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.
Longlining is a technique of trolling for crappie. I put four poles in rod holders at the front of my boat and four poles in rod holders on the back of my boat. This technique allows me to cover a lot of water in a short time, and locate and catch crappie that are often suspended over underwater creek channels, brush piles and/or stumps rows. If you’ve picked out an area where you think crappie are holding, this method is one of the fastest I know for finding and catching crappie in that area.
One critical factor to remember is that each state, and often every lake within a state, may have regulations about how many poles or rods a crappie fisherman can use at one time. So, before you use this technique or the side pulling tactic, make sure you learn the regulation regarding the number of rods you can fish with on that particular lake. On most of the lakes I fish, there are no rod limits, so I generally set up my boat to troll with eight rods. One fisherman will be watching the rods in the back of the boat, while I’m fishing the rods in the front of the boat. For this technique, I use 6-pound-test Vicious line, and either a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce jig. When fishing in water that’s 12 feet deep or deeper, I use the 1/16-ounce jig, and in water 11-foot deep or less, I fish the 1/8-ounce jig.
To determine how much line to let out, I make one long cast to the left-front side of my boat with one rod and a long cast on the right-front side of my boat with another rod. Then, I pull four or five feet of line out from each reel after each jig hits the water and put the rod in the rod holder. I next take the second rod on each side of the front of the boat, make shorter casts and pull out a little bit of line. When you make long casts, the jigs on the long cast will run deeper than the jigs with which you’ve made short casts. My normal cast is about 47 feet. So, if I pull out two or three additional feet of line, those long cast jigs will be running about 50 feet behind the boat in deep water. The jigs on the short-cast rods will be running about 30 to 40 feet behind the boat in more shallow water. I’ll make long casts with the two rods on the back of the boat and shorter casts with the two rods closest to the motor. This technique lets me cover a wide expanse of water in several different water depths. If I’m catching more crappie on the longlines, I will let out more line on the rods that I made short-casts with. If I am catching more crappie on the short cast rods, I’ll reel some line in on the rods that I’ve cast out farther.
I like the 2-inch Tri Alive Mister Twister Curly Tail Jigs released this year for this technique. This is a brand new grub from Mister Twister. At this time of the year, I like to fish a grub with some blue in it, like blue pearl, silver flake and blue chartreuse with silver flake or black and chartreuse, black with metal flake or a jig with some red in it. One of the advantages of longlining is that you can use a different colored jig on each rod, which means you’ll have eight various colors of jigs being fished at one time. Crappie are color sensitive, and they prefer various colors on different days and often at different times of the day. If you’ve found a color of jig that crappie really like, and you are catching number of crappie on that color of jig during the first two hours of the morning, and the crappie quit biting that color, then change the color of jigs you’re fishing until you discover the jig that the fish prefer later in the morning.
Yet another key ingredient for this tactic to be successful is the speed at which you’re trolling. I usually start trolling at .4 or .5 miles per hour and then increase or decrease the trolling speed to allow my jig to either rise or swim deeper in the water column. The faster your boat is going, the higher in the water column the jigs will swim. The slower your boat is moving, the deeper in the water column the jigs will swim. By the end of the day the fish are usually more shallow. So, I may speed up to .6 miles per hour. I watch my depth finder to find if the crappie are holding high or low in the water, which also will tell me whether to increase or decrease my trolling speed. To determine the speed at which I’m trolling, I use the GPS feature on my depth finder or hand-held GPS receiver or use the GPS app for a smartphone. You can use this GPS app also to plot the course that you’ve trolled. Use the MAN OVERBOARD feature or the WAY POINT feature to mark where you’ve caught crappie. Then you can troll back and forth over the exact spot where you’ve caught the most fish.
To learn more on crappie fishing 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.
Images by John Phillips