When you do a quick Google search for the best crappie fishing lakes in America, Reelfoot Lake will be in the top 10 of all of them. My family and I have traveled to Reelfoot for many years chasing large and abundant crappies. In fact, my dad has been going to Reelfoot before I was even born. I wanted to share some of the trips I have taken over the years.
Reelfoot is located in Northwest Tennessee and has a reputation for being one of the best crappie lakes in America. Reelfoot was formed by a large earthquake in 1811 and now resembles a large swamp with a few manmade canals. The vast amount of bald cypress trees is really something you must see to appreciate. You can see large eagle and osprey nests in almost any direction. This lake is also known for its bird watching with many local guides eager to take you on a tour. I have also always enjoyed checking out all of the duck blinds scattered throughout the lake. Spending countless days and hours on this lake has given me an appreciation for how beautiful the lake really is.
When fishing Reelfoot you may be surprised to see no pleasure boaters. That’s right, no wave runners, wake boarders, or party boats. You only will see anglers on the water. This is because the average depth of Reelfoot is only 5.2 feet and it is scattered with standing cypress trees, stumps, and logs. It does not take long to break a prop or really damage your boat. For this reason alone, we leave the bass boat at home and use a boat from one of the many resorts on the lake.
I have only fished Reelfoot in late winter and early spring for crappies, but it is also known for great bass fishing, bluegill, and catfish. I was there one January while duck season was in; there were a lot of shots heard on that trip! I have been told to look out for snakes and spiders during the warm seasons.
When fishing in the late winter or early spring, you will want to start near the Green Island/Blue Basin section of the lake. This is the deepest part of the lake and where most of the crappies will be in the winter. If there has been a mild winter or a few warmer days, the crappies will move out of the deep water and can be almost anywhere in the lake. If this is the case you need to cover some water and look for the active fish. Once you catch one or two then you can start putting a pattern together. Pay attention to the details of where you are, what color of bait you are using, and most importantly how deep the water is. The majority of the fish will be doing the same thing throughout the lake. I am a believer in the saying that “90 percent of the fish are in 10 percent of the water.”
Most crappie fisherman will spider rig or cast to the many cypress trees with a bobber and minnow. If the fish are deep (the deepest part of the lake is only 18 feet), then spider rigging is the way to go. Again, experiment with depth and lure color. I have seen times when the crappies will suspend in the water column and they can be hard to locate. Once you have a depth figured out then you can sit all your lures in that productive strike zone.
Another thing that I have seen play a huge role in success or failure, is the color of your lures. Orange, yellow, and black are always good colors when fishing Reelfoot. I like using orange hair jigs or tube baits tipped with a minnow. Many anglers will only use orange minnows (Rosy Reds to the locals). All the local bait shops sell both colors of minnows. In addition to the hair jigs and tubes, I like to have at least a couple poles with nothing but a bare hook and minnow with a light weight. These fish can be finicky and shy away from a large profile offering. Try different size minnows as well.
Experiment until you find what works. Many anglers are afraid to change and get stuck in the same old techniques. They think, “well they just aren’t biting today”, and this is normally wrong. Someone always figures them out and brings in a limit.
Here are two links to places that we have stayed throughout our many family trips to Reelfoot. These two places are close to great crappie fishing on the lake. I like this because you won’t waste time motoring across the lake. Most of the time you can catch all the crappies you want within 5 minutes of these resorts.