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.
I guide primarily on Grenada Lake in northern Mississippi and like to vertical jig fish with the VIE Shiner made by Mister Twister. My favorite color is black sparkle and I like this color because it’s productive for crappie when you’re fishing stained water. Grenada Lake and some other northern Mississippi crappie lakes will be stained most of the year. I use an 11-foot VBull Bottom Reel Seat Pole made by B’n’M and a 6-pound test Capps & Coleman lines. Sometimes, I’ll fish with a 4-pound test line.
If I’m fishing in 8- or 10-foot-deep water in the fall, I’ll pull 9 feet of line off my reel. If I am fishing Grenada, Enid, Arkabutla or Sardis lakes, all in north Mississippi, I’ll primarily be fishing stick-ups: poles, stumps or other types of brush that come up off the bottom and stick up above the water. I pitch my jig past the stick-up, and let the VIE Shiner swim from the back side of the stick-ups past it and in front of the stick-up. Each time I cast to the same stick-up, I’ll run my jig through different depths of water, from as shallow as 3 feet deep to almost on the bottom. I’ll make two casts to the same depth, before I move deeper. The first cast the jig will swim by the stick-up, as I’ve mentioned earlier. On the second cast, I’ll stop my jig right by the stick-up and hold the jig as still as I possibly can. On one day, the crappie only may be 3 or 4 feet deep during October. On other days, they may be hugging the bottom. So, you need to bring your jig through all depths of the water, until you determine the depth where the crappie are holding.
I use two different types of retrieve: swimming the jig by the stick-up or stopping the jig by the stick-up to try and determine what mood the crappie are in on that day. If the crappie are actively feeding, they‘ll take the jigs while they’re moving. If the crappie are in a bad mood (don’t want to feed), I’ll stop the jig beside the stick-up and hold it as still as possible. Sometimes, I’ll slow-count up to 10, with the jig sitting dead in the water, before the crappie bite. The crappie often will just look at the baits for awhile, before they decide to eat then.
Although crappie may be concentrating on a spot, they may be in a bad mood. By holding the bait still, you often can get those bad-mood crappie to eat the baits. Fish in an aquarium often will stay in one spot without ever moving. However, if you look, more closely, you’ll see that the aquarium fish are using their tails to stabilize their bodies in that spot by barely moving their tails to maintain their body position. The VIE Shiner has such a sensitive tail and is so flexible that regardless of how still you try to hold it, the lure still will wiggle just a little, either from the sensitivity of the pole’s transferring the slightest movement to the jig or from the current underwater causing the jig’s tail to move. Even though you’re holding the jig still, it may move slightly like that aquarium fish that you see. Sometimes, if you think the crappie aren’t biting, the reason may be that you’re fishing too fast, and the fish are in a bad mood. Holding that jig still by the cover can help solve that problem.
So, even though you think you’re not moving the VIE Shiner, the jig is actually vibrating. Sometimes, crappie want active jigs, and at other times they want inactive jigs. By making two casts to each stick-up at each water depth that I fish the jig through, I can tell what water depth the fish are holding at and determine whether the crappie are feeding actively or are inactive. In the fall at Grenada Lake and many other lakes, you’ll see a current coming around the stick-ups. You can catch the crappie as soon as the jig hits the water or if by letting the jig fall all the way to the bottom. Most crappie we catch using this technique will be 13 to 16 inches long, with the 13-inch fish weighing about 1-1/4 pounds, the 14-inch fish weighing about 1-1/2 pounds, the 15-inch crappie weighing about 2 pounds and the 16-inch fish weighing 2.9 or possibly even,3 pounds. This pattern usually holds up best for me during October and November. I’ll start using this tactic again in February through April.
You can contact Harrison at 662-983-5999.
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