An angler holds up his catch of crappie

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Guntersville Lake for Plenty of Food Fish Day 2: What’s Guntersville’s Crappie Secret

A crappie in the water
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Editor’s Note: Years ago, Alabama’s Guntersville Lake was one of the hottest crappie spots in the nation. However, bass fishing on Guntersville has become so popular – hosting about 500 tournaments a year or more – and the crappie fishing has been kept on the down low by most of the area’s crappie fishermen. But the crappie haven’t gone anywhere, and they’ve gotten bigger.

A angler holds a large catch of crappie over his shoulder“Many people outside of Guntersville and the adjoining counties have forgotten about the excellent crappie fishing here at Guntersville,” Scott Jernigan, a longtime crappie guide there explains. “However, this year there will be two major crappie tournaments held on Guntersville Lake, and one of those tournaments will have a $20,000 purse. You can sign up for this tournament to be held out of Waterfront Bay Grocery and Tackle Store on Lake Guntersville by going to: or call James Bryant 573-286-2555.
or you can go to the Waterfront Bay Grocery and Tackle Store on Guntersville Lake and sign-up.” I believe folks have forgotten about how great the crappie fishing is here at Guntersville Lake, because when Guntersville Lake was ranked the number-two big-bass fishing lake in the nation by Bassmaster, bass fishermen flocked here like Kmart was having a blue-light special. Many anglers who once fished for crappie switched over to bass fishing, and the lake has had very-little publicity regarding its crappie fishing in the last few years.”

An angler pulls his fish in the boatAnother reason that Guntersville crappie fishing hasn’t gotten much publicity is because it is primarily a winter fishing hot spot. The colder the weather, the better the crappie bite. Also Guntersville has far less boat traffic in the winter. Guntersville Lake is one of the biggest lakes in Alabama and has plenty of grass in it. When the crappie’s spring spawn hits in March and April, the crappie aren’t nearly as concentrated as they are in the winter months. According to Jernigan, “Just about every day during the winter and early, early spring, a two-man party easily can catch their 60 fish limits – 30 fish each per angler limit.”

Yet another reason Guntersville hasn’t had much publicity on its crappie fishing is because the crappie tend to bite best just at first light. To get a spot under one of the more-productive bridges on the lake, you usually have to be on the water by 5:00 am, ready to fish before the other anglers arrive. “Most mornings, if we can get to the bridges by or before 5:00 am, my parties of two anglers usually can catch their 60 fish limit by 9:00 am,” Jernigan reports. “The crappie we’re catching will average 10-11 inches in length – and you’ll have several crappie bigger than that.”

An angler holds two green and black lures in his hand

After the spawn, the crappie return to the bridges and can be caught there in the summertime. However, Jernigan explains, “The fishing isn’t quite as good in the summertime as it is during the winter months. If this area has really-hot weather, the crappie will move out to the ledges and often will be holding in 20- 25 foot-deep water. On most crappie lakes, finding brush piles that have been sunk for crappie is relatively easy; however, on Guntersville Lake, there’s not as many brush piles as you may find on Alabama’s Weiss Lake or Lake Eufaula. Once the crappie get ready to spawn, they’ll leave the bridges and gang-up on long, grassy points. If you can pinpoint them on those points, you can get your limit quickly, just before the crappie move in to spawn. My favorite places to fish just before the crappie move in to spawn is long, grassy points between the bridges at South Sauty. If you can find them on those points, you just about can catch a crappie every time you cast a jig to them.”

When we asked Jernigan why he prefers to fish jigs rather than minnows, he explained with a smile, “Jigs are a much-less expensive than minnows. You may be able to catch 100 crappie on one jig, whereas you may have to fish 150 minnows to catch that same number of crappie on live bait. Most of the tackle shops around Guntersville Lake have these small, Pop-Eye jigs on hand that I feel are the best for catching winter crappie at Guntersville. The Waterfront Bay Grocery and Tackle store ( always has these jigs, but jigs aren’t hard to find at other bait shops. If you’re not catching crappie on the green-lead head with black hair behind it, just scratch the green paint off the jig head, and you may catch crappie with that.”

An angler smiles holding his crappieJernigan’s best day of wintertime crappie fishing was when he and his party caught and released 300 crappie, keeping only the big ones. “If you want to get the best spot on the bridge, you may want to bring some warm clothes, a thermos full of coffee and go to the spot you want to fish at 2:00 to 3:00 am, before the other anglers come to the bridges,” Jernigan says. “I’ve seen fishermen at the bridges at midnight in their sleeping bags, waiting on daylight before they start fishing. In the winter, you may catch a crappie now and then from midnight until the sun starts coming up from behind the trees. But after that the crappie bite’s usually on big time. For 3 hours, you just about can catch a crappie on every cast during the cold weather.”

Cover: Crappie The Year-Round River Fisherman's BibleTo contact Jernigan, you can reach him by calling Waterfront Bay Grocery and Tackle – located on Highway 79 between Scottsboro and Guntersville (, 256-582-6060), which has all of his info. You can call Jernigan at: 706-575-7239, email him at [email protected], or go to his Facebook page: Scott Jernigan (

Cover: Jim Crumley's Secrets for Hunting DeerTo learn more about crappie fishing, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “Crappie: The Year-Round River Fisherman’s Bible” at, available in Kindle, print and Audible. At this writing, some states are still having deer seasons which run through February 10th and others last even longer. To learn more about hunting for deer, check out John E. Phillips’ “Jim Crumley’s Secrets of Bowhunting Deer”, now available as of January 1, 2022, in Audible, as well as paperback and Kindle at You may have to copy and paste these links into your browser. (When you click on the books, notice on the left where Amazon says you can read and hear 10% of the book for free). On the right side of the page and below the offer for a free Audible trial, you can click on Buy the Audible book.

Tomorrow: What Techniques Catch Guntersville Bridge Crappie

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