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IT’S FALL IN TEXAS. But don’t stash the crappie gear in exchange for a scattergun or deer rifle just yet. You could miss out on some of the best fishing of the year.
Fall is the harbinger of cold fronts that bring a gradual chill to water temperatures on lakes across the state. It’s feel-good season when the days gradually grow shorter, the nights longer and mornings become increasingly crisp with the passage of time.
Jason Barber of Gun Barrel City loves fall weather. He is an even bigger fan of autumn’s crappie fishing prospects.
“Once we have that first cool snap the fish seem to start coming out of the summer doldrums,” he said. “They start getting aggressive and put their feed bags on. They’ll shallow up and really thump a jig. You’ll catch big ones, too.”
Barber is a veteran fishing guide who grew up on the shores of Cedar Creek Reservoir. It’s not the state’s very best crappie lake, but it certainly ranks among them. The lake offers a range of cover and structure where anglers can fish this time of year — boat docks, brush piles and bridge crossings. The crappie will most often be suspended around 8-12 feet down, give or take.
Here’s a brief look at the patterns and tactics Barber relies on to catch fall slabs. Find something similar on another good crappie lake like Sam Rayburn, Toledo Bend, Fork, Granger, Lavon, Richland Chambers or Coleto Creek and his tricks might work for you:
Barber “shoots” jigs to get at fish attracted to docks by shade and forage. Done correctly, shooting will catapult the jig at a low angle, parallel to the water, with enough velocity that it will sail far beneath the dock or whatever you’re aiming at.
Barber shoots with a 6 foot medium action spinning rod using 6 pound high-viz green line. The bright line sometimes helps you see bites before you feel them. He prefers shooting with a 1/16 ounce hand-tied jig; plastics are prone to tear or slip down. Barber says deeper docks in 8-12 feet will hold the most fish.
Crappie love to hang out around brush piles. When fishing vertical with minnows, Barber likes a 6-6 medium action spinning rod matched with 1/4-3/8 ounce slip sinker and 30-pound braided line tethered to a snap swivel with a No. 1 gold Aberdeen hook with a pre-rigged leader. The heavy line allows for bending the hook if he gets hung.
Barber uses a 6-6 medium rod with 6-pound line for casting jigs to get at fish suspended on top of, or on the sides of brush piles, or around bridge cross members. He says the light line casts well and helps if the fish are line shy.
Barber says long poling with a 12-13 foot specialty rod is ideal for forward facing sonar users when targeting fish suspended around stumps and the edges of brush piles. The long rod prevents getting too close and eliminates having to reel in the bait between presentations; just lift the bait up and drop it back down.
Bell Sinker Minnow Rig: Built similar to a drop shot rig, except the hook is staged on a 4-5 inch dropper loop about a foot above the bell weight. The loop allows the minnow freedom to swim. Barber likes this rig when fishing vertically for fish that are suspended near bottom.
A split shot rig is great for casting minnows, it slow falls around bridges. Rig a single split shot (1/16 to 1/4 ounce) about 10 inches above a No. 1 hook.
—story by MATT WILLIAMS