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Jigs still catch crappies in the fall even without live bait

Jigs, like this 1/16th ounce Northland Tackle Gypsy Jig, are perfect for catching fall crappie, even without the addition of live bait. But fight the fish gingerly, a sharp hook can easily tear free from the thin membrane of a crappie's mouth.

Crappies, those suspending, often transient schools of sought-after affections, are ripe for angler pickings right now.

Whether you refer to the black and white dotted panfish as slabs, spots, specks, slabzillas, papermouths or Crappie Diem (seize the crappie today), the fish are undoubtedly an object of many anglers' affection.

Ok, Crappie Diem isn't accurate Latin (I hope it didn't take you that long to figure out) and the other sur-names, sub-names and mostly nicknames are only uttered in the heat of crappie battling passion. It's difficult to control one's emotions when a true two-pounder is pegged to the business end of your fishing line.

Crappie size is both angler and measurement relative. For instance, an eleven-inch crappie is sometimes unjustifiably "stretched" to thirteen inches.

Some of that flexibility may be attributed to a quick, simplified measure in, well, measuring.

Since crappies have such large lips and mouth cartilage, though translucently thin, an extended jaw can change the crappie's length by quite a bit--over an inch on a decent sized fish.

So why is the practice or art of measuring a crappie, or any other fish for that matter, so influential?

In the everyday world of fishing, anglers look for fish larger than anything they've ever caught. And over the years, due directly to the positive nationwide effects and awareness of catch and release, length often equates to weight. One thing's for sure: an accurate scale doesn't lie.

Releasing monster crappies remains influential to the future reproduction of equally--or greater--sized fish as the genetics are passed on to new broods.

The reason that topic of catch and release and selective harvest arises this time of year is due to a rise in activity from the species. Not only are crappie commonly aggressive during the fall, they often travel into shallow water during warm, calm days. That progression makes them easy to see from the elevated deck of a fishing boat.

The key element to locating those shallow water crappies is to look for vegetation. Submergent weeds like cabbage weed and coontail is great, while sparse fields of pencil reeds are even easier to find since they protrude up above the surface.

Although minnow such as fatheads and crappie minnows are a traditional method for catching big fall crappies, marabou, hair and plastic jigs usually work just as well, sometimes even better. Think about it; no more minnows flying of the hook mid-air during a cast and no more chasing the wiggly buggers on the bottom of the boat once they squirm out of your hand. Crappie jigs in 1/32nd to 1/16th ounce sizes are ideal.

A variety of jigging techniques are productive for crappies, but sometimes less action garners more bites. Personally, I've had the greatest success casting the jig as far as possible, and then simply let the jig sink to the bottom. Watch your line for any twitching or sudden movements. It's essentially your strike indicator and any sudden line movement means there's a fish on the other end.