By Kenneth L. Kieser
The old adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” has been the downfall of many. I fall into this stubborn category of anglers that never change tactics, especially in November when weather conditions make changing crappie tactics common sense. My old late-fall ploy was to anchor over crappie beds and dip live minnows, effective, but not always. A young fisherman recently changed my way of thinking about fall to winter transition crappie.
I seldom miss an opportunity to crappie fish, especially with friends. I gratefully accepted Jeff Faulkenberry’s generous invitation to join him for a post-spawn trip on Truman Lake in late November, 2012. My friend is an accomplished fishing guide out of Bucksaw Marina on Missouri’s Truman Lake and a radio personality on Johnny Everhart’s Missouri Outback radio show. Problem was, a big warming trend had set and the wind was blowing, making water conditions murky; not ideal conditions and not typical for November. This was the type of day when a professional fishing guide earns his money. We traveled up several creeks and started fishing tube jigs around submerged trees and bushes in open water with some luck, but not what Faulkenberry was looking for. We moved farther down the creek while fishing closer to cover, in fact, as close as you can get.
“Let your Roadrunner bounce down the sides of each stump and tree,” Faulkenberry said. “I think the bigger crappie may be hugging bark today.”
We immediately started catching crappie. His idea was correct and the crappie cooperated with this young guide who was teaching a veteran fisherman of over 55 years a new trick.
We caught several crappie that were indeed “hugging bark” when my lightweight rod suddenly doubled. I mumbled something about a nice bass when the sun illuminated silver flashing just under the surface. I had hooked a bigger crappie that was diving for tree limbs. I could only hold on and fight out the fish, while putting frightening pressure on four-pound test line. Luckily, Faulkenberry had a long-handled net and soon I held a 2-1/2 pound crappie, the biggest of my fishing career. This old dog looked over a big, beautiful crappie that was immediately released.
November Crappie Fishing
November can be a nightmarish time to fish for crappie. Conditions change daily and crappie guides must use this to their advantage. Guides quickly learn that just when they have crappie patterns figured out, Mother Nature kicks them in the rear and they have to adapt. “We have enjoyed really mild November weather patterns the past couple of years,” Faulkenberry said. “But it’s still fall and the water temperature begins to drop. Then crappie tend to migrate towards the creeks. Shad ball up in the upper end of creeks and the fish are close. We go back in the creeks far enough to push through silted-in spots. You can go up in deep water arms of Truman Lake. We even go up the Grand River and fish beaver dams, trees and stumps. The water is usually a little bit dirtier in these upper areas so the sun warms water temperatures faster. Falling water temperatures push crappie up the creeks and warmer water. We dip jigs on Spider Rigging from November through most of the colder months.”
Warming air temperature days are more comfortable to fish, but are not reason to change techniques. Water takes a lot longer to warm up, especially when the nights are below 50 degrees. Only two or three days of constant sunshine will adequately warm water temperatures.
Big air temperature drops are nothing to be concerned about. Again, water temperatures will likely hold between 50 to 65 degrees and the crappie bite will likely remain consistent. “During this type of change many experienced fishermen go to deeper water,” Faulkenberry said. “You can still go up the creeks and catch crappie on a shallow water bite, or you can get out on the main lake and fish main-lake channel swings. Shad ball up in these areas from 35 to 38 foot of water, but many will be towards the surface where the water is warmer.”
Faulkenberry locates shad concentrations with his depth finder and stays on top, moving with the schools. His Minn Kota I-pilot allows him to set the trolling motor moving in a five-foot circle until the best crappie are found. “We vertical jig these crappie,” Faulkenberry said. “I prefer Mid-South Tubes, 2 1/2 inch blue chartreuse and white chartreuse. I love fishing jigs this time of year because you seem to catch bigger fish and you don’t have to stick your hand in the cold minnow water.” Hugging bark is another excellent trick in November. Faulkenberry prefers beaver dams and underwater brush during normal chilly November weather, but finds the biggest, blackest trees during a mild winter and looks for the biggest stumps because they gather more sunlight and are surrounded by warmer water where crappie lay. Bouncing tube jigs down the stumps often triggers bites, sometimes bigger crappie.