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Solving Flood Water Crappie Problems with Jonathan Phillips

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Editor’s Note: I’d worked out my work schedule, so I could take off on a Tuesday in late May to go fishing with my buddy, fishing guide and tournament winning crappier, Jonathan Phillips of Wetumpka, Alabama. Phillips had just won the Alabama Crappie Masters Championship and was catching plenty of big crappie. He felt confident we could have a good day on the waters of the Alabama River, about 1-1/2-hours from my home. However, when I called him on Monday night, Phillips said, “We’ve had 7-1/2-inches of rain in the last 24 hours on the Alabama River. Since you live just outside of Birmingham, you know the entire state’s waters, including numbers of feeder creeks, are flooded and out of their banks. I know this much water will move the crappie around from where they were during the Crappie tournament. Also, a lot of trash will be in the river. I think finding crappie will be harder, and there’s an 80 percent chance of rain on Tuesday. We can go if you want to, but I really think we can pick a better day to fish. I’ve developed some summer patterns that have been really working well. If we wait a week or two, I feel certain we can catch some good-sized crappie.” But we caught numbers of the biggest crappie I’d ever taken in these flood waters.

When I arrived at Lake Jordan (see Day 1), I called my friend and fishing guide, Jonathan Phillips, and he said, “Anthony and I have caught about six or seven crappie in the 30 minutes we’ve fished before you got here. I now know what to look for, and it appears to be a pattern I was planning to fish on the Alabama River. It’s going to produce here on Lake Jordan.”

As I prepared to begin fishing for crappie, I asked Phillips, “How do you cope with flood waters and find crappie in the late spring and early summer?” “John, if you’re fishing a river system like the Alabama River, you’re limited to where you’ll be able to fish, because the only place the crappie want to hold after the spawn in flood conditions is in an eddy or in the back water,” Jonathan Phillips says. Now that being said, if you can find eddy holes and back water, you probably can have a trip of a lifetime.

“I start off looking at the water when I’m fishing a river under flood stages. I search for the debris that comes floating down the river with that heavy current – particularly debris that’s floating in the opposite direction of the current coming downstream. I try to pinpoint places where I actually can see the water turning from downstream to upstream. When water is running upstream in heavy current or flood conditions, this action indicates that something is under the water that’s breaking the current and creating an eddy where baitfish and crappie can hold and feed. Usually, bass and catfish also will be concentrating in those eddy areas.

“Another thing I look for under flooding conditions is places where crappie can hold and suspend in a slack current. Several different factors make crappie suspend. Crappie will want to hold where the temperature of the water is comfortable for them. In the hot summer months, most people will be in air-conditioned cars or buildings to dodge the heat. During the hot summer months, the deeper water tends to be the coolest water in any river or lake. So that’s one of the reasons that the crappie move to deep water and suspend there during summer months. Often during flood conditions, the other factor that makes crappie suspend is the amount of light that’s visible in the water – it relates to water clarity. The muddier the water, the more crappie I find. Often the crappie will suspend only 2-4 feet from the surface on hot or really-hot days in the summertime, in flood-water conditions.”

To learn much more about crappie fishing, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks, and print and Audible books by going to or to for Nook books. To receive and download for free “The Crappie Catchers’ Cookbook,” by John and Denise Phillips, go to

To fish with Jonathan Phillips and learn how he catches big crappie all summer long, contact him at 334-391-9735, or go to his Facebook page at Team  Phillips Guide Service

Tomorrow: Solving More Flood Water Crappie Problems with Jonathan Phillips

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