Most crappie diehards would agree that spring rules. Your best shot at quantities of true trophy-caliber fish takes place early in the year, but that certainly doesn't mean the remaining 10 months should be ignored.
The cooling water and rapidly approaching winter months pull fish shallow as they go on a preparatory feeding binge.
Follow The Bait
"I call it a reverse spawn," says tournament angler Kent Driscoll. "The fish start moving shallow again, but instead of spawning, they are following the baitfish."
Shad are the primary forage in most major reservoirs, and with colder water temps, they migrate into major creeks and coves, and the crappies follow. So does Driscoll, who relies on Humminbird's side-imaging to not only locate baitfish, but to also get a clear view of the structural elements such as timber, brush and rocks, all of which hold crappies.
"They may be following the shad out over open water if they are actively feeding, so I'm not too worried if I'm not marking fish on the cover itself," he says. "The most important thing is finding bait."
Just like all predators, crappies follow the baitfish, and with the right electronics and a good understanding of the fall migration, anglers can tap into the aggressive fall bite.
Driscoll typically starts at the mouths of creeks and works his way toward the back, keeping an eye on his depth finder so he can stay in seven to 12 feet of water. That's where he finds most crappie this time of year.
"They will go shallow early and late in the day, but they tend to stay in deeper water because that's where the bait is," he says.
Cover The Water
Driscoll and Alabama guide Brad Whitehead don't limit themselves to a single rod. Instead, they use specialized techniques: spider-rigging and side-pulling, which allow them to cover lots of water.
"If I have two clients, I'll use nine 8-foot B n' M The Difference trolling rods set along one side of my boat when I'm side-pulling," says Whitehead. (Alabama law limits anglers to three rods each.) "That allows me to cover the entire length of my boat in one pass."
Driscoll prefers spider-rigging eight 14-foot rods from the front of his boat, which covers up to a 30-foot width.
Both anglers use a pre-rigged hook and weight system by B n' M, which include one hook above and one below a half-ounce egg sinker. The hooks are 30 inches apart. Driscoll will set each rod at a different depth, starting about two feet above the bottom to around three feet below the surface, to cover the entire water column.
He tips each hook with a medium shiner about 1 ½ to 2 inches. The water tends to be clear so artificials don't work as well as the real thing this time of year.
Driscoll will sometimes slide a tube up the hook before he adds a minnow. He also uses a minnow-tipped Roadrunner jig. Both tricks create a larger profile and both can tempt finicky crappie.
"If I'm not getting bit and I know there are fish under me, I'll make some changes," he adds.
Establish A Pattern
"Once I catch a few crappie, I'll spend the rest of the day fishing spots that are similar to the first place I caught fish from," says Whitehead. "Crappie tend to be pretty predictable."
It's not as easy as closing your eyes and casting to the nearest stump, but finding and catching crappie in the fall is a close second.
Cover the three "C's" of fall crappies and you'll get bit.