If you’re a diehard fisherman/woman then you want to catch the best fish at the best times. In my opinion, there’s no better time to catch crappie than in the fall. Yes I know! Fall?
Yup. I prefer Fall crappie fishing over Spring. Why? While spring fishing is fun and you can land a lot of crappie, it is also extremely crowded and can be very unchallenging at times. Fall is beautiful and there are hardly any fishermen around. The lakes are empty and pristine. I love that. I have also caught my biggest crappie in fall/winter!
If you want to catch fall crappie though, then you’re going to have to work for it. How hard are you willing to work? Trust me when I tell you that the thrill of bagging these bad boys makes the extra work worth it. You have to experience it to believe it.
Now we know that certain fish can make your hair turn gray attempting to catch them. It’s no different with fall crappie. In the fall months these fish seem to do a Houdini act. Locating them by itself is something that will test the patience of even the most adamant fisherman/woman, but it can be done.
Fishermen who consider themselves diehards fish year round and look for the best times to catch crappie. This certainly isn’t going to be in the summer months, because crappies tend to be lackadaisical during those months. There’s plenty for them to eat and they aren’t nearly as aggressive. All of this changes in the fall though.
What I want to do is provide you with very straightforward means of catching fall crappie. These are techniques that recreational fishermen/women can feel confident about executing. So let’s start with the main way to attack. This would be by letting water temperature guide you.
LET THE TEMPERATURE BE YOUR GUIDE
The reason why fall is so good for catching crappie is because the fall weather seems to bring about the best of all the seasons put together. You can think of it as a microcosm of sorts.
Following are behaviors that apply to Texas weather, but it shouldn’t be too tough to make adjustments based on whatever part of the country you’re in. It’s all about understanding water temperature.
The Early Fall-In the early fall the temperature is still going to be fairly high. So whatever methods you use to catch crappie in the summer should be used. You’ll want to focus on fishing deep and having a slow and deliberate presentation before retrieving.
I like to drop my bait or lure all the way down. As soon as I hit bottom, I crank up about 3 turns. I wait for 3 to 5 minutes and if don’t get any bites, I reel up 3 more turns. I continue until I either get a bite or until my bait is on the surface. If I don’t get any bites I will move a few feet and try again.
If you are in a very “brushy” area, dropping to the bottom will most likely get you hung up. In that case just put a split shot on your line and drop it down. Count how many mississippies it takes for it to hit the bottom. Then rig up your line normally and drop it down to 2 mississippies less than your original count. The added bait and lure will make the whole thing heavier so it will drop faster. 2 mississippies less should put you above the brush but still low enough to be close to the bottom.
Check out the“finding your depth” section of this other article I wrote for more techniques on locating the depth at which crappie are holding
The Mid Fall-By the mid fall you’re really getting into the heart of things now. You’ll start to see that the crappies are becoming feisty and aggressive. This is the time of fall where the crappies are feeding really intense and it’s probably the best time to go after them.
This is the time when they can be schooling at any depth. You’ll want to focus on locating the right depth and then you’re off to the races. If you can manage to find a school of them, then you can bag several no problem.
While I use both jigs and live bait, I find that crappie really attack live minnows during this time. Make sure you have plenty and that they are kept lively in your insulated bucket (with a bubble maker). As always, you should have a good assortment of jig heads and jigs in case the crappie do not respond well to minnows that day (very unlikely at this time of year)
The Late Fall-When it turns to late fall then the water temperature is going to start going under 50 degrees. Crappies are going to notice the dip and start trying to minimize their energy expenditure. This is going to mean less biting and less aggressive biting. The tactic will now revert back to you fishing deep and focusing on slow retrieves.
Be patient here! The crappie are still there although it may not seem like it. When I fish on the barge during late fall, I try to keep the pole in hand instead of laying it against the railing. The reason for this is that during the colder months, you may not even see your pole tip dip when a crappie goes for your lure/bait.
I have spent 20 minutes looking at my pole against the railing with no visual action whatsoever. When I went to pick up my pole and reel it in to check on the minnow (they tend to die earlier in the cold water), I found a nice 1.4 pounder dangling on the hook. Again, I saw no tip action whatsoever. This is why I keep my poles in hand in the cold days of fall/winter.
I want to go a little deeper into what was just mentioned above in order to give fishers a clear idea of how to catch fall crappie.
MID FALL METHODS
Personally I love mid fall, because it’s the perfect time to really go hard with catching these fish.
- The first thing you want to do is make use of larger baits. Using larger baits is going to help you attract the attention of bigger crappie (usually referred to as slabs). If you are not getting any bites, switch from crappie lures (1 in-1.5in) to Bass lures (2-3 inches)
- Next you’ll want to find the appropriate water depth. You’ll need to be very mindful about this, because crappie typically swim in schools. Chances are if you locate one, then you’ve located a bunch of them. Check out my other article for more on depth.
- The jigs you start with should have a solid color. Shoot for natural colors or go with chartreuse. Then switch to combo colors (Crappies love anything with pink, chartreuse and electric blue)
- The way you drop your jig should be slow, but the way you retrieve it should be on the aggressive side. Use a light jig head (1/32 or 1/16)
- Be sure to remember the shallows! Crappies will flock to these areas in order to feed.
EARLY AND LATE FALL TECHNIQUES
In the early and late fall crappie are going to try to save energy, because it will be really hot or really cold. For this time a year here’s the perfect way to attack.
- You’ll want to make your focus fishing deeper.
- Crappies develop a condition called “lockjaw”, which means they’ll be more passive and as a result they won’t bite aggressively. For this reason you’ll need to make use of smaller baits. Also make sure to keep the pole in your hands so you can feel the subtle bites that are usual during the cold days of late fall
- Smaller jigs are preferred, because they’ll be able to descent a lot slower. Now all you need to do once you’ve done this is to retrieve slowly.
Catching fall crappie is not the easiest, but with an understanding of how they operate it certainly becomes easier.
To summarize, in the early part of fall don’t change much of what you do in the summer. In Mid fall this is the best time to strike, because these fish are most aggressive during this time. Find the right depth, use larger baits with a solid color to catch bigger fish and enjoy. Drop your jig slow and bring it back aggressively.
For late Fall fish deep, use smaller baits, make your descent slow and bring it back slow. Happy fall crappie fishing.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Do you have any techniques you use to catch fall crappie? Please share them below in the comment section. If you have any questions, please leave them below as well and I will answer them as best as I can.
Good Fishin’ to you,