Tricks to catch fall crappie

The abrupt change of weather over the past week probably has led to a few Sunset Country anglers tucking in their boats for the year.
I have to be honest, I’m slowly making the switch over to hunt mode, but I’m still fishing a bit.
One species that doesn’t get a lot of attention from anglers during the summer months, but offers a hot bite in the fall, is the black crappie.
We’re fortunate to have some of the best crappie fishing in North America during October on Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake, not to mention all the smaller bodies of water in the region that are loaded with slabs.
Many of the best crappie holes are fairly well-known—places like Northwest Bay on Rainy Lake and Sabaskong Bay on “Woods.” Fish are relatively easy to find, especially with good electronics.
I’ll look around in the deep basins of the bays that crappies live in, find fish on my electronics, and catch ’em. There are some neat tricks I’ve learned in the past few years for catching these deep water panfish.
Deep is a relative term, but on most bodies of water, crappies will be in 25-40 feet of water. And they usually suspend off the bottom, which makes them easy to spot on your electronics.
Because they are in deep water, using a lure that gets to the bottom quickly is key.
When I go out on these fall crappie missions, it’s usually with a couple of buddies and things get competitive, quickly. The usual jig and minnow or jig-tipped with plastic works well on most days, but I’ve found a couple other baits that not many anglers use for catching crappies out of the boat in the fall.
These other baits are found in my ice-fishing tackle box. The first is a small spoon, an 1/8 oz. version like the Northland Buckshot spoon, which includes rattles. Spoons are good because they get to the bottom quickly and they select for aggressive fish and, on many days, big fish.
I like to tip my spoons with some like Gulp or Trigger-X maggots. They add a little bit of body to the spoon and some scent.
Drop the spoon down to the level of the fish by trying to watch it on your sonar unit. Crappies tend to always look up, so jig the spoon above the crappies and hang on.
I’m not talking about big jigging strokes, just small little lifts and shakes. Just impart enough action in the spoon to make it flutter a bit.
The second bait that’s absolutely deadl,y and has remained in my secret bag of tricks for many years, is a horizontal jigging bait like a Jigging Rap or Northland Puppet Minnow.
Common in ice-fishing boxes, these baits seldom see action in open water, but they should. Not many crappies can resist an 1/8 oz. minnow bait like these jigged softly above them.
Just don’t tip these lures with anything because you will ruin the action (larger versions are deadly for walleyes in open water, too).
The key to get the most action out of these baits is to use light line, which will help them fall quickly, as well. Four- or six-pound mono works or try some six-pound braided line, like Sufix Performance Braid, which has the diameter of one-pound mono.
I always use braided line nowadays, and attach a four-foot leader of six-pound mono.
Get out there and enjoy the open water a couple more times because it is a long winter!

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