Crappie fishing can be more unpredictable in the fall; anglers could catch their limit one day only to have no luck at all the next.
Accuracy is key regarding your location; use a map or depth finder to assess its structure or locate ledges, humps, and sharp creek channel points.
Locate Bait Fish Popping the Surface
As fall progresses and water temperatures decrease, crappie quickly transition from their summer patterns and feed on baitfish in preparation for winter. Locating schools of bait fish surfacing on shallow flats is the ideal place to start looking, followed by various techniques for catching them, such as casting corks with minnows to them or spider rigging them; trolling is another effective method.
When using surface lures to attract crappie, the size and shape of bait must match conditions. While 1- and 2-inch soft plastics work during shad hatch season, 3-inch lures become more effective at drawing in fish by late fall. When moving vertically through colder waters, slower presentations work better as fish become less inclined to expend energy and exert themselves physically.
As crappie move away from rocky points and transition into their winter habitat, they often gather in areas that offer protection. Look for deep basins containing slightly warmer water than their surface temperatures – such as on secondary or main lake points or edges of feeding flats.
Ledges attract large concentrations of crappie this time of year. Veteran anglers use a jig and dropper lines to locate these areas – the key being finding one with coverage between 20- to 30-foot range.
Bottom structure of ledges is also essential. Anglers may catch crappie in several feet of mud or hard substrate, while for optimal results the best results come from softer bottoms that mimic natural environments such as soft river bottoms. Furthermore, providing plenty of cover, such as stumps or brush piles on ledges is also crucial to attract crappie fisherman.
Wind can help find crappie on a ledge by stirring up microorganisms that baitfish feed on. Windblown spots near where creeks flow into reservoirs or windblown points at mouths of tributaries may prove productive in fall months.
Cast a Cork with a Minnow
Many reservoirs experience an annual fall transition when crappie migrate shallower waters in search of food to last until spring arrives. Furthermore, cooler water temperature triggers their feeding response more strongly than in summer; this provides anglers who use spider rigs or cast corks with minnows an advantage in finding fish.
Crappie in shallow waters often congregate under docks to find shelter and ambush small baitfish they can capture up close. When fishing from a dock, an 8-foot ultralight rod with a small spinning reel equipped with 2-pound test line works great for casting small bait under the surface – for instance a two-inch B-Vibe or small minnow are great choices as their natural action provides bait fish with something they can target at close range.
Search creek channel intersections, ledges or structures which feature both deep brush in early fall and shallower cover like docks or laydowns when water temperatures begin to decrease in late autumn – Alabama guide Brad Whitehead often searches these spots in southern reservoirs where temperatures don’t tend to cool off much until late November – for shallower crappie in fall.
As temperatures change and the lake “turns over,” all depths have similar temperatures, creating ideal conditions for crappie fish to move into any depth that offers food sources such as baitfish. Crappie will then move towards these deeper waters.
On lakes with abundant populations of crappie, the best place to fish for them in the fall is along ledges. Ledges can be found almost everywhere across the United States and often provide high concentrations of fish this time of year. Crappie typically hold tight against ledges while suspended off their tops or bottoms depending on current conditions.
To easily locate crappie-rich areas, use your sonar to identify humps, creek channels and ledges with dense cover – such as brush or other forms – nearby that contain plenty of baitfish – these spots should serve as targets when searching for a hot spot.
Fish a Vertical Jig Under Docks
As Fall progresses and temperatures decrease, crappie move deeper basins with slightly warmer waters to school up near the bottom and take bait near it; they may even school right under your dock! Once found, simple vertical jig presentations on light line should quickly produce success for quick crappie limits.
Fishfinders can help locate transition areas where muddy-bottom creek channels meet harder bottom lake sections, which gives you a good indication of where crappies might be schooling at dusk and dawn. Once you locate such an area, rig a small 6 to 8 inch long jig with minnow baited with red hair as quickly as possible and move it slowly under cover (weeds or other forms). This keeps it within strike zone longer – increasing chances of landing lazy hits by startled fish!
Crappie can often be found near where tributary arms feed into main lakes, as these waters tend to have clearer waters that often hold more fish. Crappies will often congregate at these spots at dusk and dawn when schools of bait fish congregate there, providing plenty of chances to catch crappie.
Crappie are known to take refuge in submerged creek channels that run along reservoir tributary arms in autumn, as these provide high oxygen counts and cover for bait fish to hide in. Crappies will follow these streams towards the main lake until reaching their mouth where they school up quickly to become easy targets for bait or lure presentations.
An 8 foot ultralight rod equipped with a small drop shot rig works exceptionally well when fishing shallow shorelines during Fall weather conditions. It allows for consistent placement of small micro baits within striking range without constantly needing to rebait them.
Fish Under Cover
As the lake cools down, weed beds and brush piles that had held crappie like fleas in spring begin to thin, forcing bank fishermen to find new spots for catching these delectable slabs. Look for steeper banks with weeds, docks or rocks extending out into deeper water that attract roaming schools of hungry crappie looking for sustenance during this heavy fall feeding period.
John Harrison of B’n’M Pro Staffer Team enjoys fishing creek channels lined with green iron wood bushes as they provide shade from the sun while providing cover for crappie to ambush bait fish. When temperatures begin to decrease and air clears out, these channels become popular places for crappie to ambush baitfish and ambush prey fish. Harrison notes that as soon as water temperatures decrease and air clears further, more crappie will begin congregating along these channels.
Locating bait fish is key to creating a productive crappie bite in the fall. Many of the shad that were concentrated near shallower waters during spawning have moved out deeper waters, leaving plenty of minnows and other small baitfish still around for hungry crappie to feed upon.
Locating these baitfish can also help determine at what depth a particular creek channel the crappie are holding. McCoy prefers fishing ledges during the fall months, looking specifically for ones with ambush points such as brush piles or rock ledges that drop down into channels; as well as those stair-stepped with shelves at different depths.
One way to locate these ledges is using your depth finder to search for likely-looking areas. Once you find one that seems likely, try fishing the top or bottom of the ledge with either a jig or minnow suspended beneath a slip bobber, as when its float drops and moves in the strike zone it triggers crappie feeding. Be patient as you slowly reel up your bait while pausing every foot or so so as the bait remains within this strike zone for as long as possible – it gives better chances for crappie to bite!