You could say that Brad Taylor was born with a crappie pole in his hand. His grandfather ran a minnow farm, and as far back as memory allows, his family has been fishing for crappie on Lake Murray.

"It's a family thing," said Taylor, the only full-time resident crappie guide on the lake. "There is a lot of history with my family and the crappie in Lake Murray. I have lived on or near the lake all my life, and I grew up fishing for crappie."

On Lake Murray, as on most southern lakes, the spring and fall are prime times for crappie fishing.

"Early spring and late fall are bumper fishing times for crappie, and March/April and October/November are the prime times," Taylor said. "Those are the two times of the year when the bigger fish are shallow, and they are easier to catch in the shallow water."

They are shallow in the fall, he said, because the threadfin shad begin bunching up in huge schools - "balls" - to migrate into the creeks, and the crappie are among the first fish to feed on the young threadfins, which run about an inch or inch-and-a-quarter long that time of year.

"In the early fall, they are on brush more than at any other time of year. They suspend over the brush and are very easy to find and very predictable," Taylor said. "When they are suspended over the brush, fishing is very easy because the angler's hook and line don't have to be dropped down into the brush where it can get hung. As fall progresses and the water gets colder, a lot of crappie will stay on the brush, but just go deeper.

"What you have on this lake - and what makes the fall of the year so magical - is that a lot of the threadfin shad start working up the river, and not too long after they start migrating upstream, the crappie start following the bait up the main-river channel. They will stage on any kind of brush or structure out in the main channel to feed."

The great thing about fishing for crappie on Lake Murray in the fall, he said, is that you can catch them just about any way you want to.

"The fall is anybody's game when it comes to crappie," Taylor said. "I like to fish the brush starting off and as it gets colder, Thanksgiving or a little bit after, I start to tight-line, slow-trolling. The fish are moving to the ledges and moving up the rivers then. You can pretty much just follow the shad schools. If you find the bait, you will find the crappie."

Taylor believes the crappie fishery on Lake Murray is in a major rebound after a winter-long drawdown a few years ago that allowed a lot of vegetation to grow that was flooded when the lake came back up. That vegetation provided cover for crappie fry and allowed lots of plankton to develop, which provided the young crappie and other species with more food.

"This past year, the quality of fish coming out of that lake was phenomenal," Taylor said. "There are a lot of big fish, and there are huge crops of young fish out there, 2- and 3-year-old fish."

He has personal proof of the health of the fishery, having caught a slab that weighed more than three pounds in April while trolling a white Crappie Snack with a chartreuse tail in Cloud's Creek.

"We just got the new limit, which is 20 fish a day with a minimum length of eight inches, and I think that is going to help the fishery, too," he said.

In the upper part of the lake and up into the Big and Little Saluda rivers, Taylor said any kind of brush, key points, ledges or other structure in 15 to 20 feet of water on the main channel will hold crappie staging to feed in the fall.

One specific type of structure, bridges, are just about a year-round crappie magnet, he said, but they are very strong in the fall.

He concentrates on the upper lake, but down the lake from the rivers, Taylor said Hollow Creek, Bear Creek and Crystal Lake are all good spots.

"The favorite way to fish over brush for a lot of people is casting jigs, either 1/32nd-ounce or 1/64th-ounce jigs. Casting it out and slowly retrieving it over the brush is a good technique, and you can also fish the jig vertically down in the brush," Taylor said, "or you can tight-line minnows over the brush, with a just a hook and a small split shot. My preference for fishing with minnows is ultralight spinning gear, a 9- or 10-foot rod. I like 4-pound line for both minnows and jigs."

Taylor normally ties on a No. 2 Aberdeen hook but he will use a No. 4 hook if the fish are finicky.

"The size of split shot is dictated by the wind. Use the smallest split shot you can possibly get by with to keep the line directly down," he said.

"I prefer tuffy minnows, and I try to get them mixed in size. I like to have some small ones and some medium ones, because the crappie will vary in what they prefer from day to day."

For casting, Taylor prefers a 1/64nd-ounce Fish Stalker jig in either black/chartreuse or chartreuse, switching to a 1/32nd-ounce size if the wind is blowing.

For trolling he likes the Southern pro jigs, especially Hot Grubs, in black/chartreuse, blue /chartreuse and chartreuse. But with 14 to 18 rods out to run jigs at different depths, he will use an assortment of colors to determine what the crappie are on that day.

Another piece of equipment vital to successful crappie fishing, Taylor said, is your boat's electronics.

"I monitor the depthfinder, looking for bait, seeing the depth it is located and where it is located. I am also looking for fish and the depth the fish are located," he said, "and I am looking at structure such as the brush to determine if the fish are suspended on top of the brush, on the side of the brush or on the bottom."