Catching Crappie This Fall Requires Dropping Old Habits
Written by Doug Wynn - Published on November 19, 2019
Hey Yall from the Excel Bay Pro 230 "Fishful Thinking". What a roller coaster of weather we have had the last couple of weeks. Seems we had about three days of fall before winter overtook summer. The surface temperatures on Kentucky and Barkley Lakes have dropped from the mid-80s to mid-40s in a month's time.
It looks like we will be having seasonal temperatures with some rain later in the week. Not knowing whether to pack snowmobile clothes or sunscreen is getting old.
Crappie are beginning to settle into a somewhat seasonable pattern for this time of the year for the most part. There are still crappie and bass being caught in knee-deep water but most have settled back in on the channels and deep structure.
Find the brush or stakebeds as well as stumps, work them slow, and keep an eye on your electronics for baitfish. Regardless of water conditions, crappie and bass will be where their food source is.
I'm seeing some photos of great catches of both crappie and bass. I've said it for years - the demise of Kentucky and Barkley Lakes has been greatly exaggerated. What I, as well as many others, have found is you can throw out many of the tactics that worked five, 10, or 20 years ago.
Conditions on these lakes have changed and many of us were slow to change with them. I'm sure the Asian carp have caused much of this change but also water clarity, bad spawns, and times of low baitfish populations have contributed.
I've had to slow down and change much of my tackle as well as electronics to keep up. The days of dropping a minnow on 20 pound test line, drifting aimlessly, and hoping for crappie bites probably aren't going to put very many fish in the livewell.
This fall, my normal pulling crankbaits or longlining jigs haven't been as productive as in years past. Lighter lines, smaller baits, and keeping some distance between the boat and the fish should all help catch rates.
The best reports I am getting have been from those fishing molasses slow in areas of known cover with fish. The Garmin Livescope and Humminbird 360 are both giving fishermen a leg up on those who don't use them. Humminbird will be releasing their new Mega 360 units next month. All the videos and reports I'm seeing make me very anxious to get mine and get it on the boat.
Try double minnow rigs in water from 4-10 feet deep on flats where baitfish are seen on electronics. Spider rigging is the preferred method but casting with a slip bobber and minnow or jigs can also be very productive for the angler who prefers to anchor or spot-lock and work an area thoroughly.
The bulk of the crappie should start showing up in mid-depth areas with cover. Many are fishing these areas with single poles and vertical jigging or swinging the jig out away from the boat and letting the bait swim through the cover. It is always best to start working the top and edges of cover before heading deep into it. If there are active fish out of the cover, one needs to catch them first.
Dropping a hook deep into cover and hanging it up is a sure way to spook the entire contents of that piece of structure.
I grew up bank fishing, as have many others. I've been very complimentary of the efforts of all involved to build new bank fishing areas like those on each end of the Eggner's Ferry Bridge and the fishing pier at Wildcat on Blood River.
There are many who don't own boats or who want to spend a limited amount of time to wet a hook. Good bank fishing is in limited supply. That said, I'm seeing the closure of much of one of the best bank fishing areas we have, the west side of the Cumberland River at the lock wall below Barkley Dam.
This has historically been where some wonderful crappie and bluegill fishing has been available to the bank-bound angler. With the installation of the BAFF system at the mouth of the Barkley Lock, somebody in their infinite wisdom came to the decision to close most of the best bank fishing on the west side of the lock wall.
Don't get me wrong, there is nobody who supports the effort to eliminate the Asian carp more than me. My livelihood depends on it. I just don't understand why the bank is closed a hundred yards downstream of the BAFF System. Close the area immediately next to the BAFF to boats and bank fishing but leave the bank area close to it and downstream open to bank anglers.
Historically I haven't seen the area west of the lock wall get a lot of boat fishing pressure. I know a lot of bowfishermen use this area and they may have to stay out of it but those who are bank fishing have zero chance of harming the system. If a 1/8th ounce jighead will damage the BAFF, what is the prop-wash from the towboats going to do?
I'm urging those who made such a decision to reconsider. One big issue we are seeing is a drop in tourism. Why make it even harder for a bank-bound tourist to find quality bank fishing? It was said in the movie "Field of Dreams" - "If you build it, he will come". If we take away an opportunity will he find some other location to spend his money? I'm afraid he might.
Be careful out there. Fish with a partner in cold weather, wear your PFD, and keep a dry change of clothes in the boat. You might not get another chance if you take a dunking in 40 degree water.
Welcome to our slice of Heaven.