John's Journal...

How to Fish for Crappie in the Fall

Day 2: Mike Vallentine Fishes with One Pole and Dead Sticks His Jigs

Editor’s Note: Mike Vallentine of Clinton, Missouri, enjoys fishing crappie tournaments.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewIn the fall of the year, I like to fish shallow water with a single pole in water 10-feet deep or less. In Clinton, Missouri, where I live, we consider fall crappie season as fishing during October – November. I like to vertical-jig in standing timber and brush piles for fall crappie, using Bobby Garland ( and Road Runner ( jigs. Sometimes I tip my jigs with minnows, and always take minnows with me. If we’re not catching as many crappie as I think we should, then I’ll tip my jigs with minnows to see if the minnows trigger more strikes. When the weather is cold, fishing with minnows is a pain, and then I prefer to fish jigs only, if possible. In the winter months (December, January and February in Missouri), I will be fishing in water depths of 20- to 30-feet deep. More than likely, the crappie won’t be at that depth, but that’s how deep the bottom will be. I generally can find crappie staging at 12- to 15-feet deep over that 20-30 foot bottom. I’m mostly trolling and hand-poling (fishing with a single pole).

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewSeveral factors determine which technique my fishing buddies and I will use in the fall and winter. If the crappie are scattered and not holding in a tight school, they may be suspended at several different depths, and we’ll troll. If we find the crappie gathered-up and holding in tight schools, I prefer to catch them with a single 11-foot pole with 8-pound-test line. I’ll try and hold the jig as still as possible, at the water depth where I’ve pinpointed the school of crappie and just above the school. One of the misconceptions about crappie fishing is that to catch crappie you must move the crappie jig or fish with live minnows that move. However, in the wintertime and often at other times of the year, holding that jig as still as possible will catch far more crappie than twitching, popping or swimming a jig.

I may attempt to hold the jig still for 20-30 seconds, before the crappie will decide to bite it, especially in the winter, when the crappie’s metabolism has slowed-down, and they’re not willing to chase bait. Bass fishermen call this technique “dead sticking” a lure. Many times, this tactic will produce 50-100 crappie per day for me. If I’m catching crappie that weigh less than a pound, I’ll move to another spot and try to locate a school of bigger fish. Using this tactic, we may catch crappie weighing 3/4- to 1.1 and 1.2 pounds.

I use Kodiak crappie scents ( on my jigs. I think the scent often reaches the crappie, before they’ll take the jigs. I really believe that crappie can smell a fish scent, and that the scent influences whether or not a crappie wants to bite.

AmazonAmazonFor more crappie fishing tips, get John E. Phillips’ brand new Kindle eBook “ Crappie: How to Catch Them Fall & Winter,” or get “Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and Summer.” Click here on each, or go to, type in the name of the book, and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer.

About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Tomorrow: Paul Alpers Chases Schools of Shad in Open Water and Shoots Docks for Fall and Winter Crappie

Check back each day this week for more about "How to Fish for Crappie in the Fall"

Day 1: Factors Determining Where Crappie Hold and How They’ll Bite in the Fall and Winter with Dan Dannenmueller
Day 2: Mike Vallentine Fishes with One Pole and Dead Sticks His Jigs
Day 3: Paul Alpers Chases Schools of Shad in Open Water and Shoots Docks for Fall and Winter Crappie
Day 4: Tournament Fisherman Matt Morgan from Indiana Tells How to Catch Fall Crappie
Day 5: Tournament Anglers – the Sipes’ Secrets to Catching Fall Crappie by Shannon Sipes

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Entry 743, Day 2