Fall Crappie Tactics

Think of Wisconsin, and walleyes are the first fish to come to mind. But, the cheese state offers fall opportunities for another popular species.

Ted Takasaki

“I’ve caught thousands of crappies that were 14-inches to 15-1/2 inches,” said Greg Bohn, a fishing guide on Wisconsin reservoirs for 25 years. “But, I want that 16-incher, and fall is the best time to get one.”

Owner of Strictly Walleye Headquarters, a bait shop in Minocqua, Wis., Bohn said autumn crappies are wary. Like most reservoir species, finding them is often a “here-today, gone-tomorrow” affair. They’re constantly on the move as weather and water levels change, but Bohn has a system for fall crappie that works through ice-up. His tactics will work anywhere there are reservoirs.

Big crappies move to deep river channels when days grow short, water cools and reservoirs are drawn down to make room for snowmelt and runoff from spring rain. Once relocated, they roam among brush piles, stump fields and flooded trees in search of protection and food.

“Wood is definitely the place to be,” said Bohn.

His method relies on precise presentation of small baits down 20 feet or more, so calm days are best. He starts using an electric trolling motor to move over a stretch of the old river channel watching the sonar for wood or river bends where brush collects. He tosses marker buoys near likely looking features. When done, he has a line of visual reference points on the surface to pinpoint spots with fish-holding potential below.

Bohn uses rods he makes himself called Leech Sticks. They are 7 feet, 3 inches in length with a sensitive tip and good backbone. Bohn devotes one as a “Do-Nothing Rig” with 6-pound line and an Aberdeen-styled #6 painted hook in orange/chartreuse or pink glow. He attaches a 1/8th-ounce or 1/4-ounce rubber core sinker about 18 inches above a big minnow hooked lightly through the lips or near the tail. Don’t use small minnows. Fall crappies want a meal, not a snack. Let the Do-Nothing Rig down to the bottom until the hook dangles just above the brush. Contrary to its name, the Do-Nothing Rig is often Bohn’s most productive set-up.

Bohn’s second rod is equipped with the NO-SNAGG Rig, which features a NO-SNAGG sinker, a leader and a NO-SNAGG hook, which Bohn designed for Lindy Little Joe. With it, Bohn can drop a minnow on a hand-held rod right into the thickest cover.

Bohn’s third tactic uses another of his inventions, the Timb’r Rock Jig by Lindy. It has the same 7-strand wire hook guard Bohn developed for the NO-SNAGG hook. Dressed with a minnow, he uses the 1/16th-ounce size in brush and stump fields.

Note the depth where the first crappies are caught. Others will be at that same depth.

If you have more questions about these techniques, contact Bohn at (715) 356-9229, or visit his website.

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