Tim Blackley Goes Under Cover For Fall Crappie
Phillip Gentry
While Tim Blackley of Hornbeak, Tennessee might be a high profile individual, he fishes under cover to catch crappie during the fall.
After coming off their summer patterns, fall crappie key in on baitfish, but often remain extremely tight to both underwater and surface cover.
Tim Blackley and his fishing partner Jackie Van Cleave prefer to tight line for fall crappie using B’n’M’s Pro Staff Trolling rods.
One trick for fishing heavy underwater cover is to place several rods in rod holders while jigging heavier cover with another hand-held rod.

Question: Tim, you fish several lakes throughout the Mid-South both for fun and while fishing tournaments. What does it take to catch crappie this time of year?

Blackley: Over the last 60 days I have fished here at home on Reelfoot, further north on Kentucky Lake and several of the north and central Alabama lakes and crappie on all of these lakes are doing just about the same thing. They have come off their summer pattern, moved out of the deep water and are feeding up pretty hard getting ready for colder weather. About all of the crappie we’ve caught were keying on baitfish, but to consistently catch fish, we’ve had to be right in some type of cover.


Question: Generally speaking, what water depths are you catching crappie in now?

Blackley: Well, Reelfoot tends to be unique because it is so shallow, but on Kentucky Lake and most of the others, we’ll pull up to brush that’s in the 10 – 14 foot depth range. Our water temperatures are in the upper 60’s, so the fish are moving shallower with the cooler nights. That movement will continue for several more weeks until the water cools off to around 60 degrees. By then, they’ll turn around and head back to deeper water for the winter.


Question: What’s your go-to tactic for fishing under cover in the fall?

Blackley: We’ll definitely be tight lining, using double hook minnow rigs, the Capps and Coleman rig that B’n’M now offers. However, unlike the spring when we’ll move along some type of channel break and might troll at a faster clip, we’re just jumping from spot to spot. Because crappie are so tight to cover, once we locate structure -  brush tops, standing timber, or any type of heavy cover we can find in that 10 – 14 foot depth range,  we don’t move around much.


Question: What baits are you using and what tackle works best for this type of heavy cover fishing?


Blackley: Bigger baits seem to work better. That means we might be using medium minnows on a straight Eagle Claw 214 light wire hook but we also thread a Strike King tube skirt straight on the hook and then tip that with the minnow. That allows the bait a little more freedom of movement over using a standard jighead.


We use a ½ ounce weight on the double rigs for fishng deeper water. I prefer a little stiffer rod for this type of fishing so we all our rods are 14 foot B’n’M Pro Staff Trolling rods. This rod will also help get you out of trouble because fishing that close to heavy cover, you’ll get hung up a lot. The double rigs are tied to 10 pound Vicious line, that way when we do hang up, the light wire hook will pull out and we don’t have to re-tie as often.


Question: How do you manage a bunch of long rods in and around heavy cover?

Blackley: We’ve got the new Driftmaster Crappie Stalker rod holders on the front of the boat. That really helps manage each rod individually. One trick for fishing heavy cover is to put one or two rods in rod holders and then hold another rod in your hand. We’ll actually jig a double minnow rig in a brushpile, holding the rod in hand. Sometimes, the bottom hook might hang up and if you’ll hold it still, a fish will hit the upper hook and pull the bottom hook loose for you. That’s how close to the cover you need to be fishing in the fall.


Fishing heavy cover requires a dependable rod. B’n’M’s Pro Staff Trolling rods were designed with the perfect blend of strength and tip action to see you through any cover. To try our Pro Staff Trolling rods, or any of B’n’M’s tailor made crappie and panfish rods, ask your local dealer or contact us on the internet at www.bnmpoles.com. We’ve been America’s crappie and bluegill specialist for over 60 years.