Does Fall Crappie Fishing Compare With Spring Crappie Fishing?

by Phillip Gentry

Upstate Outdoors
October 16, 2019 - 9:59 pm
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Nationally recognized crappie fishing guide Brad Whitehead loves to fish for crappie 12 months out of the year. He enjoys the changes in seasons and the challenges of figuring out patterns as crappie behavior changes with those seasons.

With Fall in the air, many crappie anglers draw similarities between springtime crappie fishing and fall fishing, claiming them to be nearly identical, except for the spawning part. Whitehead said it’s time to tear down some of those misconceptions.

“In the spring, crappie are moving from cold water to warm water. In the fall, they’re moving from warm water to cooler water,” he said. “So yes, they are on the move in both seasons, but that’s about all the similarities I can draw between the two seasons.”

At the end of the day, crappie do have patterns that they follow year-round – they key in on baitfish movements, they love to hang out around structure, they prefer to hold in areas with suitable water quality, and they typically group together in schools of varying densities.

Whitehead said with some basic understanding of those patterns, it’s not hard to catch crappie year-round. When asked why so many anglers prefer to fish for crappie during the spring, he drew a comparison with deer hunting.

“Everyone wants to hunt deer before the rut just like everyone wants to fish for crappie right before they spawn. They believe it’s easier, but I think it’s not only because they think it’s easier, it’s because they’ve always done it that way and learned it that way from their father and grandfather,” he said.

Whitehead said whereas crappie move to shallow structure in the spring to spawn, they move to mid-depth structure in the fall to eat and find comfortable water. Part of that equation, at least on river and flood control lakes, is falling water. He said crappie won’t go too shallow because water levels are drawing down for the winter. He also said that drawdown affects the baitfish they feed on.

“I would suggest locating some brush tops or cane beds in 18 to 24 feet of water,” he said. “If that’s back in a creek or near the main lake, that’s fine, but those fish will pull out there and hold in the top of that structure and hammer baitfish as they pass by.”

His preferred tactic for catching fall crappie is jigging with a single 7 ½ foot  jig pole. He uses a 1/16-ounce jig on 6 pound test mono to tempt fish that are typically suspended near the top of the structure. He also confided that crappie frequently stray from the tops of the structure but suspend at about that same depth.

“A lot of anglers will motor up to a brush pile or cane bed and then plop the jig down right on top of the structure,” he said. “That’s a mistake. I shut my motor off well away from the spot I’m going to fish and I have my jig in the water at least 20 yards from the structure. I lot of times I’ll catch 4 or 5 crappie before I’ve even gotten close enough to the structure to feel it.”

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Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcasted from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM or online at 1063word.radio.com.

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