John's Journal...

The Crappie Almanac for Year-Round Fishing

Day 4: More Ways to Locate Crappie during the Spawn

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 ViewUse the Dead Cork Drift:

If a cold front hits your lake during the spawn, you may find that numbers of crappie have moved out to deeper cover. The ones that remain near their traditional habitat likely will be reluctant feeders. You can make the crappie bite by giving them baits they can’t resist. Put a slip float on your line, and attach the float stopper 6- to 8-feet up the line or at whatever depth you want to fish. Cast the cork and jig out to deep-water cover, and let the cork sit still just as you’ll fish a live minnow. The slightest breeze or ripple will make the marabou tail on this do-nothing rig move under the water – up and down or twitch like a feeding shad. Even a lock-lipped crappie will want to come up and take a bite of that jig when it sits in front of its face and doesn’t try to escape. I’ve let a cork sit still on the water for as long as 4 minutes before a reluctant crappie has attacked my bait. But most often a speckled-side will inhale the jig within the first minutes that it sits still on the water.

Click for Larger ViewShoot the Docks:

During the spring, crappie may spawn so far back under a dock that you can’t cast to them. To solve this problem, use a small, 4-1/2- to 5-foot, light-action spinning rod and 4- to 6-pound-test line. Leave about 3 feet of line hanging down from the end of the rod. Pick up the line closest to the reel with your index finger, and hold the line with your finger like you’re preparing to cast. With your other hand, take hold of the jig between your thumb and index finger with the hook pointing away from you. Pull the jig back, so that the rod bends. Aim the rod under the dock, and release the jig. Just as the jig clears the end of the rod, release the line you’re holding with your finger in the other hand. The rod then will shoot the jig under the dock where you can’t cast. Once the jig hits the water, begin a slow, steady retrieve. Learning to shoot a jig may take some practice. But once you learn this technique, you can catch big crappie where most other crappie fishermen can’t fish.

Click for Larger ViewDo Fish a Cold Front:

Many anglers consider the worst day of the spawn as the best day to fish. According to Jimmy Dixon of Pleasant Grove, Alabama, “My favorite time to fish the spawn is on the day a cold front hits the lake, the day after that or during the 3 or 4 days the cold front sits on the lake. On those days, either the crappie fishermen have left the lake, or they can’t find the fish. But I know the crappie will be on the first bottom break or a secondary creek channel near the spawning area and will be schooled-up when I find them. So, on those days, I can catch the most fish in the shortest time than any other time I fish during the spawn.” If the fish have been holding in a cove against the bank before the cold front has hit, you’ll typically locate them there in that same cove but in deeper water. Once you determine the depths where crappie are holding during a cold front, head directly to all of your traditional spawning-time hot spots, downsize your offering, and attempt to find that magical holding depth near the spawning grounds.

Find Beaver Sticks for Crappie:

The late Red Cotton of West Point, Mississippi, had a hot tactic for the spawn that he used every season – he fished beaver sticks. “A beaver stick is a pole that’s from 4- to 6-feet long that beavers have gnawed all the bark away from,” Cotton explained. “I’ll take 10 to 12 beaver sticks and prop them up in the bottom off the bank near a spawning area. During the prespawn, the spawn and immediately after the spawn, I usually catch the biggest crappie of the year by drop-fishing minnows beside each beaver stick. Each stick will hold only one or two slab crappie. But the size of crappie I catch, and the numbers of days I can fish those beaver sticks and catch new crappie make my efforts worthwhile. Big crappie like isolated cover offshore where they can hold, go to the bank, come away from the bank and hold during the spawn.”

Click for Larger ViewCatch Deep Spawning Crappie:

According to Dr. Tom Forsythe, formerly a fisheries biologist for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), “Not all the female crappie go to the bank to spawn at the same time, nor do the females spawn only one time and then leave the bank for the rest of the year. The females go back and forth to the bank two to four times before they spawn out all their eggs. When the females do move to the bank to spawn, they rarely stay in shallow water more than an hour or two before they retreat to deep water. To catch numbers of big spawning crappie, fish the deep-water structure close to spawning areas throughout the spawn.”

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 and How to Find Crappie after the Spawn

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 4