Fall Crappie Fishing Small Lakes

Fall Crappie Fishing

While many sportsmen are gearing up for deer season, others are getting ready for another great outdoor activity: fall crappie fishing! The fall is my favorite time to be out after big slabs. As the cold weather approaches, the big ones turn on, especially in the old pits I like to fish around west central Missouri.

Crappie might be easier to locate in smaller bodies of water usually, but they can still be finicky. Even when I know a lake like the back of my hand, they can still get the better of me sometimes. However, I have learned a thing or two in the past couple of years. I hope that some of my learning experience can translate into success for you as well!

The Gear

First, any light action combo rod and reel with 6 lb test will do. I prefer a stiffer rod because it helps me feel even the smallest nibble and have better control over my bait. It also helps control the fish better and swing them into the boat without losing any tension. Crappies are notorious for throwing baits because of their “paper mouths” so I do everything I can to get them in as quickly as possible.

Next, you need the right bait. Minnows and a stick bobber in small lakes and ponds work tremendously. However, I’ve converted to artificial baits over the last year after some interesting trips with friends. While I used a minnow, my friends threw crappie jigs and had significantly more action than I did. Since then, I’ve pinpointed some rigs that work almost universally in the small lakes or ponds I like to fish.

The options from Bobby Garland Crappie Baits are fantastic. Specifically, I love the 2 inch baby shad varieties with a 1/16th oz pink jig head.  The 2″ Blue Thunder swimming minnow has great action to it as well. Bait fish are larger in the fall after summer growth, so baits like the PowerBait 3″ swimming minnows can prove very productive.

While I have favorites, I still keep a stock pile of colors and jig head sizes. You never know what depth the crappie will be biting so it is helpful to also have 1/4 oz and 3/8ths oz jig heads at your disposal.

As far as fishing line goes, I typically choose fluorocarbon because it is more dense than water. That causes it to sink, which helps baits run deeper. If the crappie are shallow, I simply adjust my retrieval speed or rod tip position to get my bait at the appropriate depth..

 On the Water Tactics

The first thing I do is rig up multiple rods with different colors and jig head weights. As the water temperature cools and becomes uniform at all depths, crappie can literally be anywhere.

After rigging up, try and locate the structure. This could be sunken trees, rocky points, brushy areas and anywhere in between. Cover is king.

When I find cover, I cast from a good distance away, count to five, and retrieve with a constant twitch. If after a few casts I have no bites, I approach the cover. Once there, I jig vertically all around the structure. I let it sink to the bottom and then slowly raise the bait using either the rod or my free hand to pull the line up until I get a bite.

If those methods don’t work, another method I’ve found tremendous success with is trolling. I went out on a six acre lake recently and we tried everything imaginable with no luck. It wasn’t until we began to troll past a brushy point that we started to hammer the crappie. Each pass we made yielded a double, triple, or quadruple. We eventually had to stop because our stringers were too full. Ending up, we cleaned about 50 total, all 13″ or bigger. Trolling offers a simple presentation change, which is sometimes all you need!

Other Tips and Tricks

If all else fails, there are other things you can try to entice a crappie to bite.

Before you cast, adjust the position of the knot on the eye of your hook. This will help your bait swim at a different angle in the water. It works especially well to adjust it so your bait remains horizontal when you are jigging vertically.

If I’m having a slow day, I sometimes use Crappie Bites on the hook. The scent and extra color can trigger them to bite at times when nothing else seems to work.


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