John's Journal...

How to Find and Catch March and April Crappie

Day 5: Catching Black and White Crappie on Reelfoot Lake in March and April with Billy Blakely

Editor’s Note: Billy Blakely, chief hunting and fishing guide at Blue Bank Resort near Tiptonville, Tennessee, has guided and fished on Reelfoot Lake for over 20 years. From first light until dark, more than 300 days a year, Blakely is fishing for crappie or bass.

Click for Larger ViewQuestion: Billy, how are you finding and catching crappie in March and April at Reelfoot?

Blakely: We’re catching two-different kinds of crappie in various ways. We’re catching black crappie in shallow water and white crappie in deep water.

Question: How are you catching black crappie, Billy?

Blakely: We’re fishing a cork and a jig on a crappie pole in about 2 feet of water around the lily pads.

Question: How you are rigging for the crappie?

Blakely: I’m using 4-pound-test line and a small slip bobber up the line with a 1/16-ounce black-and-chartreuse jig tied on the end of the line to have enough weight on the line of my pole to cast it. The lilies are still about 12- to 14-inches underwater. The black crappie relate to shallow water year-round on Reelfoot. They’ve been there all year feeding on shad. By rigging like this, your jig stays above the underwater lily pad, and a crappie will come up out of those stems to get your jig. We’re catching some really-nice-sized crappie right now, weighing up to 2-1/4-pounds each.

Click for Larger ViewQuestion: Billy, how concentrated are these crappie?

Blakely: If you fish 100 yards of lily pads, you may fish with your pole for 80 yards and only catch three or four crappie. But then in that last 20 yards, you may catch 40 to 60 crappie. The good news is once you find the crappie, you generally can return to the same spot for 3 or 4 days and continue to catch crappie.

Question: Billy, how are you reaching those shallow-water black crappie?

Blakely: We pull the motor all the way up out of the water and use an electric anchor on the front of the boat and the back of the boat. Then we can ease the anchor down into the water without spooking the fish. The secret to catching black crappie at Reelfoot is to be extremely quiet on the shallow water. If you make noise, you won’t catch the black crappie. That’s why I’ve put carpet in the bottom of my boat to help muffle the noise. Remember, our boat is only in 18 to 20 inches of water, so we need a shallow-draft boat to reach these areas.

Question: Billy, you’ve explained that the black crappie on Reelfoot in March, are holding in about 8 inches of water over a 2-foot bottom. Where are you finding the white crappie in March?

Blakely: We’re fishing 18-feet deep in 20 feet of water when we’re fishing for white crappie. We’ll be spider rigging (slow-trolling) with our poles when we’re fishing for those deep-water white crappie. With the cool weather our area’s having in March, the white crappie will be holding right on the bottom. When we’re fishing for white crappie, we’re fishing minnows only, hooking the minnows in the eyes with a double-hook rig so they appear to be swimming. That 20-foot-deep water has stumps on its bottom, so we’re trolling just above the stumps. Reelfoot Lake is a really-shallow lake, and there’s not much 20-foot water in this lake.

Question: In one day of fishing for white crappie, how many will you and your customers usually catch in March?

Blakely: We’ll generally catch 40 to 80 white crappie on a good day that will weigh from 3/4- to about 3-pounds each.

Click for Larger ViewQuestion: Billy, last week you mentioned that black crappie concentrate in about 18 inches of water, and now you’re saying white crappie hold in about 18 feet of water. How do you decide when you go fishing which kind of crappie you’ll target?

Blakely: We let the weather decide for us.

Question: Under what conditions do you fish for each type of crappie?

Blakely: When we’re fishing for black crappie, we prefer windy and cloudy weather conditions. On windy and cloudy days, we use our boat to quietly move into that shallow water without the crappie being able to see us or hear us very well. When Reelfoot Lake has clear days and not much wind, we’ll sit on the front end of our boat and spider rig for white crappie in deep water. We can fish successfully in 15- to 20-mile-per-hour winds. However, when we get a wind that creates white caps on the lake, we move into the backwater and the shallow areas and fish for black crappie. So, we let the weather conditions dictate what type of crappie we’re targeting. On rough days, we go to the shallow water for black crappie. On calm days, we fish the deep water for white crappie.

Click for Larger ViewQuestion: Billy, why don’t you fish the lily pads in shallow water on clear days?

Blakely: The crappie are just like bass in clear, calm water. They can see and hear you better on clear days in the shallow water. Now, you may catch a few, but you won’t catch nearly as many crappie as you will if you fish the deeper water for the white crappie.

Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and SummerLearn more about catching crappie from some of the top pros, anglers and guides for crappie in the country. Get your copy of the Kindle eBook, “Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and Summer” by John E. Phillips by clicking here. Amazon Prime members can receive the book free for 5 days.




Check back each day this week for more about "How to Find and Catch March and April Crappie "

Day 1: Finding Early-Spring Crappie in Kentucky with Malcolm Lane
Day 2: Minnesota Crappie through the Ice in March and April with Matt Johnson
Day 3: Taking South Carolina and North Carolina March and April Crappie with Stokes McClellan
Day 4: Fishing the Tunica Cut-Off During March and April with Ed “Dawg” Weldon
Day 5: Catching Black and White Crappie on Reelfoot Lake in March and April with Billy Blakely

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Entry 658, Day 5