Editor’s note: Brad Whitehead of Muscle Shoals, Alabama and John Harrison of Calhoun City, Mississippi are both crappie guides and tournament crappie fisherman. All year long they have to take crappie fishermen to places where they can catch crappie and use tactics and lures that have a proven history of producing crappie at specific times of year. Outdoor Hub has asked these two crappie guides to give us productive fall crappie fishing tactics and recommend lures to produce crappie in October. Whitehead primarily fishes deep clear lakes on the Tennessee River, and Harrison fishes stained-water shallow lakes in north Mississippi These articles will give you a head start on finding and catching crappie, whether you’re fishing deep, clear lakes or shallow, stained-water lakes.
One of my favorite methods for catching crappie during October is a technique that was developed on Pickwick Lake in north Alabama know as side pulling. This tactic is basically a controlled drift with the trolling motor mounted on the side of the boat. We use the trolling motor to pull the boat sideways, over an area where we’ve found crappie. Using this technique, three fishermen can fish two rods each and pull their jigs through a wider span of water, than if they’re trolling out of the front and the back of the boat. We locate the crappie with my Humminbird 1197C side-scanning depth finder. Then, we let out enough line on each rod, so that the jigs will swim right above the crappie.
In deep water, I use two 1/4-ounce jigs, and if the fish are holding somewhat more shallow, I’ll fish with use two 1/8-ounce jigs. We tie one jig on the end of the line and the second jig about a foot up the line. I use two different types of jigs on each line. I like the Mister Twister VI E Shiner, a brand new jig grub. I put this grub on a 1/4-ounce head and lip hook a live shiner minnow on the hook. I like two jigs on one line, because I have more control on the depth that the jigs are swimming, with this much weight on the line. If you fish light jigs, drifting and trolling, determining the depth that those jigs are running is much more difficult, than if you use heavier jigs. At this time of year, I fish in 18- to 22-foot-deep water. The two-jig set-up helps me to better determine at what depth the jigs are, than I can with lighter jigs. For instance, if I pull out 16 feet of line, I know that my jigs will turn at 16-feet deep. I use 10-pound test Vicious clear line.
If you keep good records of where you find crappie throughout each year, most often you can pinpoint crappie holding on those same places or perhaps within 10 to 20 yards of where they’ve been the previous year. Another real key to finding crappie at this time of year, is to look for schools of shad. On a still fall morning, you can hear and see the crappie flipping on the surface and locate big schools of shad with your depth finder. Most of the time, the crappie will be holding under or off to the sides of the schools of shad. You can side pull your lines right through the schools of crappie, with your jigs running below the schools, where the crappie are holding, or you can pull the jigs on the side of the school of shad, where your depth finder has shown you the school of crappie.
I like the VIE Shiner on my jig head, because it’s a do-nothing bait. What makes this bait different is that it has a tail that points both up and down, whereas most crappie jigs and grubs have tails that either point up or point down. The tail section of this lure also breaks toward the back, allowing the grub to imitate the swimming motion of a shad minnow. Therefore, it gives off vibrations from the top of the tail and the bottom of the tail as it comes through the water. My favorite colors for this time of year are blue pearl, blue orange and black metal flake. One of the advantages of side pulling and using two jigs is that if I’m fishing with two other anglers, we can put 12 different colors on our lines. We can switch the jigs out once we know which color catches the most crappie, and all fish the color that’s producing best, on that lake, at that time of year.
If I can see that the crappie are holding right above or close to a structure, I may turn my trolling motor off and just drift over that area to get the jigs right in front of the crappie. If I’m catching crappie on deep flats, I’ll use my trolling motor to pull my boat sideways at .6 miles per hour. Before the day ends, I may be pulling my boat sideways at .9 miles per hour. I watch the speed that the boat is moving by using the GPS feature on my depth finder. Or, you can use a hand-held GPS receiver. Many smartphones have GPS apps that monitor your speeds of less than 1 mile per hour. At this time of the year on a 4- to 6-hour trip, we’ll usually keep 35 to 40 of the biggest crappie that we catch and throw the rest back. In our region, our crappie will weigh from 3/4-pound to 1-3/4 pounds.
To learn more about this technique and/or to fish with Whitehead, contact him at 256-483-0834 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Mister Twister lures, visit http://www.mistertwister.com/
To learn more about crappie and how to fish for them from the masters of the sport, click here for “Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and Summer,” a new eBook from Amazon’s Kindle by John E. Phillips. Go to http://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.
Check back later in the week for more fall crappie fishing tips from Brad Whitehead and John Harrison.
Images courtesy John Phillips