John's Journal...

The Crappie Almanac for Year-Round Fishing

Day 2: Where to Find 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 ViewFind Underwater Highways and Railroads:

Many man-made lake impoundments encompass underwater places where railroads and highways once have crossed creeks and rivers. If you locate those old roadbeds, you’ll discover plenty of prespawn crappie holding on them. Too, underwater bridges, bridge pilings and other vertical structure will provide places for crappie to hold near almost any depth of water where they feel comfortable. Also, remember that there will be drastic water changes usually present on either side of bridge pilings, due to the fact that engineers often construct pilings on the edges of underwater creek channels. During the prespawn, you almost always can find crappie holding somewhere on a submerged bridge piling.

Fish Rough Stuff:

To catch prespawn crappie, you’ll often have to fish in some of the thickest cover you can find in deep water. Many crappie fishermen will fish the outside edges of that cover. However, if you want to catch the most and the biggest crappie, fish right through the heart of the thick stuff. As one old timer once told me, “If you’re not breaking off jigs, straightening hooks, busting your line and losing your leads, you’re not fishing where the crappie are during the prespawn.”

Wait at the Dock:

Lake residents can show you where to find productive brush piles that hold crappie in the prespawn. If you notice a dock that either has poles on it or pole holders on the front, there’s a very-good chance you’ll find a hot, prespawn crappie spot in front of that dock. Most lakeside residents will build brush shelters about a pole’s length from the ends of their docks in 8 to 15 feet of water that will hold crappie throughout the prespawn.

Click for Larger ViewRemember Crappie Love Concrete:

During the winter months before the spawn, prespawn crappie will look for warm water close to deep water. Concrete bridges, locks, dams and piers will catch the heat from the sun and transfer that heat into the water. Often you’ll catch crappie where you locate concrete. Many anglers have had success taking crappie during the prespawn near a concrete loading dock on the edge of a creek channel. If you build a brush shelter next to the concrete too, you’ll have one of the most-productive spots on the lake or river to catch crappie during the prespawn.

Identify Discharges:

If you can locate a creek or an area of the lake with a warm-water discharge coming from a factory or a plant, you’ll also find the most prespawn crappie there. The fish will move into these warm-water discharges, because they feel most comfortable there, and they’ll find the most food. Look for the crappie to hold in the first or second eddy pool closest to the warm-water discharge, yet out of the current.

Click for Larger ViewSight Fish during the Prespawn:

Before the spawn, you’ll locate crappie wherever you find large schools of shad. If you live on a lake or a river where you can see seagulls diving on shad, you’ll have pinpointed a productive place to catch prespawn fish. Crappie below the school will force the shad to the surface where the birds will attack them. Fishing jigs or minnows under diving birds will allow you to locate and catch plenty of crappie. On a warm day, you can spot the schools of shad on the surface, even if you don’t see a bird diving on them. And often, crappie will come from their deep-water haunts to feed on those surface shad.

Chase Papermouths across the Ice:

Most crappie fishermen who fish through the ice will drill one or two holes and fish through those holes. However, for a more-productive tactic, drill eight to 10 holes relatively close to each other. When crappie stop biting in one hole, then move to the next hole, set up your portable ice house, and continue to fish. Each time the crappie quit biting, change holes. Once you’ve fished in all the holes, go back to the first hole, and start over.

Warm-Up in the Winter:

If you can set up some type of portable ice house and use a lantern or a catalytic heater to stay warm, you can feel the bites, fish longer and catch more crappie. If you use live bait like minnows or maggots, the warmth inside the ice house also will keep your bait from freezing.

Flash Your Way to Success:

Use a flasher mounted on a box with a level and have a transducer you can put through an ice hole to locate crappie. By leveling the box, you’ll get a more-accurate signal from the transducer and can see in greater detail what’s under the ice. If you have a sensitive flasher, you’ll see a lure as small as a 1/32-ounce fly as it falls 10 to 20 feet beneath the ice. You also can watch the crappie approach. When the light indicating the crappie overlaps the light showing your ice fly, set the hook – even though you may not feel or see the bite on the line.

Click for Larger ViewFish for Satellite Crappie:

Use a GPS to help point you toward crappie when freeze-up occurs. When fishing late in the season, just before ice-up, fix locations (points, river and creek channels, ditches and underwater cover) where you’ve been catching fish, and enter them into your GPS. Record these fixes in a log book too. Then when the ice-up occurs, and the lake or river freezes hard enough for you to safely walk on it, use your GPS receiver to locate the spots you’ve pinpointed before the ice-up. Drill holes in the ice in and around those spots you’ve noted on your GPS receiver to find and catch crappie.

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 Crappie Are during the Spawn and How to Catch Them

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 2