Leaves turning colors and air temperatures dropping signal the start of the crappie fall feeding festival.
When autumn arrives, crappie snap out of their summer doldrums and gorge on baitfish in preparation for a long, cold winter. The fish migrate from their deep summer haunts to the dining areas of the shallow flats.
Here are 10 tips you need to know to help you catch more crappie in the fall.
- Think Big!
The shad hatch during the summer causes crappie to feed on small bait but when fall arrives the shad have grown bigger and crappie prefer a larger meal then. During the shad hatch, 1- and 2-inch soft plastic baits produce best, but by fall I start throwing more 3-inch lures to match the size of the baitfish then.
- Play The Wind
The wind is your friend in the fall because it creates a chain reaction of stirring up microorganisms that baitfish feed on and crappie are then drawn in to gorge on the baitfish. Look for any windblown spots to find the largest concentrations of active crappie.
- Go Shallow During The Turnover
The fall turnover can have a numbing effect on crappie and is a good excuse for some anglers to use for explaining their tough day on the water. However veteran crappie anglers know fish will still bite when a lake is turning over. The key to catching crappie during the turnover is finding the most active fish, so head for the backs of creeks where the water has the highest dissolved oxygen content. Active crappie also suspend higher in the water column near standing timber or boat docks during the turnover.
- Check Out All The Depths
After a lake turns over and dissolved oxygen levels are nearly the same at all depths, crappie can be found shallow, deep, or at mid-depths. I usually start fishing shallow cover because shallow crappie are the easiest to catch and then I gradually move out to deeper brush piles and docks.
- Lighten Up The Line
Lakes are usually clearer in the fall due to drier weather than the spring and summer when heavy rainstorms dirty the water. The clearer water makes crappie line shy so you need to scale down to 4- or 6-pound test low visibility line to increase bites.
- Sharp Shooting Tips For Fall Crappie
Crappie hide in the shade of docks on sunny autumn days so shooting a jig under the docks is the best way to coax these fish into biting. I have found a 1/16-ounce jighead is best for shooting because it propels farther under the dock than a lighter 1/32-ounce jig and skips across the surface better than a 1/8-ounce model which is too heavy and plows under the water when it hits the surface.
- Vertical Jigging Offshore Cover
The passage of a fall cold front deactivates crappie, which forces you to slow down your presentation to catch these sluggish fish. Crappie will hold tight to cover during these high-pressure conditions so presenting your jig or minnow vertically next to the cover will keep your bait in the strike zone longer and trigger a reaction strike from an inactive fish.
- Adding A Bobber Fall Crappie
If the water is too clear to vertically present your bait without spooking the fish, add a bobber to your line and set it at the depth you think crappie are holding at in the water column. A slip bobber rig is ideal for making long range casts to cover such as boat docks or laydown logs in clear water.
- Spider Rigging Tips For Fat Fall Crappie
Schools of crappie tend to roam in the fall following balls of baitfish, which makes spider rigging with jigs or minnows one of the most effective ways to catching these roaming fish. You can cover wide swaths of water by rigging with multiple poles and double jig or minnow rigs.
- Following The River Channels
Crappie in reservoirs migrate from deep to shallow in early fall and then from shallow to deep in late fall by travelling along river and creek channels. A good contour map will show you where to find crappie throughout the various stages of the fish’s fall migration. Key locations along the migration path include main and secondary points, channel bends, small pockets, and shallow flats.