Fall has fell in the Midwest. When we left the dock at Kabetogama Lake in northern Minnesota last week at about 8:00 a.m., the air temperatures were in the high 20's. That's pretty chilly, but we hadn't traveled to Kab to sit on the shore. We pulled on the Guidewear and headed onto the lake in search of crappies. We found'em, and they were big ones, mostly in the 13 to 15 inch range. If you do what we did, in the next few weeks you can get in on some outstanding crappie fishing if you're on a lake that has a good crappie population. Here's what we did.

I was fishing with Travis Carlson. Travis is a guide on Kab and knows how to catch the walleyes, smallmouth, and crappies that are so abundant here. He said we would be watching the sonar a lot. The crappies were tightly schooled and you had to be right on them to catch them. Almost all of our fish came from 24 to 28 feet of water.

Fall Crappie Fishing

Travis Carlson positioned his live-bait rig tipped with a minnow in the crappie zone and was rewarded with this slab.​

We moved into the bays that had been holding crappies in the previous days. Travis had GPS markers where the fish had been, but the fish were moving targets. However, they were usually within 50 yards of the marker. When we found the fish, we dropped our lines.

Travis was using a live-bait rig tipped with a minnow: I was experimenting with jigs and spoons.

A very important thing we needed to do to get bit was to put the bait in the crappie's strike zone. They were a couple of feet off the bottom, so we lowered our presentations to the bottom, then brought them up so they were off the bottom and where the fish could see them. It's really important any time of the year to have your bait right at the fish level or even better, a little above. Almost any species of fish is more likely to go up a bit than go down. When we got the bait to the proper level, the crappies bit almost every time.

We would catch a few fish from a school, then the school would either break up or the fish would get finicky. When that happened, we found another school, caught a few, then moved on to the next school. There were plenty of groups of crappies in the area we were fishing, so we never had to look long for a school to fish. After a couple of hours, we could go back to a school that we had already worked and catch some more.

We hovered over them and fished straight up and down, just like ice-fishing. I used eighth ounce Fire-Ball jigs tipped with Impulse Bloodworms or live minnows and caught fish, but also used my favorite ice-fishing spoon, a Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon. It contributed sauger, walleye, and northern pike.

As mentioned earlier, our sonar played a huge role in catching fish. Without sonar, you have no idea if fish are in the area. The a Series 9" Raymarine unit that we used revealed the schools. We could see our baits on the screen, so we knew when the bait was in the strike zone, and that enabled us to catch way more fish.

If you like to catch crappies, and you should, now is a great time to do so. Keep the above ideas in mind and you'll be a more consistent crappie-catcher.

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