How to Fish for Crappie in the Fall
Day 1: Factors Determining Where Crappie Hold and How They’ll Bite in the Fall and Winter with Dan Dannenmueller
Editor’s Note: Dan Dannenmueller from Wetumpka, Ala., is a successful crappie tournament pro on the Crappie Masters Tournament Circuit (http://www.crappiemasters.net/).
During the fall of the year, I usually find crappie on underwater flats. I catch them by pulling or pushing crankbaits when I’m spider-rigging (slow-trolling). I also fish underwater tree tops, using minnows and jigs, while spider-rigging. When I’m pulling and pushing crankbaits, I generally will be fishing with Series 200 or Series 300 Bandit crankbaits (https://www.banditlures.com/main.asp), because the crappie will be feeding on schools of shad that are scattered out on the flats. The crankbaits will run right through those schools of shad. Since the crankbaits are different colors and have different actions than the shad, the crappie will attack the crankbaits. I use crankbaits when the water is 58 to 65 degrees. I’ll pull my crankbaits on 10-pound-test line that has low visibility. Yet, it’s strong enough to land the big crappie that take the crankbaits. I fish the crankbaits on 14 foot B‘n’M poles (http://www.bnmpoles.com/).
When I’m not fishing crankbaits on the flats, I look for tree tops 12- to 14-feet deep in the water. When I spider-rig six to eight poles on the front of the boat, I use the boat to push my Bobby Garland (http://bobbygarlandcrappie.com/), Road Runner (http://www.ttiblakemore.com) and P&S (https://www.facebook.com/pages/P-S-Custom-Tackle) jigs into the limbs of those tree tops. The crappie usually will be sitting away from the tree tops a little ways and be feeding on shad. If I determine that the crappie are holding in the middle of the tree tops, I’ll push my jigs right into the middle of those tops. I’m often asked, “How do you keep your jigs from becoming hung in those tree tops?” I smile and say, “I don’t prevent the jigs from getting hung. I get hung-up quite a bit.” When I start pushing jigs into tree tops, I know I’m going to lose some jigs, but I also know I’ll catch some crappie. In a day of tree top fishing, I’ll lose 20 or 30 jigs.
The temperature of the water and the lengths of the nights determine when I change from fishing using fall tactics to winter tactics. As the water temperature drops at night and rises during the day, I also study:
* the barometric pressure, which changes from morning to night. I’ve found that generally a high barometric pressure causes crappie to hold in deeper water than lower barometric pressure does. I believe the high pressure pushes the crappie down, and low pressure causes the crappie to move-up the water column. For instance, if the crappie have been holding at 10-12 feet, and a low pressure moves in, the crappie will move-up to 6- or 8-feet deep and hold there. If the high pressure comes in, most of the time the crappie will move from 8- to 14-feet deep. I find crappie to be the most active when the barometric pressure is dropping.
* moon phases before I go fishing, and while I’m fishing. I believe that moon phase, regardless of the time of the year, affects the crappie activity level. I believe crappie feed all night long during a full moon, and then they will be difficult to catch in daylight hours. But when there’s little or no moon, the crappie tend to feed more during daylight hours.
* weather conditions, which will impact how and when crappie feed. I like to fish when the water temperature is going down, because I believe this time is when the crappie are the most active. I also have learned that when the weather’s warming-up, the crappie will start feeding during the warming front. Then, at a certain point, they’ll stop feeding so much.
Depending on the river or lake system that you are fishing, you can catch crappie up to 2 pounds during the fall and winter. You may be able to catch even-bigger crappie, by watching all the different factors that cause crappie to move and to bite the most actively.
For more crappie fishing tips, get John E. Phillips’ brand new Kindle eBook “ Crappie: How to Catch Them Fall & Winter,” or get “Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and Summer.” Click here on each, or go to www.amazon.com/kindle-ebooks, type in the name of the book, and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.
About the Author
John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.