At Jordan Lake, southwest of Raleigh, N.C., the first half of September is likely to play out in typical, summertime fashion. However, the second half is subject to the first hints of fall, triggering schools of shad to bunch up and begin a movement towards the creeks — with revitalized crappie in hot pursuit.

“For the last two years, the first of September to the middle of September has still been a summertime pattern,” said Freddie Sinclair of Sinclair’s Guide Service.  “Fish will still be up high in the water column, above the thermocline, scattered out on deep creek channels, main-lake points, brush piles and road beds.

“But when we have one or two cold spells where the temperature of the water cools down just a little bit, those fish will sense a change,” said Sinclair (919-219-2804). “They’ll start staging up, following the baitfish pretty heavily into the creeks, and they’ll start feeding to fatten up for the winter time.”

In early September, when crappie are suspended and scattered, Sinclair chooses to long-line troll to cover ground and put fish in the boat. Fishing anywhere from 8 to 16 rods of staggered lengths, Sinclair trolls between a .5 and 1 mile per hour with 1/16- and 1/32-ounce jigheads, depending on the depth of the fish. Some will be tipped with live minnows, and others will only carry a 2-inch curlytail grub.

Once crappie are bunched up and easier to nail down, Sinclair switches to vertical tight-lining from the bow or stern with rods up to 16 feet long. To hold his baits straight down, each rod sports a Carolina rig with a ¼- to ½-ounce egg sinker, depending on depth and wind.  Some rods will carry a No. 2 hook and minnow, while others carry a jighead with a soft-plastic grub. In this instance, Sinclair will go from sitting still above a school to moving up to a .5 miles per hour. 

“In muddy water, I like black, pink or red in soft plastics,” Sinclair said. “I use a chartreuse color if it’s clear water, but chartreuse works any time. It’s your go-to color.

“I like the northern section of the lake that time of year,” he said. “Also, the Ebenezer bridge can be good, and the S-turns can start to have fish move in on them as well.” 

“Fifteen to 20 feet is good depth range the first part of September, and 15 to 28 feet the latter part of the month when you start finding them in the deeper creek channels in concentrations of fish and baitfish.”