John's Journal...

Fish the Right Depth for Crappie

Day 4: Locating Open-Water Crappie

Editor’s Note: To catch crappie at any time of the year, you need to find the right depth to fish for them. Over the years, I’ve learned that fishing at the correct depth influences whether or not you catch more crappie more so than the kind, the sized and/or the color of bait you use.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewFor many years, anglers have depended on the spawn and the crappie moving into shallow water, primarily around some type of cover like logs, bushes, stumps or brush, to find and take slab crappie. But if a cold front hits, as often happens during the spawn, those shallow-water fishermen become lost as to where to find and fish for crappie. But the anglers who don’t depend on the spawn and the shallow-water crappie still can catch big slabs. The late John Powell, of Montgomery, Alabama, one of the first professional bass fishermen and avid crappie fisherman, and I had planned a crappie-fishing trip in late March one year. But when we arrived at the lake, we both had to put on our snowmobile suits. We found the surface temperature in the mid-40s. With the wind blowing, the wind chill inched downward to the 30s. “If you fish where I tell you, you will catch crappie,” Powell said. “They’re not on the banks because cold weather has moved them out to about 4-1/2- to 5-1/2-feet deep. So, we’re going to fish along the banks where the crappie normally spawn, but we’ll catch crappie where the bank fishermen usually will be sitting in their boats to fish down the bank.” We fished down the bank with our corks set 5-feet up the line on our poles. “We’re going to drop-fish down the bank in this deeper water just like you drop-fish down the bank in shallow water when the crappie are spawning,” Powell instructed. As I followed Powell’s suggestions, we started catching slab crappie 10-to 12-feet away from the bank in 4-1/2 to 5 feet of water.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger View“Most bank fishermen will be sitting in their boats on top of the crappie we’re catching and never get any bites,” Powell explained as he pulled in another big slab. “What you have to remember is that there are limbs, rocks, stumps and all kinds of debris on the bottom that we can’t see even on our depth finders. When a cold front hits or just before the spawn, the crappie will be holding on that structure in that 4-1/2 to 5 1/2-foot-deep water, where most people don’t fish. Most springtime crappie fishermen believe that brush is the key to crappie, but that isn’t true. Knowing the right depth to fish at any time of the year is the secret to finding and taking crappie.”

Crappie: How To Catch Them Spring and SummerTo learn more about crappie and how to fish for them from the masters of the sport, click here for “Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and Summer, a new eBook from Amazon’s Kindle by John E. Phillips. Or, you can go to and type-in the name of the book to find it. You can also download a free Kindle app that enables you to read the book on your iPad, computer or SmartPhone.

Tomorrow: Gathering Spots for Crappie

Check back each day this week for more about "Fish the Right Depth for Crappie"

Day 1: How Kent Driscoll Uses GPS to Find Open-Water Crappie
Day 2: Kent Driscoll’s Trolling Tactic for Crappie
Day 3: How to Catch Extremely-Shallow Crappie
Day 4: Locating Open-Water Crappie
Day 5: Gathering Spots for Crappie

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Entry 671, Day 4