Jason Westerberg with a nice crappie using a down-sized bait. All of these examples shown are good Fall lures. (Photo: Ron Wong)
Downsize for Fall Crappie
by Ron Wong
‘Finesse them into the boat’
In September it’s often still hot, at least in the South. But South, North, East or West – we’re all looking forward to the coming of Fall. After months of sweltering heat and surface water temperatures in our Mid-south lakes hovering in the 90’s, cooler weather will be most welcomed. Not only for us fishermen to be comfortable, but a time for crappie to move into cooler waters.
Over the summer months the water in many lakes become stagnant causing fish to stay around the thermocline, which means much of the time they are suspended. Suspended fish are the hardest to catch.
Go small in the Fall
As water temps cool, however, with shorter daylight hours, fish will move towards shallower water following the forage. Forage for this time of the year will include small shad and panfish from recent spawns. Crappie will search these schools of food where it makes sense to “match the hatch”. Here is where using finesse size lures/baits for crappie will be highly effective this time of the year. Talking with crappie pros throughout the Mid-south, they all agree “go small in the Fall to catch more fish”.
Here are some tips and tricks that the pros use:
1: Downsize your baits to as small as a 1/80th ounce hair jig. Chase Petty, who won an American Crappie Trail tournament earlier this year, goes as far to say, “all you need is any offering from 1/32nd ounce jig and smaller during the fall as crappie are seeking schools of small bait fish. I won’t have jigs or baits bigger 1/32nd ounce in my tackle box”.
And surprisingly, while using these tiny lures, he still uses fairly heavy line – 12-pound test fluorocarbon tied to braid to pull big crappie out of heavy cover.
Petty’s rig for using finesse baits are a little different then what most crappie fishermen use. He uses a one-quarter or three-eighths-ounce egg weight threaded through the main line, ties 18 inches of leader to a swivel which is then tied to main line.
2: Use your finesse crappie baits on long rods. Jason Westerberg uses either a 12 or 16-foot B’n’M rod with small size baits. Depending on water clarity, use a shorter rod for unclear water and a longer rod for clear water. All the pros agree a longer rod is preferred especially if you are using the livescope technology. When using small baits, Westerberg’s tip is to use a grip type split-shot weight 15-18 inches above the lure bait but crimp the weight on your line loosely to prevent your line from breaking on a hook set. He will vertical jig a 1/32nd or 1/64th– ounce painted jig heads with just a small minnow during the fall.
3: Joel Harris will seek the deeper pieces of cover and move shallower as needed to catch crappie. He doesn’t use minnows, opting to use only a 1/32nd- or 1/64th-ounce Trout Magnet or small hair jig. He will use a small split shot 12 – 15 inches above the lure occasionally. He will locate brush piles and vertical jig the cover slowly. He says, “Hold your bait just above the cover and hold it still, let the crappie come up to bite. In stake-beds, present your jig in the middle of it, while holding it still.”
Here are some tips and tricks that all the pros offer.
- Use your weight to track your offering when using livescope technology as sometimes it will not pick up a 1/80th ounce weight.
- The color of your jig can make a difference. Where the fish were biting two days ago and they are not biting it today, make a change. All the pros agree chartreuse and white color is most preferred in the fall. Jig head color can also make a difference, change if needed.
- Hair or tied jigs especially in the 1/32- or 1/64-ounce size are highly productive during the fall but must be presented very slowly or holding it still. The hair or feathers will breathe with no movement thereby getting attention of the fish.
- All the pros recommend using a rod no matter the length that has a soft or fast tip so that you can feel the bite.
- When using finesse baits, watch your line as it goes down, if it goes slack, set the hook. Crappie eat looking and going up.
- For those that spider-rig finesse baits, it is best to only have one bait tied to the line
- The pros all agree to fish slowly during the fall around some type of cover and sometimes sitting still to catch more fish using small type baits/lures.
Wishing all tight lines, remember to practice good safety and wear your PFD.