10 Hot Springtime Crappie Fishing Holes
Crappies are ubiquitous in our state’s reservoirs. They are easier to find and catch in West and Middle Tennessee because the lakes there are relatively shallow compared to East Tennessee where the fish are usually more difficult to find in the deep clear reservoirs with little cover.
Crappie ranks among the best tasting fish swimming in Tennessee. That accounts for one of the reasons for its popularity; that and they are so easy to catch in the spring during their baby-making cycle. Anglers may keep 15 per day 10 inches or longer.
There are two species of crappies, black and white. White crappies spawn in April and May whereas black crappies spawn earlier, around the third and fourth week of March, then depart for deeper water. White crappies stay in the shallows longer.
“The Crappie Factory” is TWRA biologist Tim Broadbent’s description of this natural lake. The standing trees, logs, stumps and abundant aquatic vegetation provide plenty of cover and food.
On Reelfoot anglers just float drifting minnows, jigs or a combination of the two at different depths until they find fish. Once crappies are located, anglers give the spot a good going over and then they start drifting again.
2. Kentucky Lake
Guide Bob Latendresse (731-220-0582) put me on the best crappie fishing I’ve ever experienced in Birdsong Creek south of New Johnsonville. They were too numerous to count and all were caught on 1/16-ounce black/chartreuse jigs.
Latendresse says “Harmon and Leatherwood and Eagle Creek near Paris Landing State Park are considered to have the best crappie populations. He casts a minnow fished below bobbers or on tightline (no bobber) but most often he uses small plastic grubs on 1/16-ounce chartreuse/red or chartreuse/ pink jigs.
Once you leave the crappie fishing below Cheatham Dam, the best angling is between Cumberland City and the Kentucky state line. This 35-mile midsection has many stumps providing abundant crappie habitat. The area includes Guices, North and South Cross, Lick, Hickman, Dyers and Saline Creeks.
Bush-bumping is a deadly technique in this area, especially around the islands. Find crappie cover (bushes and fallen trees) then tightline a 1/16-ounce jig on a graphite jig pole. Drop your jig by a limb and just move the jig a little.
4. Normandy Lake
Outdoor writer Tom Waynick says, “March and April are when crappies begin staging to enter the shallows for their spawning ritual. You can catch them in the creeks where there is standing timber and in front of the riprap at the dam by casting shad, chartreuse or chrome-colored deep-diving crankbaits. Swimming pink jigs with a white grub also does a good job.
“At first I start catching them about 15 feet deep up to about 10 feet. As the water warms, they move closer to the rocks. At the corner of the riprap, near the ramp and parking lot, are some fish attractors and they will spawn there.”
I began fishing with guide Jim Duckworth (615-444-2283) more than a quarter-century ago. He’s evolved into a top flight innovative guide who focuses on two lakes, Percy Priest and Center Hill. He says Center Hill has a lot of big crappies but they aren’t as easy to catch as they are on Priest.
“Crappies love my double-trolling rig for Road Runners when the water temp is below 65 degrees (see Duck’s TN Finesse Rig 2 at www.duckworthlures.com). If it’s above 65 degrees I troll crappie-colored Bandit crankbaits.”
Duckworth fishes Priest from the Hobson Pike Bridge to the forks of the Stone River and up the East Fork. “I’ll fish the laydowns with minnows. There are also some good gravel bars where I’ll throw out a minnow a foot under a bobber and let it drift down the bar. You can’t beat Priest in the spring.”
This is one of the lakes that’ll make a crappie angler jump up and down with excitement. Sherrill Smith from Oak Ridge says, “I troll. That’s about the only way I fish for crappies, except sometimes I’ll cast to a stump early in the spring.” He fishes above Thief Neck Island in the Tennessee River arm.
“I mostly use 1/8-ounce leadheads with two-inch Triple Threat Kalin grubs. I take tuffie minnows, too,” he says. “There are times when I’ll tip a grub with a minnow. It just depends on how well they are biting. If they’re biting well, I go strictly with the grub. If the fishing is a little slow, I’ll entice them with a minnow.”
Douglas is another of those lakes that cranks out crappies. Floyd Coffey says “I tightline a jig on main or secondary points in the river and creek channels. In early March, crappies are usually on the end of the points and that’s where I catch larger fish.” Douglas Lake crappies normally spawn between the end of March and the last of April.
He uses gold colored four-pound-test monofilament and a 1/8-ounce splitshot crimped on a No. 4 hook threaded with solid-plastic tubes. He says, “It’s important to shorten the tentacles on the tubes a tiny bit to get the best action. I walk my lure with a tightline very close the bottom without ever having slack in my line. Ninety percent of all my keepers hit the jig when it’s about a foot or so above the bottom.”
8-10. Boone, Watauga and South Holston Lakes
In researching with anglers and the web, the crappie-catching on these deep, clear water lakes showed the same results. In early spring fish main lake coves, break lines near spawning locations, brush piles and TWRA fish attractor sites. Techniques include a minnow or jig dropped by downed trees, heavy brush and fish attractors. Trolling for big crappies is growing in popularity – deploy several poles for trolling jigs or Road Runners about 10 feet deep.
Here’s a way to spice up your crappies Cajun style.
1 pound crappie fillets (or catfish)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour or pancake mix
1/4 cup milk
1 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Hot pepper sauce
Mix flour, milk, and egg in a small bowl. Mix cornmeal, Cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper in another small bowl. Dip fillets in wet mixture to completely wet surface, then roll in dry mixture. Fry fillets in oil in a medium sized skillet until both sides are golden brown. Serve with hot pepper sauce.