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.
As the water begins to cool down, the crappie in stained-water lakes often will move closer to the surface, especially on sunny days, when the sun’s heating up that top story of water. When the weather starts getting cool, I find that the crappie often hold in as little as 1- to 1-1/2-foot-deep water. I’ll fish a 1/16-ounce jig head, in the VIE Shiner, with no weight, and place a slip float above the jig. Sometimes, I’ll set my slip float so that my jig is only three to four inches in the water. I’ll cast the jig out in that shallow water, and when it hits the water, I let it sit dead still. Next, I’ll reel it in about a foot and allow it to sit dead still again. Then, I’ll reel it another foot, and repeat the same action. If I’m not getting a strike using this type of retrieve, after I’ve let the jig sit for about 2 or 3 seconds, I’ll twitch it a couple times, move it another foot and repeat the same action. Last year, I used this technique when the crappie were holding in a foot of water. I was catching them with my jig set at 3 to 4 inches below my float. In one spot I made 18 casts, and I caught 15 nice crappie, using this shallow-water technique.
Many crappie fishermen believe that crappie only move into shallow water during the spring of the year. However, my experience in fishing stained lakes has taught me that crappie also travel to shallow water during the fall. This shallow-water tactic is the most productive for me during October and November. I also have caught crappie using this shallow-water method in December and January, especially when a warm front comes through where I’m fishing, and the sun heats up that shallow water quickly to make it much warmer than the deep water.
In the fall after a warm front comes through, often to make it the warmest water in the lake will be just below the surface. In clear lakes, the opposite is true. The colder the weather gets, even on sunny days, the warmest water generally will be closer to the bottom.
Throughout the winter, December, January, and the first part of February, I rarely will fish deeper than 3 or 4 feet under the water. When I’m casting and retrieving jigs, I like to fish the VIE Shiner black sparkle, lime and chartreuse, and silver and black natural. I use 6-pound-test line and a 4’5” Buck’s Graphite Spinning Rod. Oftentimes, you’ll catch one or two crappie by casting and retrieving down the bank. If current’s coming through the lake, search for eddy holes or eddy breaks. Look for a point of land, a log, a stump, a rock or some other type of structure that breaks the current and creates slack water behind the structure. Once you identify those types of places, many times, the crappie will be schooled up in that slack water, attacking bait fish. I’ve often caught 15 to 20 crappie from one of those slack water areas like this. 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