a 1/64- to 1/8-ounce jighead tipped with a plastic by the head. Bend the tip of a light, flexible spinning rod like shooting a bow or slingshot. Line up on a good spot, such as an opening between a boat and a dock or between a dock and the water surface.

Release the bait. When released, rods unbend, propelling tiny lures forward.

Skilled dock shooters can hurl small baits way under cover with remarkable accuracy, enabling the angler to reach places that others cannot attempt to fish. After launching a bait into a sweet spot, let it sink a few seconds. Big crappie often hit sinking jigs. Experiment with various retrieves.

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“October is one of the best months for shooting docks,” Danna detailed. “I look for docks sitting in at least 5 to 8 feet of water with the sun hitting them so they create a lot of shade under them. Sometimes, we might catch 15 to 20 fish off one dock.”

When temperatures turn chilly, anglers might need to try different methods to catch crappie. However, if you figure out the right combination of bait and technique in a good spot, you could enjoy some of the best fishing all year.

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