John's Journal...


How to Find Crappie on a New Lake

Click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: Kent Driscoll of Cordova, Tennessee, has enjoyed fishing for crappie for 30 years. He's fished in crappie tournaments for 10 years, winning numbers of local tournaments, several one-day tournaments and finishing third in 2000 and fourth in 2002 at the North American Crappie Classic. Each spring and summer, Driscoll fishes the Crappie USA Circuit, Crappiemasters and the new Crappie Angler's Association, using a wide variety of tactics that produce crappie all year long. Let's learn how Driscoll finds and catches crappie.

Question: Kent, how do you find crappie on a new lake that you've never fished before?

Driscoll: I'll start looking for crappie on a lake I've never fished before long before I leave home. I order a lake map of the lake I intend to fish, and when that map arrives, I take a pen and based on the time of year that I'll be fishing, I try to predict where the crappie should be holding based on their annual spawning migration. If I'm going to be fishing the lake in the early spawning season, then I concentrate my efforts in the northeastern part of the lake. Later in the spawning season, I'll know that I need to fish the backs of creeks or the backs of coves. If the spawn is coming to an end, I need to fish more in the middle of the creeks and coves as the crappie move from the backs of the creeks and coves to deeper water. If I fish the lake during the summertime, I know I need to look for deep-water areas where crappie tend to hold in the hot summer months.

Click to enlargeNext, I search for the main river channel and the main creek channels, which are the highways under the water that the crappie use to travel to spawning areas, away from spawning areas and to hold over during extreme weather conditions like summer and winter. I next look for structure in the lake like points, underwater humps or any other type of structure, perhaps submerged bridges where I've caught crappie in years past. I'll begin to call any friends I have I know have fished the lake before and get information from them. I call the chamber of commerce in the town or county where the lake is located. I'll get from them the names and phone numbers of the bait shops around the lake, call those bait shops and ask for information about where the crappie usually hold at this time of the year on their lake and what baits the fish usually prefer.

Finally, I'll call the Game & Fish Division in that state and ask to speak to the fisheries biologist who's responsible for that lake. His job is to know where the fish are, what type structure they'll be holding on, and how fishermen most often catch crappie on that lake at that time of year when you're going to be fishing. Now I have a huge database to draw from before I ever go to the lake..

Click to enlargeOnce I get to the lake, I don't start fishing right away. I leave my poles in the boat and take out a pencil, paper and my hand-held GPS receiver. I go to the areas I plan to fish from all my pre-scouting. By using my depth finder, I search for bottom breaks and cover that may be holding fish in the areas I've chosen to fish. When I find the cover or I see large schools of fish, I mark those spots as a waypoint, write down the number of the waypoint on the paper and the creek or area where I've located the spot or spots I want to fish. I'm also looking for baitfish and crappie as well as structure when I'm scouting with my depth finder and my GPS receiver. I study the arches on my depth finder to try and determine if they're big arches, because then more than likely, the fish I'm seeing aren't crappie. From my depth finder I can usually tell if the fish I'm seeing are crappie or other species. I also want to know if the crappie are in a stacked type of formation or other type of formation or whether they're scattered.

I take my time when I'm doing my scouting, and I run to a lot of different areas to learn all I can where the fish are, where the cover is, how the fish are positioned and hopefully find 20 or 30 areas where I want to fish based on this information. I try to go to three different areas. Then once I've completed looking at those areas with a depth finder and recording the spots I want to fish on my GPS, then I make a decision of which area I want to fish first. I also compare the three different areas to try and develop a pattern, like:
* are the crappie that I've seen in these three different regions all holding on creek channels or humps or suspended?
* are the crappie in the back ends of the creeks, the middles of the creeks, the mouths of the creeks or in the main river channel? This is the same technique that tournament bass fishermen use when they're pre-fishing not only to determine where the bass are but also on what type of structure they're holding.

Click to enlargeWhen I start fishing, I'll begin in the area where I believe the most crappie are in based because of my research. I'll offer a smorgasbord of baits like I've mentioned earlier to determine what bait, what color, what depth and at what speed the crappie are most likely to bite. I even change out the various types of minnows I use. Sometimes I'll fish a rosy red minnow instead of a shiner or a tuffy minnow. I've seen some crappie on some lakes prefer one kind of minnow over the other two. I've found that once I develop a pattern based on all this information, I can take that same pattern, fish that same depth at that same speed with those same baits and consistently catch crappie.

Just remember, the more information you gather about the location you're going to fish before you start fishing, the more crappie you'll catch when you put your lines in the water. I bet on Mossy Oak Fishing Line to help hook, hold and land more crappie for me, and you should too.

To learn more about Mossy Oak Fishing Line, go to For more information about B'n'M Crappie Poles, visit


Day 1: More Crankbaiting for Crappie
Day 2: The Depths Driscoll Runs Crankbaits
Day 3: How Driscoll Decides What Lures to Troll
Day 4: How Driscoll Trolls Minnows and Jigs
Day 5: How to Find Crappie on a New Lake



Entry 293, Day 5