Advanced Seasonal Structure: Fall Ledges
by Tim Huffman
Ledges are structures that can work year round. They can be creeks, rivers or ditches and smaller creeks running into bigger ones. Ledges are the focus point but natural covers, manmade covers and associated flats are all part of the system.
Fish follow the ledges in and out of different depths of water. In the fall they will move back and forth into shallow water chasing shad. Cool nights, shorter daylight times and cooling water determines when and where the baitfish and crappie will be.
Fish follow shad in the fall so water temperatures should determine whether a fisherman starts shallow, deep or somewhere in between. As the water cools, the fish move shallower. The shad follow the ledges, too, so they determine specific crappie locations. The only exception to ledge domination is when the shad move up on the flats and crappie follow. These are usually up in creeks or coves.
CrappieNow Publisher and tournament fisherman, Dan Dannenmueller says, “Feeder creeks are a good place to start in the fall. There will be ledges and flats. Search the ledges and look for wood, intersections and forks. When they are combined with shad, it will be a great spot.
“Electronics is a key component of fall fishing. It will show shad, crappie, ledges and cover. Any good unit will show the primary things you need to see. If you have and know how to use advanced electronics, it speeds that search up. It’s easy to find a ledge, find a brushpile on that ledge, then interpret what is on the brushpile and at what depth.
“Big fish don’t have to move too far. They can live their whole life in a creek or river. They may adjust their depths for the conditions and food, but will stay in the general area. When they are hungry they eat and fall is one period when I believe they feed more often to fatten up for winter.”
Dannenmueller says multiple poles in the water is important this time of year. It’s not unusual to find a good brushpile on a ledge, spider rig baits into it and leave them there. Sometimes they prefer the baits still or backing away from the brush. It can trigger strikes when they think the bait is leaving.
Stumps can be good, too. The crappie will often hang on the top of stumps waiting for baitfish to swim by. Several methods will work, but again, spider rigging is hard to beat.
Straight spider rigging is a top pick in the fall. Fish may be at more than one depth and they can be scattered if not holding to cover. Any speed, or total stop, can be used as needed.
Dannenmueller says, “I like a straight minnow on top and plastic tipped with a minnow on bottom. I use a sinker in between, usually 1/2-ounce. I use a snap swivel on the main line for quick change of pre-tied rigs. I like the medium size plastics but in the fall the tiny Itty Bit has worked well, probably because it mimics the size of the baitfish. Another trick is to use scent with a minnow. Stubby Steve’s is a natural scent and it helps hold the minnow on a hook so it won’t get knocked off as easily. But any good scent causes a fish to hold on longer to any bait to give more time to recognize a bite and set the hook.
“It’s not unusual to find fish in 10 to 14 feet of water. This depth makes it easier to fish without spooking them. Also, the middle depths are easier to fish than deep water.”
Last tip, don’t stay too long in an area if you’re not catching fish. Fall crappie are often on the move and so should you. Once found, it’s time to work the area, watching for ledges, cover, shad and other factors holding fish. If fish are on ledges, pay close attention to depths. Crappie can usually be caught in similar locations at the same depth.
Seasonal: Any season is good for fishing a ledge. In the fall, look for crappie moving up shallower to flats just off the ledge. But, they may be in the wood cover along the ledge. Only by looking and fishing will you know for sure.
Cold Front: Not too many cold fronts in the fall but they will bother fish just like during other seasons. The fish will be more difficult to catch.
Sun: Ledges provide shade so don’t ignore that in periods with high sun penetration.
Rain/Clouds: Usually not a big factor except shad might get shallower and fish may scatter.
Current: Never a good thing if it’s relatively strong.
Wind: Can cause boat control issues when spider rigging.
Recreational Boating: Usually not a problem in the fall.
Driftmaster individual rod holders
BnM 16-foot BGJP poles
Bait rigs hand-tied, similar to Capps/Coleman rigs
Jigheads: Bobby Garland MoGlo; and TTI-Blakemore Road Runner.
Sinker ½- ounce (1/4 to 1-ounce)
Plastics. A variety with two top picks being Bobby Garland Minnow Mind’R and Swim’R. Favorite colors include Cajun Cricket (multicolor with orange, chartreuse, other), Glacier (milky shad color), Sweet Tee with Lemon (light brown and chartreuse) and Lights Out (black-chartreuse).
Gamma 10-pound test main line
Scent: Stubby Steve’s and Bobby Garland Slab Jam