"The key to this is to be quiet," said Magnolia Crappie Clubber and tournament angler Monty Blount of Byram. "The crappie have moved back up to the shallows this time of year, and they're staking out these snags ready to ambush passing baitfish.

"For whatever reason, they're a lot spookier now than they were in the spring."

The tournament angler targets October crappie on Mississippi's famous big crappie lake around standing snags as the weather cools and crappie move in to feed on migrating baitfish. He explains that the key to locating October crappie on the 35,000-acre flood-control impoundment is to look for shallow flats that are connected to deeper water along Grenada's main Yalobusha River channel. These flats are criss-crossed with smaller creek channels and ditches, and crappie use these cuts as travel corridors.

The veteran crappie angler starts on the flats and then works his way backward until he locates crappie.

"They are prone to move a lot this time of year," Blount said, "and they'll move from one area to another searching for bait. The one certainty is that they'll use those smaller ditches and creek channels to move along, so by working backwards, they are easier to locate."

Blount concentrates almost all of his efforts when fishing Grenada on the stretch of water between Skuna Point, where the two main tributaries connect, and Graysport Crossing, which is about two-thirds of the way up the Yalobusha River arm. This area is lined by shallow flats in the 8- to 10-foot range. Located all over the fertile flats is a multitude of wooden structure in the form of stumps, snags, iron brush and fallen logs.

While Blount may start his search for crappie by slow-trolling in spider-rig fashion over the flats until he finds a concentration of crappie, he'll quickly stow the long rods and use a single jig pole to produce numbers of fish from around the structure.

"Once I know they're there, I'll move spot to spot working each piece of structure as I go," Blount said. "I'll use the trolling motor to ease up on a spot, and then give it a few minutes before I drop a jig in there."

While the process may seem slow, he reasons that the approaching boat will often spook crappie that otherwise would be passed over by anglers who fish an area too quickly. After letting the area settle down, he can normally catch several fish from one snag before it's time to move to the next spot.

"Most anglers will head straight for a big stand of standing timber," he said. "My preference is to look for a snag that's off by itself. I believe that bigger crappie will stake out a solitary piece of cover, and smaller ones will avoid it. If that lone timber is within a reasonable distance from the creek channel I've been following and I know crappie are in the area, it's almost a given that there's good fish lurking there, so I don't want to blow him out of that spot by running up in the trolling motor and dropping a bait right on his head. I'll take my time, let him settle back down, then ease a jig down there. Most of the time I'm rewarded."

National tournament pro Whitey Outlaw agrees with Blount's assessment of how crappie relate to structure on Grenada this time of year. He said he will work an area until he figures out a pattern.

"All you fish this time of year is what you see," said the BnM pro, who finished third in the Crappie Classic at Grenada in 2006. "The fish are a little more active now than they are in the spring, but for whatever reason, they'll all want the same thing. One day they may be on big, thick snags that would be hard to get your arms around, and another day, they may all decide they like a little stick-up that's no bigger around than your wrist."

Outlaw said the most important thing is to pay close attention to the structure that you're fishing when you catch a fish. He tries to establish a pattern for the day's preference based on the diameter of the trunk, whether the structure is standing vertically in the water or whether it's laying down flat or at an angle.

There is also a distinct pattern to where the fish will orient themselves to structure. They may be on the leeward side if there's wind or current, or they may be on the shady side if there's bright sun.

Outlaw's choice of tackle is his own signature rod that he developed for BnM poles. The rod has a stiff but sensitive tip, but has no eyes or guides. The line runs through the center of the rod blank after entering through a port located a few inches above the reel.

"I can reach into or around any kind of structure with this rod and never have to worry about hanging the guides on something," said Outlaw, who named the rod the Santee Elite after his home lakes - the Santee Cooper chain in South Carolina.

The pro prefers to use a 1/16-ounce jig attached to 10-pound-test main line he uses on his reel. While he typically tips the jig with a live minnow, he finds that fall crappie on almost any lake across the South show a distinct preference for white, chartreuse and orange. His favorites are color combinations of white/chartreuse, green/orange and white/pink.

"For whatever reason, they like those bright colors in the fall." he said. "Maybe it matches the leaves or something, but crappie will sure eat them up."

The flip side

The crappie pro, who has a proven track record on Grenada in many of the Crappiemaster events he fishes, shared a secret for attracting attention to his bait when jig fishing around cover that is already loaded with natural bait. Outlaw uses a 1/16-ounce jig, and piggybacks a live minnow on the end of the jig - a common practice among many crappie anglers.

The difference is that Outlaw impales his live bait upside down, inserting the hook through the minnow's nostril and coming out behind the lower jaw. The result is a very disoriented bait that wriggles to right itself as soon as it's back in the water. The pro advised that a minnow hooked in this fashion never "settles down" as many minnows will do when hooked and left for a time in the water.

"I probably did it by accident the first time," Outlaw said. "All I know is that it worked, and I've been doing it ever since."

Outlaw fishes all over the country, and advises his trick works in both deep, clear lakes across the South like Clarks Hill and Logan Martin as well as more stained, shallow water like Truman and Grenada.

"I don't troll them upside down," he said. "That'll kill them in a hurry. But for enticing a big slab that's hanging down in structure, that upside-down minnow looks like he's injured, and he's usually the first that big crappie will pick off."

Changing temperatures and seasons in both fall and spring have the same general effect on crappie in Grenada and other lakes. Crappie move shallower and gorge themselves on baitfish preparing for the onset of hot or cold temperatures.

With this change in seasons can also come gusty winds. Guides and tournament anglers alike don't have the luxury of rescheduling when inclement weather sets in, and necessity is often the mother of invention.

So indicates local crappie angler Jim Dodd, who must fish in any kind of weather on the tournament trail. When fish are tight to woody cover, he brings out his "stump lasso."

"I can't take credit for this," said Dodd, "I guess (War Eagle pro staffer Kent) Driscoll showed me this first, but I've seen other anglers use it."

The stump lasso is simply a piece of PVC pipe with a length of 3/8-inch nylon rope threaded through the middle, then looped back through a hole that's been drilled 2 feet from the end. The result is similar to a dog catcher's leash to hold rowdy dogs at bay.

The difference is the stump lasso collars a piece of standing timber, and holds it at bay when the weather is rowdy. The loop created at the end of the pole makes it easy to reach out and lasso the structure without having to get too close. The other end is then cleated off to the boat. The stiff PVC pipe keeps the angler's boat a convenient rod length away from the structure without the angler having to constantly man the trolling motor to control the boat. The wind pushes the boat away from the structure, and the pole prevents the boat from surging too close.

"This thing is invaluable for fishing standing wood when the weather gets rough," Driscoll said. "You don't have the trolling motor constantly churning up the water around the structure you're trying to fish, and you can fish several spots on all sides of the timber then just slip the thing off when you're ready to move."

The house special

When paying a visit to Grenada Lake, it never hurts to check out the local cuisine, and see what the locals are serving to Grenada's monster crappie. When you make that turn off of Highway 8 to head toward Graysport Landing, you'll see a little bait and tackle shop on the corner.

While "B's Grocery" is a typical southern convenience store, it's also the only retail outlet to stock the Double Eye Hair Jig.

The Double Eye jigs are hand tied by a local craftsman who some 31 years ago entered into a gentleman's agreement with the owners of B's Grocery. He wouldn't sell them anywhere else if they didn't sell anything but his jigs. The agreement has stood the test of time, and has also caught a lot of B's Grocery customers a bunch of Grenada crappie

"These jigs work," said owner Karen James. "A lot of our customers jig with them, and a lot of them troll with them, and they will work both ways. Most people tip them with minnows, which we also have, but the jig is the secret.

"He paints the heads a number of bright colors, but the chartreuse head with the double eyes is our best seller. Everybody who stops in and buys a few usually comes back asking for more."