John’s Note: Fishing over the years with some of the greatest crappie fishermen in America, I’ve discovered a couple of all-important secrets to catching really big crappie. If you fish for crappie in a lake that traditionally has homed monster-sized crappie in a state that manages its crappie in places where no other crappie fishermen fish, you’ll consistently catch bigger crappie. You can adapt these strategies to where you fish and catch big slab crappie throughout the year.
Through the years I interviewed and fished with many tournament crappie anglers and learned so much from them. One of the fishermen told me, “You can catch some of the biggest crappie in any lake by fishing deep water on main-river points.” Bass fishermen know they can catch plenty of bass off main-river points. For that reason, you’ll find brush and cover planted by tournament bass fishermen on those main-river points on almost every lake throughout the nation. You can locate these brush shelters by using your depth finder. Most crappie fishermen, especially on bad, cold, windy, rough days in the early spring will retreat to creeks and coves to fish visible cover out of the weather. Therefore, the least amount of crappie-fishing pressure on most lakes will occur on those main-river-point brush piles where you have to contend with boat traffic, heavy wind and sometimes blowing rain. However, I always find the biggest crappie in these places.”
To catch crappie on deep-water, main-river brush piles, many anglers like to fish 1/16-ounce or 1/32-ounce crappie jigs. If they catch little crappie off these brush piles, then they change the colors of their jigs, since often big crappie prefer a different color jig than little crappie like.
“I only seriously fish for crappie 3 to 4 weeks during the early spring prior to the spawn because at that time of the year, I can catch the most and the biggest crappie,” Danny Wiles of Birmingham, Alabama, says. Wiles likes to fish when the weather and the water is so rough that most crappie fishermen won’t even think about putting their boats in the water. “I like for the lakes to reach the flood stage,” Wiles reports. “I want water to flow over the spillways, the wind to blow, the current to flow strong and the water to look like a chocolate milk shake below the dams. On those kinds of days, you won’t see other crappie fishermen on the lake.”
In flood-water conditions, the strong currents force the baitfish to eddy holes, pockets downriver, behind rocks or into underwater holes on the bottom. The baitfish also will stack up behind trees that have fallen into the water, breaking the current. “Under these types of weather and water conditions, the really big crappie will follow the baitfish into those eddy holes and gorge themselves on baitfish in preparation for the spawn,” Wiles advises. “In a half day of fishing under these conditions, I usually can catch my limit of 35 crappie, weighing 1-1/2- to 2-pounds each. And in my catch, I’ll usually have 5 to 10 crappie that will weigh more than 2-pounds each.”
You don’t have to go to major reservoirs and fish in a tailrace to catch really big prespawn crappie when the rivers reach flood stage. Often, you can find numbers of large crappie by walking the banks of small streams and creeks during flooding conditions as crappie move up them, searching for spots to spawn. As Wiles explains, fast-moving current and muddy water creates eddy pools, and then the baitfish and the crappie will stack up in those eddy pools. One of those small pools in a creek or a stream that you can fish from a bank often will produce a catch of the biggest crappie you ever have taken.
To learn much more about crappie fishing, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks and some print books, “Crappie: How to Catch Them Fall & Winter,” “Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and Summer,” “Catch Cold Water Crappie Now” and “Catch Crappie All Year: Fishing a Single Pole, Using No Boat and Farming Crappie.” Click here to get these books. To receive for free the “Crappie Catchers’ Cookbook,” by John and Denise Phillips that offers free recipes, click here.