John's Journal...

The Crappie Almanac for Year-Round Fishing

Day 1: Places and Tactics to Locate Crappie during the Prespawn

Editor’s Note: I’ve enjoyed fishing for crappie for more than 50 years, and I’ve also interviewed and fished with some of the greatest crappie fishermen in the world for the last 35 years. Here’s what I’ve learned from these great anglers.

Click for Larger ViewDucks Mark the Spot:

On water systems with dewatering areas for waterfowl, late February or the first half of March marks the time when the water from these duck ponds will drain back into the river or lake. Warmer than the main body of water and often loaded with nutrients that draw bait fish, this water attracts large numbers of fat, prespawn crappie. Fish the areas where this water reenters the main river or lake. Look for shallow bays, beaver ponds or big shallow sloughs cut off from the main river. During the prespawn, crappie will move into these areas first, searching for the correct water temperature to spawn. You’ll find the most crappie in shallow, warm-water bays just before the spawn.

Bass Fishermen’s Hot Spots:

Bass fishermen often build brush shelters at the mouths of creeks on points. During the prespawn, crappie will hold on these brush shelters on points that lead into creeks where they’ll spawn. When you hear bass fishermen reporting strikes on points with no success, more than likely they’ve had crappie attack their baits instead of bass. In the prespawn, look for crappie on brush piles in 10 to 20 feet of water on major points leading into the creeks.

Click for Larger ViewCrappie in the Mouths of Creeks and Open Waters:

Before the crappie move up into the creeks to spawn, they often suspend in large schools in the mouths of creeks and in open water 50- to 200-yards from the mouths of creeks. To catch these fish, either troll, or cast jigs through the schools. Once you start to catch crappie, drop a buoy to pinpoint the school, and cast to it. When the crappie quit biting, use your depth finder to relocate the schools, and change the color of your jig to continue to catch crappie from that same school.

Ledge Trolling:

During the prespawn, crappie frequently will hold on underwater creek ledges close to the spawning grounds. By using your trolling motor to move very slowly along the edge of a creek channel, you may catch large numbers of big crappie when you troll jigs.

Click for Larger ViewSpawning Runs for Crappie, Not Salmon:

In many sections of the country, crappie will make spawning runs like salmon do. When they move upstream toward dams and locks, you can catch them in eddy breaks and pools just off the current. Look for fat prespawn speckled-sides behind underwater boulders on the back sides of islands close to dams and behind riprap that sticks out in the water.

Minnow Trolling:

Place a 1/4-ounce sinker on the end of your line. Then 18-inches below the sinker, tie a 6- to 8-inch loop in the main line. Put the end of the loop through the eye of the hook and then over the point of the hook. Next, pull the loop back to the eye of the hook. This technique will hold your hook in place and away from the main line. Move 18-inches up from the first loop, and tie a second 6- to 8-inch loop in the line. Attach a hook in the same manner as you have previously. Bait both hooks with minnows, and lower the lead down until it touches the bottom. Then reel it up 6- to 12-inches off the bottom. Put one or two rods out using this type of rig on each side of the boat. Using your trolling motor, slowly move your boat along the breakline of the underwater creek channel. Keep one side of the boat on the deep-water side of the breakline and the other side of the boat on the shallow-water side of the breakline. You can take numbers of crappie during the prespawn with this technique of trolling live minnows along underwater creek channels at two different depths.

Cover Is Important:

During the prespawn before the crappie move shallow, you’ll find fish under stumps, roots and brush that you won’t spot on your depth finder. For this reason, search for cover. Even if you don’t see any crappie, begin to fish through and around the underwater cover. Many times you’ll catch a good number of big crappie at sites where you never actually see the fish.

Click for Larger ViewDeep-Water Crappie:

During the prespawn in deep, clear lakes like Lake Fork Reservoir in Texas, you may find crappie in water 30- to 40-feet deep, holding on underwater humps or ledges and in large, tight schools. At this time of year, you can locate them easily with your depth finder. Once you pinpoint the schools, fish vertically with either minnows or jigs. When the crappie quit biting minnows, switch to jigs for bait, or, change to minnows if you’ve used jigs. If you don’t have minnows, change the color and/or style of the jig you’re fishing. Crappie become color-wise relatively quickly. To catch a limit of keepers, you may have to change colors several times during the day to make the fish continue to bite.

For more crappie fishing tips, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks “Crappie: How to Catch Them Fall & Winter,” “Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and Summer,” “Catch Cold Water Crappie Now,” and “Reelfoot Lake: How to Fish for Crappie, Bass, Bluegills and Catfish & Hunt for Ducks” Click on each, or go to, type in the name of the book, and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer. Check back at this website after April 16, 2014, to learn about new print crappie books.

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About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Tomorrow: Where to Find Crappie during the Prespawn

Check back each day this week for more about The Crappie Almanac for Year-Round Fishing"

Day 1: Places and Tactics to Locate Crappie during the Prespawn
Day 2: Where to Find Crappie during the Prespawn
Day 3: Where Crappie Are during the Spawn and How to Catch Them
Day 4: More Ways to Locate Crappie during the Spawn
Day 5: Where and How to Find Crappie after the Spawn

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Entry 764, Day 1