Crappie don't vanish after the frenzy of the spring spawning season ends, but for some reason, most crappie anglers do. Too bad. The fish that were so easy to catch six months ago are still in your favorite lake. Even better, cool weather is drawing those crappie out of their deep-water haunts and back into the shallows. That said, now is the time for fall crappie fishing.
If you're new to the fall crappie fishing game or looking for a few additional tips, hopefully the following information will be just what your rod and reel were looking for.
Ten At Once
There's no better way to eliminate the wrong colors and depths than by spider-rigging for fall crappie. The tactic uses eight, ten or even 12 rods, all rigged with different colors and set at different depths. Spider-rigging can cover a span of 30 feet of water at once. B 'n M Rods public relations manager Kent Driscoll, no stranger to successful fall crappie fishing stated, "Once I start catching fish, I'll adjust all my baits and depths to the combination that is working," says Driscoll.
Driscoll also uses a Lowrance Gen 3 depth finder to search for such things as main creek channels, ledges, humps and other likely-looking spots within the body of water he is fishing. Once those areas are dialed in, he studies the depth finder screen in order to locate balls of bait.
"I stay in the upper half of the lake and if there is bait in the area, you can be pretty sure there will be crappie nearby," he says. Referring to the allusive crappie Driscoll notes, "They'll often hang near or in cover and ambush bait as it comes by." Locating natural bait is an important factor to remember when fall crappie fishing.
Wood Is Good
"Cover" means wood cover like deep brush in the early fall and shallower cover like docks, laydowns and other wood as the water cools. Any of it may hold fish at one time or another, but the best cover is near obvious structure like humps, creek channel intersections, ledges, sharp creek channel bends and sharp points.
Southern reservoirs don't often cool much until late fall, so Alabama guide Brad Whitehead probes the same spots he finds crappie during the heat of the summer.
This means using a depth finder to locate brush piles somewhere between 16 to 22 feet deep. And when fall crappie fishing, don't overlook cover, which can be in the form of brush, on ledges, humps and points in large creek arms.
Small baitfish have had an entire summer to grow. So have the crappie that feed on them. That's why Whitehead and Driscoll use larger baits when crappie fishing in the fall.
"I use a 2 3/8-inch body on a quarter-ounce jig head," says Whitehead. "I catch plenty of smaller crappie on that bigger lure, but I also catch lots of big fish, too."
Change It Up
Bait not working? Change them. Few fish are as choosy about their lures as crappie. What works one day or in one lake may not work today or in your favorite lake. That's why when fall crappie fishing, experts stock their boats with lures in dozens of colors and sizes.
"Water color can make a huge difference in lure color selection," says Whitehead. "I'll change pretty quick if I'm not getting any bites." Remember, colors doesn't just refer to the leaves when referring to fall crappie.
Live Bait Can't Be Beat
Minnows can be a hassle, but they work when nothing else will. That's why Driscoll almost always tips his jigs with a live shiner. "This time of year, I'll use mediums or even larges because the baitfish are bigger," he says. "Adding a minnow never hurts."
Kent Driscoll says fall crappie respond to cooling water and will follow many of the same patterns in the fall as they do in the spring.
"It's basically a reverse migration," he says. "They'll start out in deeper water, but as the water cools, they move into creeks and eventually end up in many of the same places we find them in the spring."
Once you find the right combination of depth, color and presentation, don't continue to fish a spot if you don't get a bite after a few minutes. The fish probably aren't there.
"Keep moving until you find fish," says Whitehead. "Sometimes, there aren't any crappie in an entire area, so try somewhere completely different if you aren't catching fish."
Come Back Later
If a spot that surrendered a few fish goes cold, don't keep fishing it. There's a good chance the crappie that remain on a shoreline or brush pile are spooked and won't bite. They may settle down and start biting again after an hour or so.
If you are ever visiting or fishing in Alabama, and want great fall crappie fishing success, contact Brad Whitehead. He fishes Lake Wilson, Pickwick, Wheeler & Bear Creek for fall crappie.
Fall Crappie Fishing Guide:
Muscle Shoals, Alabama