Summer’s swelter is on the way out and fall’s advancing coolness will soon tickle the backs of our necks and push crappie toward their fourth-quarter patterns. Main lake targets will continue to produce for a few more weeks, but Wally “Mr. Crappie” Marshall says the sooner you head to inside waters the better.

“When water starts cooling in late September and early October, the shad start moving into the creek channels and the crappie are right behind them,” Marshall said. “When a lot of guys are out on the main lake, I’m back in the creeks, whacking them.”

Toledo Bend crappie guide Dennis Tietje agrees and notes that just like bass, crappie know the importance of gobbling all they can before winter’s arrival. Shad will continue progressing farther into the creeks and coves and you can bet the little terrors with the paper mouths will be hot on their heels.

“Bait usually congregate along these creek bends, so that’s where I focus a lot of my effort,” Tietje said. “In the fall, the crappie are all about the food. They have to be part Cajun.”

Maximizing this opportunity requires a tactical approach, so here are the key points: 

What to target

Paying close attention to his contour chart, Tietje follows the sharp edges of the creek because this allows him to view a wider range of depths. Staying near the food, he said, is always his top priority.

“I usually let the bait dictate the depth at which I concentrate,” he said. “I like to stroll (slow-stroll) my baits methodically by working them along the drops near the shad with a vertical tight line approach on 6-pound Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon.”

Marshall prefers a