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Crankin' Up Crappies in Ontario

Late fall crappie caught in Northwestern Ontario's Sunset Country. • Credit: Gord Pyzer
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Crankin' Up Crappies in Ontario

Learn fall crappie fishing tips to use on your next trip

Whatever you do -- don't put away the boat -- at least not for the next couple of weeks.

It may befall and the temperatures may be dropping, but the best crappie fishing of the year is happening right now.

angler with string of black crappie fish

(Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

And it is only going to get better in your favourite Ontario fishin' hole.

Talking about favourite Ontario crappie haunts, I was out on one of my pet waters the other day -- a small Sunset Country jewel nestled between Kenora and Fort Frances -- and the action was outrageous.

As in Lady Gaga good.

And I never saw another boat the entire day. It was oh, so sweet. Heaven on earth.

But I'd only be telling half of the story if I didn't also let you in on the sneaky way I was catching the fish. I was trolling small crankbaits behind three-way swivel rigs and bottom bouncers. It is a technique few panfish anglers ever consider, but the crappies were smacking the little wobblers as though they thought they were Lac Seul muskies.

Indeed, most anglers -- especially our American friends to the south -- think that when they visit Ontario, the only way you can catch crappies is by hanging a tiny jig, tipped with a lively minnow, below a bobber.

angler holding ontario crappie

(Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Trust me, it is not the only way, and in the fall, it is not the best way, especially, when you've set your sights on catching a once-in-a-lifetime giant, Ontario slab in the 14- to 17-inch range.

Here is how to do it. Balance your favourite 7- to 7 1/2-foot long, light or medium-light action spinning rod with a 1000 or 1500 series reel, spooled with a 6- or 8-pound test braided line.

The light braid, by the way, is essential as it is super sensitive and cuts through the water like a knife because it is comparable in diameter to a 1- or 2- pound test monofilament.

Now, attach a small three-way swivel to the end of your braid and an 8- to 12- inch long piece of 6-pound test monofilament line to one of the remaining swivels. This dropper line will hold your weight.

I like to use the same cylindrical-shaped tungsten weights I use when I drop shot for smallmouth. Being composed of tungsten, which is roughly half the size of a comparable lead sinker, it perfectly balances the other finesse components of the rig. Having said all that, however, a lead bell-shaped weight will work almost as well.

By the way, I carry a variety of sinkers ranging from light 1/4-ounce all the way up to heavy one-ounce weights so I can adjust to the depth the crappies are using.

Now, to finish off the rig, attach an 18- to 24-inch long piece of 4-, 5-, or 6-pound test fluorocarbon line to the third swivel, and tie a small crankbait to the other end.

My favourite crappie cranks are Rapala Mini Fat Raps and Rapala Ultra Light Minnows. Big Ontario slabs can't resist them, but if you have another favourite, be sure to tie it on. The key with crappie cranks is keeping them small, usually 2 1/2 inches and shorter.

Now, armed for bear, or, rather, giant crappies, start searching for schools of fish. At this time of the year, you'll usually find them in pockets or holes relating to deep water.

On gloriously warm, sunny, Indian-summer-type days, on the other hand, the big slabs will also move up and associate with deep cabbage weed edges. The key here, however, is that the weeds need to be green and lush. If they're brown, slimy and withered keep moving on.

When I finally locate fish on the sonar unit, I always like to throw out a couple of marker buoys to pinpoint the exact location. Invariably, you'll spot the fish at this time of year hovering within a foot or so of the bottom.

angler holding ontario crappie

(Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Simply lower down your three-way-rig until you feel the weight hit bottom, then troll as slowly as possible, keeping your weight and trailing bait in the magical fish zone.

To control my speed, especially if it is windy, I'll often throw a drift sock off the front of the boat and then back troll into the wind.

When it is calm, however, I prefer to crawl along using either the bow or transom-mounted electric trolling motor.

Oh, yes, one final thing that will bring a smile to your face: there is no mistaking when a big Ontario slab grabs your lure. The first time it happens, you'll swear you've hooked a walleye, bass or northern pike.

But when you reel in your line and spot that huge, gorgeous, yellow and black crappie, you'll know why you didn't put the boat to bed early.

And why you spent your time fishing in paradise, crankin' colossal fall crappies, in Ontario.

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