There are three distinct late summer crappie patterns that i know of which will consistently produce late summer crappies: wood, weeds & cruisers.
Crappies relate to pretty much the same submergent/emergent weed growth as ‘gills and perch in backwaters and running sloughs in last August, BUT you’ll find crappies suspended a little higher in the water column…maybe not much when we’re talking gills/perch in 3-6 fow.
A good way to confirm their presence is to tie a pink/white/silver hook in-line about 18-24″ above the tiny bait you’re searching for perch with. It is possible to fish too deep for crappies. But seldom too shallow. The panfish bite is truly a finesse bite. Adding a 1/32 oz crappie jig might be too much. (but sometimes needed in a stiff breeze). If wind is not a factor I go with a #8 streamer fly. Most crappie bites occur as hooks are falling or when reeling in the lures to make another cast.
Crappies are already starting to relate more to wood. A pattern which usually doesn’t kick in until Sept…then gets better every day. Look for at least 10 fow on wood and drop a little hair, feather or tube jig close to the wood 1-4′ down. I don’t use live bait. 10’ sticks+20 lb braid+ light wire hooks keep you in the game. I teach a technique in which you only break of 1 time out of 10 when the hook finds wood…and if you aren’t finding wood regularly, you aren’t fishing where the crappies are!
‘cruisers’ are schools of crappies dogging schools of baitfish. They may be relating to deeper submergent wood, or simply subtle current breaks. Watch for SUBTLE feeding on the surface. Might be gar, might be crappies. If the fish are SMB or WB the feeding activity is much more obvious.
I always have a 1/16 oz white RoadRunner or Rooster Tail ready to cast at those feeding dimples on the surface, with a steady retrieve 1-3′ down. Sometimes this pays off with crazy action which might put 12 slabbers in the box in that many minutes. Or not. You’ll never know if you don’t try.