It’s that time of year when temperatures are starting to cool down from the heat of summer, and the leaves are changing colors which means one thing for freshwater anglers – the beginning of the fall crappie fishing bite! Fall fishing sparks many emotions for most anglers. Crappie fishing in the fall is arguably the most prominent time of year to really load the boat up with fish. Below we’ll cover tips and tricks to help you become a more successful angler when targeting crappie during the fall months.
Tips for Fall Crappie Fishing
1. Understand Your Fishery
It isn’t always as easy as making a cast and getting a fish to bite every time. 95% of the fish hang out in 5% of the water. Therefore, it helps to understand the body of water that you are fishing. Things to consider include water depth, water temperature, vegetation, cover, structure, water, and currents, to name a few.
Fishing a river in the fall that averages around 8 ft deep will be much different than fishing a clear deep reservoir where fish typically remain in the 15-25 ft range. Understanding the slight differences between each body of water you fish will ultimately lead to more success on the water.
Before you go out on your next trip, consider doing a little bit of research if the body of water you are fishing is new to you. This can be as simple as doing online research or asking the local anglers at the marina any questions you may have.
2. Break Out Your Sonar (Fish finder)
Crappie tend to bunch up in the fall, and they do so at different water depths depending on the fishery.
Your fish finder will help you locate the fish and what depth they are hanging out at. Whether you are fishing a lake or river, start with scanning the channel of the body of water you are fishing. Channels provide high oxygen levels, current, and ambush points and typically include varying depth ranges (all things crappie gravitate to).
Once you’ve identified some fish on your electronics and believe them to be crappie, do your best to mark the location. If your equipment has the features, this can be easily tracked using GPS.
No GPS? That’s not a problem either. Marker buoys are great for pinpointing areas you intend to fish shortly after finding fish. Marker buoys are cheap, effective, and also make for great casting targets since being something you can physically see in the water, unlike a GPS waypoint.
3. Lighten Up
Make an effort always to try and fish as light of tackle as possible. Yes, this may limit your casting distance, but it will be worth it for more bites. Use light to medium rods with matching reels and no heavier than 4 lb test fishing line. Consider using a fluorocarbon line to get the most out of your setup. Fluorocarbon becomes virtually invisible underwater, and it sinks, which will help you better fish any of your subsurface lures.
4. Bring Your Jigs
Like any other time of the year, you will definitely want a rod and reel setup for a jig during the fall months.
Jigs are incredibly versatile and allow anglers to target fish at just about any water depth. Jigs can be steadily retrieved, hopped, and dragged. Consider jig heads in the 1/16 oz to 1/8 oz range.
If you have the tackle and necessary equipment, a promising tactic in the fall months is the use of spider rigs. Spider rigs significantly increase your hookup chances and allow you to fish lures at varying depths. Spider rigging is a great technique to use when trolling and doing your initial search for where fish are holding.
5. Add A Blade To Your Jigs
Baitfish tend to group up in the fall, making fishing blades a great addition to your jigs. That little extra shine on your retrieve is all it sometimes takes to get a crappie to bite. Consider either a Crappie Magnet or Bonehead Tackle bladed jig for your next fall outing.
Blades tend to perform best under two conditions. The first condition is wind. Wind can work wonders in the fishing world and serve a crucial role in stirring up baitfish, which can start feeding frenzies for fish like crappie.
The second condition to be on the alert for is overcast conditions. Overcast conditions bring baitfish to the surface, pulling predatory fish with them. So the next time you find yourself fishing with either, or both, of the above two conditions listed, it may be your ticket to some good crappie fishing to have a bladed jig tied on.
6. Don’t Forget About Live Bait
Nothing can imitate bait better than bait itself!
When it comes to fall crappie fishing, this means imitating the baitfish. For most fisheries, this can be accomplished with minnows. This is also when you can get away with using a sliding strike indicator (bobber). Be sure to know the depth of water you are fishing to help better present your live bait to the crappie. Doing so will help determine the distance from your live bait to your line stopper if you go the bobber route.
7. Start With Natural Colors
Since the air and water temperatures are beginning to cool down, you can expect the water itself to start clearing up. Crappie rely on their eyesight above all other senses, so a well-presented, naturally colored lure will often be the winning ticket to your next bite. When fishing natural colors, opt for something in either brown, black, or a natural baitfish color (white, pearl).
You can then begin to introduce other colors if things start slowing down. For example, the color change could be a change in a jig head or soft plastic. Popular color combinations that still integrate with natural colors are brown/orange and black/green.
8. Consider Hard Baits
This topic is often overlooked since many anglers never put down their jigging setup. However, hard baits can really fire up a school of crappie.
More times than not, hard baits include some form of a rattle (often, these are ball bearings) that add an additional element to the overall lure profile – sound.
The sound produced by most hard baits displaces so much water throughout the retrieve that crappie can not only see the lure coming through the strike zone, but they often will feel the lure’s presence.
Hard baits are an excellent option for both vertical jigging presentations and casting presentations. Hard bait options to consider for your next trip are crankbaits (lipped and lipless), bladed baits, and jerkbaits. Be sure to try and match the crankbait or jerkbait size to the baitfish inhabiting the body of water you’re fishing.
Bladed or lipless crankbaits make for a great vertical jigging lure and can be fished similar to fishing a jig vertically. Again, adjust your presentation with what the fish want for that day. Sometimes it’s a long pull of the rod up with a natural sink rate. Other times the method that gets you bites consists of short, fast twitches of the rod.
For casting situations, consider a crankbait with a lip or a suspending jerkbait. Fall time can mean crappie are suspended 10-20 feet deep off offshore structures and cover, so you’ll want something that can get down to them and stay there. A deep-diving crankbait or suspending jerkbait can do just that!
Frequently Asked Questions About Fall Crappie Fishing
Where do crappies go in the fall?
Look for crappie to be making their transition to deeper water but don’t entirely count on it. Fall crappie can find themselves in a transitory state throughout parts of a fishery going back and forth from shallow to deep waters.
For daytime hours, expect crappie to be deeper. During early morning, late evening, and even nighttime hours, expect the fish to be a little more shallow.
Always check areas of the body of water you are fishing, like weed patches, submerged timber, or ledges that lead to deeper water. These areas allow for an easy transition to shallow and deep water depths for crappie.
However, also understand that the fall season will be unique to where you are geographically on a map. For example, fall in Florida and in Michigan are two totally different beasts!
Is fall a good time to crappie fish?
Yes. While springtime is usually the best for crappie fishing, fall crappie fishing can be very productive. Fish are active and moving and will typically follow the bait. Find the bait, and you will find the crappie.
How do you target crappie in the fall?
Most crappie anglers would agree to begin fall crappie fishing with a jig. However, if the jig isn’t producing, consider your other options (live bait, crankbaits, jerkbaits, or bladed baits, to name a few).
Find a part of the body of water you’re fishing that has either cover (trees, weed lines, rocks) or unique structure (breaks in channels, ledges, points) that allow crappie to hug close to or suspend off of. Good luck!