John's Journal...

How to Fish for Crappie in the Fall

Day 3: Paul Alpers Chases Schools of Shad in Open Water and Shoots Docks for Fall and Winter Crappie

Editor’s Note: Paul Alpers of Clinton, Missouri, has fished for crappie for more than 58 years and is one of the founders of the Crappie Masters Tournament Trail (

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewIn the fall and winter, I chase schools of shad, trolling through them with the spider-rigging technique. Most of the time, during the fall and winter, the crappie have moved away from the structure, where they often hold at other times of the year. Instead, they’re following schools of shad in open water in depths of 15 to 20 feet. However, the crappie may be concentrating at 6-foot deep over a 20-30 foot deep bottom. One of the secrets to catching fall and winter crappie is to watch your depth finder and search for schools of shad. Then, try and set the speed at which you troll to allow your jigs to swim about 1-2 feet above the school of shad. This technique catches numbers of crappie, during fall and winter, out in open water, where few other anglers fish.

Some of the best areas to find shad will be at the mouths of coves and creeks above the river channel and creek channel ledges. Sometimes these schools of shad will move onto the flats. I like to troll with a single 1/4-ounce jig on each pole. By only using one jig on a single pole, I can pick-up my poles, wrap them and lay them down in the boat quicker than I can with the double-minnow-rigged poles. This way I can move quickly to another spot, if the crappie aren’t biting where I’m fishing. I like the Road Runner (, the Bobby Garland ( and the Mid South ( jigs. I prefer blue-and-white and black-and-chartreuse jigs during the fall and winter. Too, you never can go wrong either using orange-and-chartreuse, pink-and-chartreuse or black-and-pink jigs. When the crappie’s metabolism slows-down, so does its biting, I downsize my jig skirts too. I like 1-3/4- or 2-inch tube style jig skirts. I always use some type of fish scents like Kodiak fish scents ( I also troll using just minnows.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewAnother technique I like in the winter months is shooting docks. Crappie may stage underneath the docks. When I’m shooting docks, I’ll use a 1/32-ounce jig head and shoot it back under the docks to the darkest spot I can see under the dock. I use this technique especially on sunny days. The crappie under the docks generally will be holding about 6-7 feet deep under the docks or as shallow as 3-feet deep. The docks I like to shoot the jig under will be sitting above a 15-20 foot-deep bottom.

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: Tournament Fisherman Matt Morgan from Indiana Tells How to Catch Fall 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 3