John's Journal...

Catching Crappie: No Boat, No Problem

Day 5: Fish the Dam Bank for Crappie with Outdoor Writer John E. Phillips

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewNearly every dam and water-generating power plant will have public access in the tailrace area of the dam. Every spring, the crappie may migrate up toward the dam during the pre-spawn to feed and prepare for the spawn. Often, you can catch the crappie from public fishing piers or the riprap below the dam. One of the most-productive places to fish for crappie is anywhere there’s a current break, sine crappie will hold just off the current – behind rocks or logs near the dam to feed.

One of the best crappie fishing trips I’ve ever had was during the early spring when the flood gates were running below Mitchell Dam near Birmingham, Alabama. We cast Road Runner jigs ( with chartreuse grub tails in the eddy pockets and caught some of the biggest crappie I ever have caught. Danny Wiles, my guide and neighbor, told me, “Most people don’t know that there’s plenty of crappie holding in swift water. Although all the water below a dam may appear to be swift, there are current breaks behind underwater boulders that come out from the bank to the deeper water. If you’re fishing where no other crappie fishermen are fishing, at a time when no other crappie fishermen even have thought about fishing, you can catch big crappie that have avoided fishermen for many years.”

Also, the mouths of the closest creeks to the dam or any little pocket, slough, or feeder creek that comes into the river or the lake below the dam offers a current break where crappie can hold and feed. Simply use a minnow, a hook, a bobber and possibly a weight. Cast upstream, and allow your bait to wash into the eddy pocket or current break in the mouths of these creeks, sloughs, or bays just off the current close to the dam.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewAnother tactic that works equally as well at a dam to catch crappie is to use a slip cork and a jig. Cast upcurrent, and allow the jig to float naturally with the current into the eddy pocket. There’s most always a current break downstream from a dam and a power plant where crappie can hold and let the bait come to them.

One of the best ways to find places to fish from the bank is when the water level goes down in the lake or river during the winter months, go, and walk the shoreline. You’ll be able to see the stumps, boulders, fallen trees and other structure within easy casting distance from the bank. Use a GPS receiver, and mark where you find the structure. Then go to the bank. Mark where you should stand to fish that structure, or how to wade out to the structure and fish it. Two of the best tools for a bank-bound crappie fisherman are a GPS hand-held receiver and a cell phone with a camera. With the cell phone, you can photograph the structure and put the GPS coordinates to the structure. Then name that structure by the lake and the spot you want to fish. This way, when the lake level rises after winter, you’ll know what the underwater structure looks like and how to fish over the top, either side or behind the structure. By using your GPS receiver waypoint, if the water is shallow enough to walk out to the structure you’ve photographed, you can look at the picture and see how to fish there.

You can find and catch crappie in many places without using a boat. These are only a few suggestions to help you begin to think about where and how to catch crappie inexpensively without a boat.

Do you wade fish for crappie? Tell us where, and what tackle you use. Email me at

For more information on crappie and crappie fishing, check out our two Kindle books “Crappie: How to Catch Them Fall & Winter” and “Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and Summer. You can also buy the print version of “Crappie: How to Catch Them Fall and Winter” at



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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.

Check back each day this week for more about Catching Crappie: No Boat, No Problem"

Day 1: Jeff Williams on No Boat Crappie Fishing – Wading and Bank Fishing
Day 2: Bet on the Riprap and the Culverts to Catch Crappie with John E. Phillips
Day 3: Jeff Williams Says Rent a Boat Slip and/or Fish from Docks to Catch Crappie Without a Boat
Day 4: Jeff Williams Says to Bargain, Barter or Pay for a Pier or a Dock to Fish for Crappie
Day 5: Fish the Dam Bank for Crappie with Outdoor Writer John E. Phillips

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Entry 768, Day 5