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Jan 23rd, 2013
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Attacking the Fall Brawl #13686660 08/31/20 08:14 PM
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Attacking the Fall Brawl

The longer I fish for a living, the more I love the fall. Thick backs and heavy sacks not only makes my “job” as guide a lot more fun, but it also creates a great opportunity for new anglers to get excited about fishing. Although we get calls for striper, catfish and white bass, a majority of the people we will take out over the next few months will want big crappie, and a lot of them. I know Mother Nature will call an audible at the line from time to time, but aside from her sometimes random behavior, below is my game plan for how I intend to attack the fall brawl.



***Please understand that these are simply observations from my time guiding. If you see different patterns or have had different experiences on your home lake, adjust as needed.




Early Fall = Transition (water temps ranging from low 90s – low 80s)

From now until early October, there will be periods of both joy and frustration. I’ve seen it every year since my start in 2010, and although 2020 has been, well… you know, I still think the fish will act as they have always acted over the years. We will have an early push of good numbers up to depths that we will see them at throughout most of the fall. Lots and lots of what I call “fryers” will light up the graphs and are typically willing to cooperate. These 10-12” crappie are a lot of fun and fry up really well, but they aren’t the true giants the fall is so well known for. The bigger fish seem to be lagging behind in the deeper waters and aren’t quite as excited about putting out much energy for a meal.

For most of my trips in September, I’m going to focus on water in 10-15ft at dawn, and slowly work my way deeper as both the sun and the temperatures continue to rise. For example: 7:00am-9:00am I’ll fish in 10-15ft of water. From 9:00am-11:00am I’ll fish in 15-20ft. For the rest of day, I’ll focus more attention on structure that is in 18-24ft of water.

The anglers that are with me will be fishing with a variety of presentations, ranging from a small live minnow, a minnow with its head pinched off, or a tiny little hair jig from Slab Syndicate. I don’t see color making a huge difference in regards to putting fish the boat, instead, I see a much bigger preference in the size of the bait. If I had to choose two colors, one would be solid chartreuse for sunny days and the other would be a gray ghost color for cloudy days. Regardless if I’m fishing a minnow or a jig, I want the smallest profile jig and/or minnow I can get my hands on right now.

As for presentation and technique, I’m using the least amount of weight my customers feel comfortable with fishing. If I have two folks that know what they’re doing and have logged a lot of hours on the water, I’m going to put either a 1/16 or 1/32 ounce jig on their line and watch them go to work. If I have someone who is brand new to fishing, I’m going to put on an 1/8 ounce split shot above a live minnow, and then help that person watch their line closely. My point is, use the least amount of weight possible right now, as the goal is to convince mostly inactive fish to bite.

Pitching the bait over the target area, whether it is a tree or a brush pile, doesn’t seem to get as many takers as it does when the water cools down later in the year. Instead, I have most of my folks hold the rod as still as they possibly can, moving it up and down in a meticulously slow fashion. Often times the bite will be almost nonexistent, with the only indication of a strike being the newly found slack in the line.

One piece of advice that I like to give for fishing this time of year, and really any time of year if you see this happen on your electronics, is to take off the aggressive fish and then move quickly. I can’t say how many times I’ve pulled up on a spot in late summer, marked a ridiculous amount of crappie, only to catch three or four. In my mind, there is absolutely no point in waiting on the rest of the fish to bite. It’s not only a waste of your time, but it will also cost you fish in the end. More spots = more aggressive fish = larger sack of filets. It’s a “hit and run” numbers game right now, so play the game to win.

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Fall = Thump City, Catching County, USA (water temps from up 70s-mid 60s)

This time of the year keeps me awake at night. Six days a week I’m chasing an animal with either fins or fur, and I’m doing so while surrounded by God’s unbelievably artful hand. Thirteen to fifteen inch black crappie are the norm, and they get so angry at a jig it’s hard not put them in counseling. I can’t express with words how much I love October and November. When those first few hard fronts come in and I inhale that fresh, cool air, it changes my instinctual calling, and I feel it’s that time where a provider must provide.

Low pressure from the public, fish feeding more aggressively and absolutely phenomenal weather conditions all contribute to limit after limit of big crappie on the cleaning table. Although nothing is a guarantee, this time of year is typically as “easy” as it will get. The fish, both big and small, are bunched up and in good numbers. Those pesky crappie you saw on the graph that wouldn’t cooperate earlier in the year now have a much better attitude. Pulling fifteen to twenty keepers per stop isn’t unusual, and let me tell you, it’s a lot of fun to watch.

My best spots during what is normally mid-October through mid-November are main lake brush piles or trees in 10-18ft, and as the water temps get down around 70 degrees or lower, I’ll mix in a lot of dock shooting as well. Basically, I’m going to approach this time of the year just like I would approach April and May. The water temps are identical, and the fishing is too. Where you found your fish after the spawn is where you will find them now.

We will be using a heavy amount of soft plastic jigs, with my favorites being Thump Chubbies and Thump Buddies from Constant Pursuit Outfitters. Although I might mix in a pinched head minnow after a hard cold front, well over 90% of the fish being caught will come off of one of the jigs mentioned above with either a 1/16 or 1/8 ounce unpainted head. My favorite colors for sunny days are White Hot, Sausage Gravy and CC Special, with my cloudy day favorites being Blue Wing Teal, Carney Man and Blue Lightning. In other words, I prefer dark colors on dark days and light colors on light days.

As for technique, I suggest using a lot more movement now that both the bait and the fish have a little more spunk. If a crappie is used to chasing down a more active shad and/or minnow, he’s going to expect your jig to be doing the same thing. One approach that has gotten a lot of great results over the years is to pitch out all around the pile before actually getting over it with the boat. Many, many times some of the largest fish we catch that day will come from aggressive eaters going after a slowly falling jig. In fact, on many occasions this ends up being the best technique for loading the boat for the rest of our outing. Only after we pull the fish that have succumbed to the “pitching out and letting it fall” game plan will we begin vertically jigging directly over the pile.

In most cases, vertical jigging will simply consist of allowing the bait to reach bottom, raising the rod tip up three to four feet from where it is the angler found bottom, holding the jig still for a three to five second period, and then repeating that process. The number one issue I see with new anglers trying to get into using artificial baits is they move too fast or try to “force” the bite. Even when the fish are really fired up, moving your rod at an unusually slow speed, especially when lowering your bait, will not only allow you to better watch your line, but it will greatly increase the amount of crappie that take the bait.

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Late Fall/Early Winter = Quality over Quantity (water temps from the low 60s to the low 50s)

By Thanksgiving, I will be honest in saying that I am usually madder at the deer than I am at the crappie. With that being said, with the exception of very early spring, this is the best time of year for trophies and personal bests. Although we don’t see as many 75-100 keeper days like we do in October, the quality definitely makes up for the lessoning quantity. I’d say on average we will bring home 35-45 keepers per half day trip, with most of them being over 13”. Just some really good, really solid fish, several of which will be two pounds or more; that’s a lot of fun for a guide to be a part of!

Although I’ve spent the last two months (mid-September through mid-November) fishing main lake structures such as docks, brush piles and timber, my target areas tend to change quite a bit as the water temps continue to plummet. Creeks, and the major creek arms that lead to the creeks, are where I’ll spend the rest of my season looking for crappie. Baitfish and other types of forage are major driving forces that send crappie in these areas of the lakes, which make for some very fat fish!

Fish can act a little funny this time of year, and the depth at which they hold from day to day seems to fluctuate more than it does throughout the early fall. For example, on Tuesday I’ll be catching fish on 6-10ft deep brush piles, and on Wednesday my best spots might be 18-20ft. It seems like the big, healthy fish we’re catching aren’t as sensitive to depth, as long as they are close to structure in those creek arms. Bridges can also be absolutely phenomenal during the late fall, as they offer a ton of structure in a ton of different depths, and are a natural pinch point found going over the creek arms of most public lakes.

Although it may sound funny, I have a lot of luck fishing the same spots in late November/early December where I found spawning crappie back in March and early April. Very shallow brush piles on flats next to creek channels are a great choice, and for the folks who like to get up into the actual creeks, fish those same laydowns and bends you did back during the early part of the spawn. A long rod with a jig and bobber combo work amazingly well while creek fishing during the winter.



It’s Almost That Time

Can you tell that I’m excited about fall?! I just finished up a couple of weeks running offshore trips in the Gulf, and now I’ve got a bit of bird hunting to do. Rest assured though, starting mid-September I will be on the hunt for crappie, and a lot of them. Remember, if you’re planning to attack the fall brawl, most of what you were seeing in the spring will hold true in the fall as well. Look at your water temps, fish with what you have confidence in and don’t have patience with inactively feeding crappie. Move fast. Fish Slow. Have fun!

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Re: Attacking the Fall Brawl [Re: Laner] #13686698 08/31/20 08:34 PM
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Hot Damn I am ready to go!! bouncy

Re: Attacking the Fall Brawl [Re: Laner] #13686714 08/31/20 08:44 PM
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Hard not to put them in counseling...Good one, and man those are some sure enough slabs.

Re: Attacking the Fall Brawl [Re: Laner] #13686964 08/31/20 11:32 PM
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This post is pure Gold. Wow!!

bow_down


ACC CRAPPIE STIX
BONEHEAD TACKLE
LEWS REELS
PEPOPS JIGS
FEARLESS JIGS
BUBBAS BAITS
MAD CRAPPIE JIGS
DANS JIGS
CRAZY ANGLER TACKLE
THERMOCLINE LURES
CONSTANT PURSUIT OUTFITTERS
MR CRAPPIE
POWER PRO SUPER SLICK BRAID
BERKLEY VANISH GOLD/TRANSITION
LIFT SAVER TROLLING MOTOR MOUNT
SHUT UP AND FISH
SLAB SYNDICATE JIGS
THUMPER ELITE OUTFITTERS
Re: Attacking the Fall Brawl [Re: Laner] #13687605 09/01/20 03:20 PM
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As always, top notch post.

A couple of Qs

1. Pinched minnows - do you keep the head or the body?
2. Thermocline - when does this go away? i've fished with a guide and we fished piles between 30 and 35 feet after lunch around Halloween and slayed some crappie. at what temp/point do they go that deep?


THUMP 2020
Re: Attacking the Fall Brawl [Re: Laner] #13687695 09/01/20 04:31 PM
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Outstanding & informative post as usual, you really should write for some outdoor publications if you are not already.
As a newbie to targeting crappie & finally having a boat this is invaluable info and very much appreciate your posts, thanks Laner!

Re: Attacking the Fall Brawl [Re: Laner] #13687763 09/01/20 05:43 PM
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I appreciate the feedback guys. Like I said, this stuff isn't fool proof, but it usually gets the job done.

TheDudeAbides, good questions. For the pinched head minnow, throw away the head and thread the body cavity on a bare hook of a jig head. You'll want the hook coming out of the dorsal fin so that presentation is natural and the tiny bones help to keep the bait on. A lot of times I'll get 3-4 fish per minnow carcass.

Thermoclines can be present throughout the entire year, depending on the lake and what the weather is doing. Me personally, I won't catch a single crappie over 24ft on any lake that I guide, at any point of the year. That being said, Fork and Pines both see fish in that range when water temps plummet down to the low 50s/high 40s.



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Re: Attacking the Fall Brawl [Re: Laner] #13687921 09/01/20 07:39 PM
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Great post, I hope I’m smart enough to use some of this in the coming months.

Re: Attacking the Fall Brawl [Re: Laner] #13688320 09/02/20 12:33 AM
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Solid post and solid fish. Good job. thumb


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Re: Attacking the Fall Brawl [Re: Laner] #13688481 09/02/20 02:38 AM
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Best post I’ve read on any crappie forum, very awesome read!!

Re: Attacking the Fall Brawl [Re: Laner] #13688510 09/02/20 03:06 AM
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Well done... great info and thanks for sharing. thumb


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Re: Attacking the Fall Brawl [Re: Laner] #13689305 09/02/20 10:43 PM
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Thanks for taking the time to write up such a great post... thumb


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Re: Attacking the Fall Brawl [Re: Laner] #13689761 09/03/20 01:06 PM
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Well done Lane! cheers

Re: Attacking the Fall Brawl [Re: Laner] #13689904 09/03/20 02:57 PM
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Checkout my Youtube channel for tips and techniques on
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Re: Attacking the Fall Brawl [Re: Laner] #13690175 09/03/20 06:48 PM
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thumb Great post

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