Crappie are the kings of spring because they come to the bank and give everyone a shot at a limit. Plus, they’re bigger at this time than any other time of year. Whether you’re fishing from the bank or boat, you normally can find some spawning slabs, but some lakes are better than others. Whether you’re looking for sheer numbers of fish, size or easy access, chances are there’s a great crappie lake near you. Here are four awesome lakes to catch a limit of big, fat spawners.

1. Reelfoot Lake, TN

Technique: Jigging Pads

Reelfoot Lake is 15,000 acres of mostly swamp. Reelfoot was created by an earthquake and earned the nickname ‘the quake lake.’ Peak spawn occurs in late April, and bank fishing is good in several areas. The road in front of Reelfoot State Park has parking and docks extending out into the lake, providing lots of popular and easy access to the water. The ‘washout’ area is another productive spot the locals can direct you to.

Wade Mansfield is a local jig manufacturer who has fished the lake for many years, and he says there are two productive patterns going on during spawning time.

“One is jigging the trees. This is a typical fishing tactic most fishermen will have no trouble doing. The other pattern, fishing the pads, is a little tougher.

“Pad fishing is usually in the stubble left over from last year. Crappie will be in 1 or 2 feet of water, so it’s important to be quiet. Use a longer pole. I like a 12-foot jigging pole.”

Mansfield’s final tip is to always fish straight up and down when fishing the pads. Any horizontal movement means you’ll hang up in one the tough pad stems.

2. Grenada Lake, MS

Technique: Shallow Slow Trolling

Grenada must be on any crappie-fishing list. ‘Crappie season’ there takes place in late March and early April. Fish go so shallow that bank fishing can be excellent. You also can try wade fishing because it gets you quietly into shallow, woody areas you can’t reach from the bank. Either way, you can easily find some hot crappie-fishing action.

National tournament fisherman Matt Morgan says, “Grenada is an awesome lake, known for producing big fish. Channels snake back and forth all along as they go back up the rivers and creeks. This place is nothing more than a holding ground for crappie. When it warms up, all the crappie are going up the river to spawn.”

Morgan’s slow trolling tactics allow him to work waters as shallow as his boat will get. He’ll usually be in 3 to 12 feet of water. Since fish in shallow water can be spooky he uses long 16-foot poles. He prefers double-hook rigs with minnows or jigs/minnow combos. His bottom jighead will be 1/4-ounce to provide some weight.   

“The best thing a weekend fisherman can do is find the strike zone, keep baits in it and control the boat. You can do this with slow trolling.”  

3. Eufaula, OK

Technique: Pitching

This big lake produces large numbers of crappie, with many over a pound. Bank fishing can be outstanding here with most campgrounds providing access, including Elm Point and Eufaula Cove. Culverts under roadways also provide good bank fishing.

“The fishing during the spring is fun here,” says guide Todd Huckabee. “When water temperatures reach the upper 50’s fish move toward spawning areas. When the water reaches 55 degrees and there is a full moon, the big pound-and-a-half fish move up into the shallow water. As the water keeps warming and hits 62 or 64 degrees, what people call ‘crappie season’ hits full swing.”

Huckabee prefers to flip instead of cast. His equipment includes his own Todd Huckabee 11-foot pole, 12-pound-test Silver Thread line and a 1/8- or 1/4-ounce 2-inch YUM Bearvertail jig.

“I like the Beavertail because it looks like a minnow laying on its side,” he said. “In clear water I might switch to a Wooly Bee because it pulsates more in the water. The thing about using these big jigs is when a fish hits it they have trouble spitting it back out, so your hooking percentage is much better.”

He says spawning fish prefer rocky areas if they can find them, but will spawn on any woody cover. When you find the two together you have a great place to sneak in and toss your jig. Keep moving until you catch a fish then slow down and work all of the nearby area. Anyone can find crappie this time of year from a boat or the bank, but you may have to work a little to find the best spots and biggest fish. Luckily, Eufaula offers miles of bank access for shore-bound anglers.

Huckabee says the best rig for bank-bound anglers is a slip-float over a jig like the Beavertail or a Lindy Watsit. The slip-float allows the jig to suspend at any depth to tempt crappie that need some convincing to bite.

4. Kentucky/Barkley Lakes, KY/TN

Technique: Vertical Jigging/Casting

Kentucky and Barkley offer more than 210,000 acres of fishing waters. Peak spawning time is late April. Bank fishing is available at various spots, and a good way to start is by checking one of the many bridges crossing creeks. Crappie move up the creeks in the spring and the bridges are great ambush spots.

“Spawn usually occurs in late April here,” says expert Rodney Brown, who guides out of Eddie Creek on Barkley. “Fish get real shallow on Barkley. I prefer long-pole jigging whether the fish are shallow or deep, but when the fish are deeper you can cast to the beds and catch them, too.”

Brown says on a normal year crappie will move into all the creeks on Barkley and Kentucky. Here they will stage, go in shallow to spawn, and some return to mid-depth water while others stay shallow. He says the lakes have common patterns with fish hitting typical banks and covers when the spawn is taking place. Due to its predictable patterns, it’s usually an easy lake to fish in the spring. Favorite bait colors are red, white and chartreuse in any combination.