Can you believe it? It's time to find your bird shot shells from last September and beg your way onto a dove field somewhere. It's tradition around here, you know. Labor Day and dove hunting announce to practically every Mississippi outdoorsman that huntin' season is here.

Men stop shaving and start working those food plots. Wives and girlfriends buy their hubbies and beaus the latest tree cameras, hunting boots, rifle scopes and anything camouflage. Employers have to schedule jobs around deer hunters' vacation and sick days.

Plus, it's football season. You'd think every red-blooded Mississippian is either moving tree stands or tailgating up in Starkville or Oxford.

It's Mississippi, and we take our killin' and grillin' seriously.

Between these two big fall traditions here in the Deep South, there can't be time for anything else, can there? Heck, this time of year is busier than, say, Christmas or the 4th of July.

This time of year is my favorite time of year, too. It's time to go catch a boatload of whopper-size white perch. Hey, not everybody deer hunts or follows SEC football. Some of us - make that a bunch of us - love to catch fish in the fall. Here's why.

First, we survived the terribly hot, record-high summer temps, and the promise of cooler, more pleasant days are within sight. Our juices start flowing. We start smelling the air, scanning the skies and the tree lines looking for critters to shoot. And, some of us start dusting off our fishing poles because we know one of the very best times to be on the lake is upon us.

Fall fishing provides better weather, fewer and less-severe fronts (sure hurricanes are possible, but they're waning right now), cooler, more bearable temperatures and some of the biggest slabs of the entire year are happening right now.

And, the fish know it's fall, too. They instinctively start feeding up for the coming winter months. Right now, the white perch are burning it up over at Chotard, up at Grenada, at Pickwick, on Barnett, over at Okatibbee and up on the Tenn-Tom, I guarantee it.

I'll be pulling crankbaits for crappie this fall starting right now. And I'll keep pulling the paint off those hard baits until the surface temps go below 45 degrees. I learned last fall how successful, how outstanding, the crankbait bite can be this time of year.

And I must remind you that the Magnolia Crappie Club begins its new tournament season this month. Our first event is going to be our first-ever open event. Everyone is invited - no club membership needed. We're calling this one-day open event the MCC Big Mama Open.

At the time of this writing, the exact date is not set, but by the time you read this, you can get the details at www.magnoliacrappieclub.com. We'll probably hold the event on world-renowned Grenada. Our current ideas are that the heaviest Big Mama wins $1500, plus a $500 B'n'M Bonus Bucks gift card if the winner is caught on a B'n'M pole. Plus, MCC will pay additional places based on the number of boat entries. Finalized details will be reported on our website.

Let me tell you a few things I've learned about pulling crankbaits this summer. They don't hit every day. Limits, at least on Barnett, were impossible for me to come by, but that's OK. I'm still learning.

I've decided, after much trial and tribulation, that I prefer braided over mono line for pulling crankbaits. I like braid better because it telegraphs problems faster than mono. Trash on the line? I know it instantly with braid. Hooks fouled? braid tells me instantly. Two baits got together on a turn? It's obvious if I'm using braid. And whenever that inevitable "bird's nest" or any other line tangle happens, the new braid is actually easier to salvage than mono. Let it dry (which only takes a few seconds) and the knots and tangles in braid practically untie themselves - really.

I load my baitcaster reels with 25 handle turns of 12-pound mono. Then I tie on 20-pound braid and turn the handle 30 more times. Then, using a different color braid than the 20-pound stuff, I tie on 100 feet of 10-pound braid. Sounds like a lot of trouble, but it's not, and I kinda like working on this stuff up under the shade tree while enjoying a cold one.

TIP: Fiskar scissors are the best-ever for cutting braided line. These are kid's scissors that can be found everywhere school supplies are sold. Couple of bucks a pair for stainless steel, tight tolerance scissors that cut braided line like a hot knife through butter.

Obviously, the two different-colored lines give me a reference point of how much line I have out. I find I'm wasting my time pulling more than 125 feet of line behind me. I prefer to pull100 feet or less.

I troll up to six rods from the back of my Bass Cat. I personally prefer rods that are 6.5 to 7.5 feet long. Like some of you, I started with the rods that I had -12- and 14-foot-long trolling or jig poles. Landing a 2-pound slab with a 12- or 14-foot pole is difficult for me.

Shorter rods make better sense for my boat set-up. I have some MCC buddies who are better and more experienced at pulling crankbaits who believe just the opposite. That's OK - to each his own. That's why B'n'M makes Pro Staff Troller rods (designed to troll crankbaits) in lots of lengths.

Additionally, I think, depth claims that come on crankbait boxes are a joke. And I find those trolling guides, or "bibles," to be nothing more than just that - guides.

Here is what I know from hundreds of hours of pulling hundreds of crankbaits. They don't all pull at a consistent depth. I'll use Bandits as an example (and, I like Bandits a lot). You can pull six 200 series Bandits behind your boat on the same size line, the same distance from the boat, at the same time and some of them will bump the bottom in 12 feet of water and some of them won't.

And that ain't all bad. I kinda like having my baits swim at different depths. That helps me establish a pattern much faster.

My point is that crankbaits are not exactly precision instruments. They swim differently. The same brand of baits have slight differences in action, depth and, in some cases, require a little fine-tuning to make them run straight and true. My suggestion is to pay attention to the "angle of your dangle" (look at your line, brother, where it enters the water). Then make adjustments from there.

So put on that new camo whatever your honey just bought you, head to your favorite crappie lake and catch you some as big as they grow. Your deer-camp buddies will love those fresh crappie fillets.