Crappie are an attractive target for Kentucky anglers fishing major reservoirs with clear water and aquatic vegetation, particularly during late summer and early fall when schools of crappies begin surfacing from deeper water in search of bait fish.
River walleye anglers utilize Rapala Deep Husky Jerk No. 12 crankbaits to target protein-packed gizzard shad, as they spawn here each fall, or can use these lures to attract hungry crappie as well.
Start With a Larger Bait
At this transitional stage of fall fishing for crappie, larger baits tend to perform better than their smaller counterparts. Fish are actively feeding during this phase, and larger baits tend to attract first dibs on food sources. Plus, larger offerings may cause other baitfish to feed as well, increasing crappie concentrations in an area.
Start off right by using a 1-/8 or 3/16-ounce jig topped by either a minnow or grub in clear water; when fishing stained or murky conditions, darker bait such as black-and-white stripes or brown and green may prove more successful.
As water temperatures begin to cool in the fall, crappie will migrate from shallow weedlines towards deeper vegetation and structures for breeding purposes. Search out spawning areas such as wooded flats, brush piles, and other cover for potential spawning sites that offer protection from predatory fish, such as woody flats. Look out for wooded flats, brush piles, and other features where crappie are likely to concentrate during daylight hours in 12 to 25-foot depth range; use Kentucky rigs with minnows or spoons jigged over structure for best results.
At night, crappie fish have a different feeding pattern and can often be found near feeder banks on deep humps and ledges with deep depressions or on deep drop offs near feeder banks, brush piles, or docks. A sonar will help pinpoint these areas by showing both depth of bottom as well as any structure hiding below it.
An effective technique for fishing for crappie during the fall can be using a small diving crankbait. Troll it shallow over an 18-20 foot transition zone of rocks or transition zones and watch for bubbles as your lure hits bottom; slowly bring it back up again after each time it hits bottom; continue your retrieve while working over cover that you are targeting; if there are schools of crappie present you could catch them all day by moving your lure in small circles over them all day long.
Work Down to Something Smaller If Necessary
Crappier anglers can use smaller bait or lure sizes to induce strikes from crappies, but must make sure that any smaller lure fits their desired target correctly and does not become too small for optimal fishing results. This is especially important in stained water or lakes with muddy bottoms where smaller bait is more effective – paddle or curly tail jigs work great in these circumstances, and heavier weight should also be considered because the smaller bait sinks more quickly than it would in clear lakes or waters.
Minnows are an ideal live bait option for fall crappie fishing on Lake of the Ozarks, available in multiple sizes at local bait shops and sold either by bag or bucket. A 1/16-ounce plastic skirted tube jig is especially useful for casting to brush piles and vertically jigging it through cover; white, sparkle hues, and chartreuse hues have proven particularly successful when fishing clear water conditions; blacks, reds, and chartreuse hues tend to perform best when fishing in dirty conditions.
Crappie can be found in various kinds of covers, ranging from brush to lily pads and spadder docks. Docks and piers often provide ample shelter and food sources – these areas may even be deep water. Anglers can fish them by wading or boating according to weather conditions.
As the season advances and water temperatures decline, crappies move deeper. Now is an excellent opportunity to target suspended crappie that may be hanging above structures waiting for their next meal – simple jig and cork will produce nonstop action in these conditions!
While some anglers may store their gear away at the first sign of ice in December and forget about it until April, northern crappie anglers should use this opportunity to inventory and restock. They can take advantage of cold weather by organizing and restocking tackle boxes to prepare them for spring thawing.
When most anglers hear of crappie fishing, their thoughts automatically turn towards spring spawn. While spring fishing for these delicious little slabs is certainly ideal, fall fishing can also produce amazing results. Crappie tend to move to deeper waters during fall – away from shallow weedlines and towards structures in mid depths where they become much more active than they had been during summer and often trigger aggressive bites from them.
As temperatures become colder, crappie begin to move from main lakes into coves in preparation for their wintertime spawn. This movement provides great opportunities to catch these fish around docks and other structures as they create ambush points in deeper brush piles – providing prime opportunities to catch fish and offering protection against colder temperatures as the seasons change.
Many crappie anglers utilize a spider rig in the fall when fishing for crappie, as this allows them to cover more water and keep bait at a consistent depth that would be difficult or impossible to achieve when fishing shallow water during summer months. A spider rig’s slower fall rate attracts fish while keeping it within striking range – an added advantage over baitcasting methods used during this season.
Another effective trick when targeting crappie in the fall is using a minnow on a small hook. While this might seem counterintuitive, minnows can trigger reaction strikes from disinterested crappie. Most professional anglers keep an assortment of minnows with them on each fishing outing – just a few drops under a bobber can turn an unproductive day into an enjoyable fishing session!
Fall’s cooler temperatures make an ideal environment for crappie fishing, and with archers hunting deer, waterfowlers using blinds, and squirrel hunters out hunting in the woods there tends to be less fishing pressure on many lakes compared to spring and summer months. The result can make for some fantastic crappie fishing as water temperatures gradually decrease and hungry fish begin to stockpile fat before winter sets in.
Slow Fall Rate
Crappie are fun to catch on light gear, and their delicious fried filets make great snacks. Crappie are plentiful throughout many bodies of water and willing biters, though some anglers get bored trying to connect with them after September has rolled around – this is unfortunate, since fall fishing for crappie remains very productive indeed!
Numerous factors can affect how effectively you fish for crappie in the fall, with temperature variations being one of them. When temperatures decrease, crappie may move deeper water in their search for baitfish; also, clearer waters allow more visibility of bottom and easier access to locate these fish.
No matter the cause, when this occurs it’s wise to adjust your tactics and bait choices accordingly. Fish shallower, use heavier jigs; troll at a slower speed, etc.
Some of the best places to find crappie in the fall include structures such as brush piles, standing timber, or any cover that extends deeper water. Depending on which lake you fish in, this could mean near or just beyond the thermocline; on rivers instead, these spots might include deeper shoreline stretches where banks slope up or down from channels.
Some crappie fisheries have suffered due to over harvesting and lower water levels in recent years, yet there remain some great ones. At Buckhorn Lake near Hazard for instance, anglers can expect good fishing when the drawdown from summer pool to winter pool begins in late September/early October. KDFWR fisheries biologist Kevin Frey noted that some of his most fruitful stringer sessions this year took place during summer when big fish moved into coves with heavy brushy cover, such as coves or creek arms near creek arms with heavy brushy cover in coves/creek arms with heavy brushy cover to hide from predatory winter pool drawdown.