Vertical Crappies in Fall are one of the best panfish bites to target throughout the year. They are schooled up and ready to bite.
While crappies are widely considered to be “America’s Favorite Fish”, anglers here in the Upper Midwest have developed a special affinity for them. They are most commonly targeted in winter and early fall, but if you follow their seasonal movements throughout the year, they are very predictable and fun to catch.
In spring, crappies spend most of their time up in the shallows where the water temperatures are warm. As the season rolls along, they will work their way out to vegetation, where they will continue to live and eat for much of the summer. When fall finally arrives, the weeds begin to die off and most of the crappies in the system will start to dump down into the lake’s basins.
Depending on the body of water, the basins we are referring to can be anywhere from the high-teens, down to 30+ feet of water. The primary reason crappies are moving down into these areas is for food. They are chasing the minnows that are leaving their shallower haunts, in favor of the deep basins. Lo and behold, these newcomers won’t arrive in a ghost town. They will be greeted by a whole host of insect life already present down in the depths, creating a fall bonanza for hungry fall crappies. From bloodworms and zooplankton, to minnows and crappies, you’ll find a large chunk of the food chain in the basins this time of year.
As you search for the best areas to fish, look for subtle changes in the mud. You should be able to see these transitions on your electronics. Your sonar reading will change from a stratified, soft muddy area, to a firm solid signal, as you idle over these areas. This is where you need to be focusing your attention. Sometimes the crappies will be up off the bottom where you can mark them with your electronics. Other times, they will be hugging tight to the mud, making them tougher to spot. Regardless, if you can find a hard-to-soft bottom transition area and there’s bait nearby, you’re in the right location!
Vertical jigging is a phenomenal way to catch crappies in this scenario. Get right over top of them with your electronics and slow your boat down to a complete standstill. Small tungsten jigs work well tipped with crappie minnows or wax worms. Try UV and Glow colors, similar to what you would use through the ice. They key is to fish as vertically as possible. If you’re drifting around, you’re not going to catch them. Utilizing shorter rods can be helpful in fall because they allow you to easily fish your bait directly below the transducer. If you think this sounds a lot like ice fishing, you’re right! In many ways, you’re ice fishing in open water.