John's Journal...

How to Fish for Crappie in the Fall

Day 4: Tournament Fisherman Matt Morgan from Indiana Tells How to Catch Fall Crappie

Editor’s Note: While fishing crappie tournaments, Matt Morgan of Noblesville, Indiana, has learned new tactics Southerners use to catch crappie at tournaments.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewIn my home state of Indiana (I’m from Noblesville), we primary target structures, on river channels and creek channels, during the fall and winter. We typically fish in water that’s 20-25 feet deep then. We like to find natural structure under the water like stumps, logs and debris. During the fall and winter, we usually will be fishing double-minnow rigs with live minnows. In the area of Indiana where we fish during the fall and winter, a good-sized crappie will weigh between 1-1/4- or 1-1/2-pounds. However, on many days, we can go out and catch 100 to 150 crappie. We throw back all but the biggest ones. Our fall fishing usually starts about October 1 and lasts until our region gets that first, hard cold snap, which occurs typically around the end of November.

When we fish in the winter in Indiana, we fish much the same way we do in the fall. We just catch our fish in deeper water. Typically we will be fishing in 25-30 foot deep water on creek channels. During the winter months, we try to keep our baits as close to the bottom as we can. We’ve found that spider-rigging (slow-trolling) with 6 to 8 poles is more productive than fishing with just one pole. We’ll use this tactic throughout the winter.

My partner and I fish with a 1/2-ounce or 3/8-ounce weight on the bottoms of our double-minnow rigs. Depending on the wind and current we encounter on the day we fish, we’ll be trolling at .2 or .3 mph. We use our trolling motor to troll, but if the wind is blowing really hard, we’ll drag a logging chain or use our Power Poles ( to slow-down the speed at which we’re trolling. We put paddles on our Power Poles to help slow-down our drift too. So, even on a windy day, we still can troll at .2 or .3 mph.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewWe believe the real secret for catching crappie in the winter is moving slowly and fishing live bait. Most of the time, during the winter months, the crappie will be lethargic. So, you really have to troll slowly to catch them. You have to put those live minnows right in front of the crappie, if you are convincing them to bite. Being able to control your boat drastically determines how-many crappie you’ll catch, especially during the winter. By controlling your boat, I mean having the ability to put your minnows in the strike zone of the crappie. In Indiana, we can fish with three poles per person. So, when my partner and I are fishing together, we’ll have six poles out the front of the boat. We may have three or four crappie on our poles at the same time. We’re lucky, because Indiana doesn’t seem to have a large number of people who enjoy crappie fishing, and ever fewer who like to catch crappie in the winter months.

Spider-rigging is a technique that is far more common in the South than in Indiana. When I started coming to Alabama and fishing for crappie, I saw many crappie pros spider-rigging and long-line crappie fishing. The pros using these tactics could catch crappie 12 months out of the year. I also learned that putting-out multiple poles on the front of the boat gave me much more control over where my baits were fishing. As I began to learn more about this method, I found I could catch more crappie spider-rigging. I also learned why and how I caught the crappie. With that knowledge, I could turn around and go back to the same spot, put my minnows in the same place and catch even-more crappie. Spider-rigging is a much-more-precise way to crappie fish than the techniques I’ve used in the past. So, we’ve learned we can catch more fish all year by spider-rigging than using any-other tactic.

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 Anglers – the Sipes’ Secrets to Catching Fall Crappie by Shannon Sipes

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

ALL CONTENT PROTECTED UNDER THE DIGITAL MILLENIUM COPYRIGHT ACT. Content theft, either printed or electronic is a federal offense.


Entry 743, Day 4