John's Journal...

Catching Crappie at Reelfoot Lake - the Real Deal

Day 5: Billy Blakely Recommends You Fish Crankbaits for Crappie

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 ViewMany years ago when I fished out of a rented, wooden johnboat that came equipped with an empty dog-food can to be used to bail the water from the boat as it leaked, my dad and I were trolling crankbaits to catch spotted bass on Smith Lake. All of a sudden I had a big bite, but the fish on the other end of the rod didn’t jump and didn’t fight like a bass. Click for Larger ViewWhen I got the fish up to the side of the boat, I’d landed a 2-pound crappie. I never had seen a crappie take a crankbait. I really didn’t think that much about it, because I didn’t catch another crappie on a crankbait for many years. But tournament crappie fishermen have been using crankbaits to catch crappie for the last decade. However, most of these crankbaits have been small bass crankbaits that they have put about a foot or two up the line on the poles they’ve used to troll. On the bottoms of the lines, they’ve used weights, often as much as an ounce, to get the crankbaits down to the depth they want to troll. In years past, these crankbaits have come in colors designed to catch bass. But, one of the hottest colors for catching crappie in the summertime is a pink crankbait, which more lure manufacturers now are producing for fishermen who troll crankbaits for crappie in the summertime. In recent years, both Strike King and Bandit have stepped to the forefront in designing and painting crankbaits to meet the needs of hot-weather crappie fishermen.

“We troll those crankbaits through the stumps and the logs up here at Reelfoot and catch crappie all summer long,” Blakely explains. “Yes, we’ll get a few crankbaits hung. But we catch a lot of crappie. Many people don’t know how effective trolling crankbaits for crappie can be, until they try it. That’s one of the advantages we have here at Reelfoot is that there is no time of year that we can’t catch crappie using some type of tactic.”

Even in the fall and the winter months when the Reelfoot sportsman’s attention turns to waterfowl hunting, many of the guides take their duck hunters crappie fishing after they’ve filled their limit of webfoots. “Plenty of days during duck season, I’ll take clients out before daylight, and they’ll get their limit of ducks by 8:00 or 9:00 am, come-in, eat lunch and then go-out and catch their limit of crappie before the day is over,” Blakely reports.Click for Larger View “Crappie bite all year long, and you can catch crappie all year long, if you know where and how to fish for them, know the baits they want to take and how to present those baits to the crappie, so they’ll eat them.”

Click for Larger ViewA day on the water with Billy Blakely is like going to college on crappie. Blakely fishes all year long and almost every day. I think sometimes the crappie in Reelfoot call Billy Blakely at night to find out where they’re supposed to be the next day.

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 web link 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 phone.

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 5