Late Fall Crappie Patterns with Kris Mann
By Phillip Gentry
When it comes to catching crappie, whether they are big, tournament-winning crappie or fun fishing, eating stock crappie, B’n’M pro staffer Kris Mann, from Mount Sterling, Kentucky is not immune to the allure of using the new forward-searching sonar technology that has taken the crappie fishing industry by storm.
Mann, whose home lakes are Cave Run Lake and Green River Lake, both 8200-acre impoundments built by the US Army Corps of Engineers, said that he still believes in looking for crappie on seasonal patterns.
“Livescope has shown us so much about crappie behavior, particularly the larger fish, the loners, but much of my success in crappie fishing has come from understanding how the fish react to changes in the seasons,” said Mann.
Partner Terry Mann uses a 10-foot Buck’s graphite jig pole from the back of the boat while Kris works a 5 ½ foot Sharpshooter rod from the front so the two anglers have equal access to the fish.
During the early part of December, Mann said he expects the water temps all over eastern Kentucky to be in the low 50’s. At this point, the fish’s metabolism starts to slow down, and Mann said he sometimes has to spoon feed fish.
He and his fishing partner and father Terry Mann look for white crappie to migrate into tributary arms of the lakes, particularly Cave Run Lake, and will be following baitfish to feed up for the winter.
“You can look at the channels in most lakes as highways and crappie will loosely follow those as a highway,” he said. “Pretty much any river arm acts as a funnel and the baitfish and the phytoplankton they feed on and the crappie that feed on the baitfish are all moving through those corridors. I don’t think most anglers realize how much crappie do migrate on a seasonal basis.”
When looking for migration crappie, Mann’s next stop is standing timber or other vertical structure in the water. Most lakes will have some type of seasonal drawdown, particularly any lake managed for spring flood control. Mann said oftentimes, standing timber will be visible above the water’s surface when the lake is drawn down.
Leland Lures Crappie Magnet baits and jigheads are the only products the Mann's use when crappie fishing.
“I’m not really sure that crappie, particularly the white crappie we catch in Cave Run, are hiding in that timber. It seems like they just like to have it to orient to,” said Mann. “They will nose up against the timber. Some days it’s only 3 – 4 feet below the surface and other days it might be as deep as 20 if there’s been a recent cold front.”
Mann smiled and said the Livescope certainly comes in handy and helps with determining a specific depth. After that, it’s really a matter of placing his baits vertically to the fish and just above their heads.
Tackle selection is a little different that what one might expect. Mann is a huge fan of B’n’M’s original Sharpshooter rod, the 5 ½ foot model. Though he is not shooting with it, the shorter length allows him to fish from the front of the boat and run the trolling motor while partner Terry Mann uses a 10-foot Buck’s graphite jig pole from behind him.
Kris and Terry Mann love catching slab white crappie when water temps start to cool off during the late fall and winter.
“It allows us to both reach the same spots at the same time,” said Mann. “if the water is super clear, which happens a lot in the winter, I’ll go to a Russ Bailey Signature Series rod in 8 ½ foot length to stay back a little more.”
The average jig weight is a 1/8 oz head which Mann substitutes with a 1/16 oz head if the crappie get finicky or lethargic. Leland Lures’ Crappie Magnet products are all the pair use which includes the SOS 6-pound test monofilament line that is on his reels.
Mann said he’s got a few tricks up his sleeve as the water temperatures drop later into winter.
The first is to tie on a 1/32 oz Leland Lures Double Cross jig head paired with a Trout Magnet body. The tiny lure is more than finicky crappie can stand when placed right in front of their noses.
Another tip is from Mann is to tip your baits with a Slab Bite, another Leland Lures product that adds color and scent to the bait.
Finally, Mann employs an E-Z float on sunny days during cold weather to suspend his bait 3 – 4 feet below the surface.
“On sunny days, crappie will rise up in the water column to sun and we will stay back and cast towards visible standing timber,” he said. “The water may be deeper than 30 feet but crappie love to soak up that heat and that puts our baits right on them. They cast easy and a slab crappie on a Sharpshooter rod is a great fight.”
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