Crappie with style love bling in the fall. (Photo: Eddy Stahowiak)
Fling Your Bling at Fall Crappie
by Kenneth L. Kieser
I caught my first two-pound crappie a few decades ago. We were fishing over submerged crappie beds. But we weren’t fishing jigs OR minnows.
Accomplished crappie anglers have different and sometimes unique ways to entice slabs. However, not many have considered using smaller trout spoons.
Bright spoons reflect plenty of flash when vertical jigging and on the day I caught that first 2-pounder, the crappie only wanted our spoons and would not touch a minnow.
The gold plating looked flashy, like a starlet’s bling, and we had almost limited out when a bigger fish hit. I thought a bass had engulfed my spoon, but it turned out to be the big slab.
Catching bigger crappie in the Fall is not unusual.
“Fishing for crappie in the fall can be very rewarding, but sometimes frustrating,” said Mike Wec, veteran crappie angler. “Fish can be spread out, especially in deeper basins. They are hungry and mainly looking for minnows, shad or any sort of baitfish this time of year. This is when I use my favorite spoon, the classic Al’s Goldfish in 3/16-ounce neon blue and gold. You can try to match the hatch based on color, but I find that the neon blue and gold colors cover most of the baitfish spectrum.”
Wec discovered that crappie actively chase baitfish towards drop offs to get an advantage and reduce the amount of escape paths. He starts fishing at locations like points, inward turns, and even quick drop-offs by casting his spoon in these locations and reeling slowly as possible while keeping the spoon about six inches under the surface. The higher these fish are in the water column, the more eager they are to bite.
“The goal with a spoon is to cover water from left-to-right and in depth,” Wec said. “Once you scan the water from left-to-right at six feet under the surface, start over but now start your retrieve at about five feet under the surface. Then again at 10’, 15’, and finally as low as you can drop without hitting the bottom. I fish in basins that are about 25’ deep and this works great to locate fish.”
When you locate a school of bait or crappie, let your spoon flutter down but keep the lure slightly above the school. It is no secret that crappie often look up and have a tendency to strike upwards.
Wec’s ultimate crappie setup is a FX Custom Rod, 6’6” Medium-Light Angler Series rod, an Ardent Outdoors C-Force spinning reel spooled up with five-pound Vicious Panfish Braid and a short two-to-three-pound fluorocarbon leader. He says that a longer rod will give you a little more distance for casting but a shorter rod will give you a bit more control when jigging with a spoon.
“Fall Spoon fishing is a great way to catch crappie,” said Paden Bennett, crappie guide and tournament angler. “During Fall I am looking for a few different locations when targeting crappie. When fish are found I like to fish vertically to stay with the school longer.”
A good spoon fishing tactic in the Fall is finding fish still in their summer pattern that haven’t moved to shallow water areas like flats. Crappie may hold on channel swings/breaks, drop offs, humps, or brush piles. The shallowest water Bennett drops a spoon is likely 12-15 feet and deep as 40 feet, depending on the lake and the water temperature.
“I like throwing Bink’s ⅜ oz or ½ oz. Spoons,” Bennett said. “I throw my spoons on a medium action spinning rod with 10-pound braided line. Occasionally the spoon will wrap up on the braid, so I attach a 20-25-pound Saltwater Fluorocarbon leader. A small swivel to attach the braid to this leader works well. Saltwater leaders don’t have much bend, really stiff so they keep the spoon from hanging on the main braid line.”
Other Vertical Spoon Hotspots
Minnows eat insects, insect larvae, smaller fish, tiny crawfish, algae, phytoplankton, zooplankton, fish eggs and even tiny bits of dead animal matter or in other words, bridge pillar forage generally washed in by the current. Crappie find the minnows. Brush or any debris caught on a bridge pillar creates an eco-system of food for various creatures including fish while allowing adequate cover for hiding. Find a productive pillar and you will likely catch fish. Here’s a video example.
Docks over deep water are another source for finding fall or winter crappie. Many dock owners drop big bundles of Christmas trees to the bottom, generally weighted down by concrete blocks and catch crappie throughout the year.
Lakes with standing timber, too, are always key spots as are steep bluffs and submerged rock islands. Small pockets of brush around these long, rocky expanses attract crappie and are easily located by sonar.
Vertically dropped spoons may resemble a wounded minnow to big crappie that love an easy meal. This, too, is a great way to occasionally catch a big walleye, bass or any predator fish. The flash off highly plated lures really draws attention.
Try vertically dropping spoons and you might be surprised at the results. You might even join the three-pound crappie club.
(Kenneth L. Kieser has been the Outdoor columnist for the Independence/Blue Springs (Missouri) Examiner since 1987. He has been a freelance writer for more than a dozen hunting and fishing magazines; hundreds of credits in various outdoor magazines with a laundry list of awards to his credit.)