John's Journal...

Catching Crappie at Reelfoot Lake - the Real Deal

Day 2: Billy Blakely Says to Bet on Black Crappie Year-Round at Reelfoot Lake

Editor’s Note: Reelfoot Lake in the northwestern corner of Tennessee, near Hornbeak, Tennessee, about 2-miles from the Mississippi River, is one of the most-productive crappie-fishing lakes in the nation. Anglers catch crappie there year-round in large numbers. At one time not too-many years ago, so many crappie were in the lake that they were caught and sold commercially. However, today there’s no commercial crappie fishing at Reelfoot, but anglers come from all over the country to fish its waters. Some of the best crappie-tournament fishermen anywhere also live on the banks of Reelfoot. This past week I fished with Billy Blakely, the chief guide for Blue Bank Resort on Reelfoot Lake. The weather was terrible. The wind was blowing, the waves were slapping the boat, but we still caught fish. This week we’ll learn how to catch crappie throughout the spring and into summer with Blakely. Be sure to see the video interviews we did with Blakely at the end of each day’s information.

Click for Larger ViewThe black crappie has to be one of the prettiest crappie that swims. When it’s all colored-up in the spring of the year, it’s a beautiful fish, fun to catch and delicious to eat but he’s a fish of mystery. The black crappie likes the shade and the shallow water and is an ambush feeder. Click for Larger ViewIt blends in well with the underwater environment where the fish lives and feeds. One of the ways to tell the difference between a black crappie and a white crappie is that the black crappie has six anal spines and seven to eight dorsal spines. The white crappie has only six dorsal spines. The black crappie ranges from south Manitoba to the upper St. Lawrence River in Quebec, then south through Nebraska to western Pennsylvania, northern Texas and southern Florida, north along the Atlantic Coast to North Carolina. The black crappie also have been introduced further north along the Atlantic drainages, and introductions have been made in the West and as far north as British Columbia. You can catch white crappie in rough water and swift current, but the black crappie prefers quiet water and more vegetation than the white crappie does. The black crappie also travels in schools, and you rarely see as many black crappie as you do white crappie.

At Reelfoot Lake you can catch black crappie all year long. However, black crappie spawn earlier than the white crappie and generally prefer much-more shallow water. They are relatively easy to catch during the spawn, but after the spawn occurs, Blakely says, “To catch them, you have to bump jigs off their noses.” Because the black crappie will spawn first, the spawning season for this fish usually occurs from the middle to the end of March. Click for Larger ViewInstead of spider-rigging, Blakely prefers to fish with 14-foot poles with small jigs and drop-fish around the lily pads. “I like the longer fiberglass poles to get the jig further away from the boat and farther into the lily pads than I can reach with a shorter pole. We often can catch a limit of black crappie fairly easily before the weather gets too hot, and before they leave the shallow water.”

Click for Larger ViewOne of the advantages of crappie fishing at Reelfoot is that you can tell the guide whether you prefer to catch black crappie, white crappie or catch crappie of any color. As far as the fight and the flavor of the meat, both types of crappie are equally fun to fish for and delicious to eat.

For more information on crappie fishing at Blue Bank Resort, call 1-877-258-3226 (1-877-Blue Bank) or visit To learn the techniques that Blakely uses during March and April, click on the video below, and watch our interview with Billy Blakely.

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To learn more about crappie fishing, go to or, go to and type in “Crappie – How to Catch Them Spring and Summer.” You can purchase this book for only $2.99 to read on your Kindle or smart phone.

Tomorrow: How to Find and Catch White Crappie with Reelfoot Lake’s Billy Blakely

Check back each day this week for more about "Catching Crappie at Reelfoot Lake - the Real Deal "

Day 1: How to Catch Crappie in March and April with Billy Blakely
Day 2: Billy Blakely Says to Bet on Black Crappie Year-Round at Reelfoot Lake
Day 3: How to Find and Catch White Crappie with Reelfoot Lake’s Billy Blakely
Day 4: Billy Blakely Explains Where to Find the Crappie after the Spawn at Tennessee’s Reelfoot Lake
Day 5: Billy Blakely Recommends You Fish Crankbaits for Crappie

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Entry 656, Day 2