During the fall of the year crappie fishing is frequently compared to spring fishing for slabs. The fish are leaving deeper water haunts and headed for shallower water. The problem with a spring/fall comparison is that spring crappie are headed to a known location to spawn while fall crappie are heading shallow, maybe, to find suitable water, dining arrangements, or in response to other factors.
All of these fall factors don’t have the same effect on crappie as spawning urges so the crappie angler who approaches fall crappie fishing in the same manner as spring spawn fishing will often times be disappointed. The result is a feast or famine fall fishing trip.
To assist you with trying to reason with seasonal movements of crappie during the fall, take these five tips from our B’n’M pros and put them to use.
1. Travel routes
Pro staff manager Kent Driscoll said finding a crappie travel route is as easy as reading a roadmap. Crappie will move from deeper water as the entire lake cools both in response to food and water quality.
“Look for your channel edges to tributaries and rivers,” said Driscoll. “Now not all lakes are made the same, some are just covered over swamps while others are the more traditional backed up river systems. To find travel routes, take a topo map and look at the contour lines. If you know crappie spend the summer in a big deep water area, look for the tight concentrations of contour lines that lead from that area to a shallow area like a creek or major cove.”
Trolling is Driscoll’s preferred method for both pinpointing and catching fish along a travel route.
2. Fresh Water Inflows
Depending on where you are in the country, fresh water inflows may be abundant or hard to come by during the fall. In areas plagued by late summer drought conditions, fresh water inflow can concentrate fish into a relatively small area while periods of heavy rain may scatter fish over a larger area. In both scenarios, fish will relate to the cooler, more oxygenated water.
Pro staffer Steve Coleman said fresh water inflows can be a goldmine.
“Don’t look for crappie to be right there in the current like a bass or catfish,” said Coleman. “A crappie is going to look for something to hide behind and that might be off to one side of the current or it may be a little ways downstream,” said Coleman.
“I like to take a single jig pole with about a 1/8 ounce jig head and start working anything I can find working my way to the source of the water,” he said, “whether that be a drainage ditch or just in the very back of a creek.”
3. Boat Docks
Boat docks are so frequently mentioned as crappie hold spots that it’s almost clichéd. The fact is that some boat docks will hold crappie year round and crappie will move from deeper to shallower boat docks as the seasons change.
Pro-staffer Mike Parrott said you can find crappie the easy way or the hard way.
“A lot of guys will turn on side imaging and scan an area if they aren’t familiar with that lake,” said Parrott. “Some boat docks produce better than others and that’s usually because there is deeper water or good cover sunk around the dock.”
“It’s hard to beat a single dock that’s out by itself if it’s got decent water under it,” he said. “Another good area is a group dock like a marina dock that spans from deep water to shallow. The fish will move back and forth with the temperature and they can also move up and down under the dock.”
Parrott’s go to tactic for fishing boat docks is by shooting a 1/32 ounce jigs as far back into the dock openings as he can and letting the jig free-fall on a slack line.
Veteran angler Roger Gant has probably caught more crappie off of tree stumps than any other crappie angler alive. He grew up fishing Lake Pickwick’s submerged stump fields and discovered that it’s not always just the stump that holds crappie, it’s the depth of the water the stump is located in.
“Crappie relate to stumps but I think what is just as important is the water depth,” said Gant. “Crappie are schooling fish and they use a particular depth on a particular day. If you can figure out that depth for that day and then go look for stumps in that water depth. You’re gonna find crappie.”
Gant’s preferred tactic for fishing stumps is side trolling multiple jigs on multiple rods across a stump flat targeting the prescribed water depth.
5. Underwater Points and Humps
Crappie guide Brad Whitehead said you normally hear guys talk about targeting points and humps when they are bass fishing, but crappie will relate to the same contours as bass and usually for the same reason.
“In the fall you will see schools of baitfish moving all over the lake,” said Whitehead. “Crappie aren’t going to chase them down so what they do is hang out on the end of a long point or off to the side of a hump. The surrounding water might be 30 or 40 feet deep but the fish will be up shallow in say 10 or 12 feet. When the baitfish swarm by the end of that point or hump, that’s a lot less water to have to chase down a meal.”
Whitehead’s preferred tactics for fishing humps are side trolling, trolling crankbaits, or single pole jigging targeted structure like brush piles or stake beds located in these areas.
Fall fishing is here and B’n’M has the rods and tackle you need to put fish in the boat. Visit us online at bnmpoles.com or facebook/bnmpoles. You can also check out our selection of video how-to’s on You Tube.