We have been asked by numerous anglers where the best places to crappie fish are, so we collected information from a panel of experts to build a bucket list of the best crappie fishing lakes and rivers in the U.S. We provided input to the list as well but we wanted this to a be a verified and accurate list so we asked some of the most accomplished crappie anglers where the best fishing is around the country.
Our panel of experts included the following anglers:
- Wally Marshall
- Ronnie Capps
- Todd Huckabee
- Robert Carlisle
- Kevin Rogers
- Matt Rogers
- Tony Sheppard
- Jerry Hancock
These anglers have fished, guided and competed all over the country for crappie and worked to provide a thoroughly-vetted crappie fishing bucket list for you.
The criteria for the list was good numbers, good size, a combination of both, scenery, experience, accessibility and opportunities to fish multiple techniques. We all obviously want to catch big fish, but we want to enjoy the experience when we make a trip to a crappie fishing destination. So this list should give you many options on some of America’s best crappie fisheries.
There are several others that were honorable mentions and some hidden gems not on this list, so look for a follow-up piece of the less talked about crappie hot spots very soon. But without further ado, here are the top 25 crappie fishing destinations in the country:
25. Neely Henry, Alabama
Located in Northeast Alabama and part of the Coosa River Chain, Neely Henry is about 11,000 acres from Weiss dam to the upriver dam. There are lots of ways to catch fish from longline trolling to fishing brush piles to shooting docks.
“Neely Henry has great size and average numbers,” Ronnie Capps said. “Fish exceeding 3 pounds are somewhat rare however the possibility of a record breaking fish being caught in this Coosa River lake is very possible because super hybrid crappie live here. Neely Henry offers mostly stable lake conditions throughout the year.”
24. Pickwick Lake, Tennessee & Alabama
The first of several TVA lakes to make the top 25 list, Pickwick offers a lot of options for crappie anglers, from natural river stumps, brush piles, docks, ledges and grass. Those options along with an extremely fertile system that provides tons of baitfish and replenishing crappie populations make this a great but often overlooked crappie lake on the TVA chain. Trolling, cork fishing, vertical jigging and shooting docks are all popular options on this lake as well as casting jigs to brush and stumps in the spring and fall.
23. Wister Lake, Oklahoma
This small 7,300-acre lake in Eastern Oklahoma offers good crappie fishing for size and numbers. Shallow natural brush, standing timber, cedar piles, points and deep channels of the Poteau River give anglers a lot of options for the various seasons. Good population of white crappie and good size make this a favorite among our panel of experts.
22. Ft. Gibson / Neosho River, Oklahoma
This nearly 20,000-acre impoundment is the last lake in the Grand River Chain in Oklahoma. The lake offers black and white crappie alike with good populations of both with a slight lean towards the black crappie population. And the Neosho River is a truly unique crappie experience.
“The Neosho river is absolutely unique,” Matt Rogers said. “The river is loaded with black crappie as well as white crappie, with minimal electronics, an individual can target laydowns, current breaks, slack water eddies, and brush piles. The fishing is always dictated by the current. So a good reminder fishing the Neosho River or any river across the Nation is to check the USGS water data sheets and charts. Use keywords when searching such as the upper lake name and location.”
The average crappie in Ft. Gibson and the Neosho River is 1 1/2 pounds. It has a ton of good sized crappie that suspend in 12 to 30 feet. So anglers can spread out and find big willing crappie ready to bite all over the lake and river.
21. Lake Guntersville, Alabama
Another TVA lake, Guntersville has great numbers and size combined, a good combination for a crappie fishing destination. Fish in the 3-pound class are not uncommon here with lots of big 2s in the lake. Guntersville is one of the more stable lakes on the TVA chain. It has good populations in many areas of the lake that relate to wood, rock, grass, docks and bridges. It’s a great lake to spread out and find your own crappie hot spot.
20. Arkabutla, Mississippi
An 11,000-plus-acre lake, Arkabutla is a relatively shallow lake, especially during the winter drawdown, that is nestled in northwest Mississippi. It’s full of stake beds and great sized crappie with average numbers. But it’s the 3-pound class fish which makes it a top destination for crappie. Jigging, trolling, pulling crankbaits, and spider rigged minnows can be good bets from season to season on this small, fluctuating but trophy capable lake.
19. Ross Barnett Reservoir, Mississippi
Affectionately known as “The Rez,” Ross Barnett near Jackson, Miss., has become a favorite stop among the crappie tournament trails. Largely because it has 3-pound crappie, lots of fish, lots of different areas and types of cover so guys can really spread out.
“It’s my favorite lake that I get to visit,” Tony Sheppard said. “I live on Kentucky Lake so that’s my local favorite, but The Rez has it all. All different types of cover, crappie can be caught doing any technique and it has numbers of big ones.”
18. Enid Lake, Mississippi
Located in north central Mississippi, Enid offers big crappie opportunities but the average crappie is about a pound. The lake offers opportunities for various types of fishing techniques like spider rigging, single pole vertical jigging, trolling and pulling cranks. Enid is where the world record white crappie of 5-pounds, 3-ounces was caught in 1957, so this lake holds a certain mystique when discussing crappie fishing. It’s often overlooked as there are so many top destinations for crappie in the state of Mississippi.
17. Santee Cooper Lakes, South Carolina
Another unique and diverse crappie fishing experience would be the lakes of Marion and Moultrie in east central South Carolina between Columbia and Charleston. These lakes offer diverse scenery, swamps full of cypress trees and grass that crappie like to spawn around in very shallow water.
This is one of the more scenic crappie locales on an avid crappie angler’s bucket list with lots of crappie between a pound and 2 pounds nestled in the cypress knees and canopies of Spanish moss that cover the fertile black tannic water.
16. Lake Barkley, Kentucky & Tennessee
One of two western Kentucky and Tennessee fisheries along the TVA that made the list, Barkley is the forgotten of the two lakes often when it comes to bass fishing but a lot of anglers we talked to, actually preferred Barkley over Kentucky because of the lack of pressure, quality black and white crappie and often better water color they find on the Cumberland River impoundment.
Brush piles, stake beds, natural river stumps, chunk rock and deep creek channels give anglers lots of options for casting, vertical jigging, spider rigging, slip corking, pulling, trolling and even shooting docks here and there. There is a ton of cover in Barkley, maybe even more than Kentucky, which is why a lot of anglers prefer it. Numbers are coming back and it should be a hot lake again for the next several years.
“Lake Barkley seems to have lower numbers than Kentucky Lake but a better average quality of fish,” said Tony Sheppard. “With less fishing pressure, Barkley always fishes shallower than Kentucky Lake as well. Most of the time you will have better water color over there. It fishes more like a river where cuts and bays still play a role during the summer months.”
15. Toledo Bend, Texas
At one point Toledo Bend was one of the best crappie destinations in the country. While it’s still extremely good, locals would tell you it’s not as good as it once was. But it’s loaded with cover, has a good population of fish, good sized fish and fishermen around Toledo Bend have sunk thousands of brush piles on that lake. With multiple places and ways to catch fish around grass, standing timber, brush piles and open water, Toledo Bend is still a top stop for crappie.
14. Lake Dardanelle, Arkansas
This is one of those sleeper lakes that was on four of the nine anglers’ lists. It has quality fish but is overlooked for other good crappie lakes nearby.
“Dardanelle equals one word in my mind—FAT,” Kevin Rogers said. “I mean fat crappie live in this lake. They are so large you are almost afraid to touch them because they look like they might explode. From Piney to Shoal Bay, and all the way to the Illinois Bayou, this lake is full of better than average crappie.”
13. Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee
This is one of the iconic lakes in crappie fishing. It’s incredibly scenic but also boasts great size and good numbers of crappie combined. Stump fields, vegetation big ol’ cypress trees, lily pads and big crappie make this a must see destination for crappie fishing in Tennessee. If fishing shallow cover for crappie is your cup of tea, you’ll find plenty to get your fill at Reelfoot.
“While fish over 3 pounds are rare, this lake has stable conditions most of the time and great size and numbers,” Ronnie Capps said. “It’s a shallow crappie fishing paradise.”
12. Clear Lake, California
Clear Lake is a top destination for bass fishing out on the west coast, but it’s also one of those rare fisheries that boasts great panfish opportunities as well. Crappie fishing is not only great for numbers but also for size. Clear Lake hosts a tremendous black crappie population and has world record potential as the state record black crappie was just broke back in February 2021.
Slip bobber fishing, open water roaming fish, fishing shallow cover like weed lines, brush piles and docks can all be good for crappie. If you’re wanting to go for a 4-pound crappie, Clear Lake might be the ticket.
11. Kentucky Lake, Kentucky & Tennessee
Falling just outside the top 10, Kentucky Lake is much like Clear Lake in that it’s a rare fishery that can sustain incredible bass fishing and incredible crappie fishing simultaneously. While the lake had a down cycle in recent years, it’s coming back strong and fast now and will no doubt be a top 10 fishery in the next year or two.
You can really spread out on Kentucky Lake or pick just one major creek and spend all your time there. It’s almost like having a lot of smaller crappie lakes connected on one big fishery because it’s so large and diverse. And locals have spent a lot of time adding cover to the fishery.
“Kentucky Lake has good quality fish and the numbers seem to always be better on Kentucky,” said Tony Sheppard. “Water clarity remains clearer, and in the summer months, most of the fish will move out to the river on main lake stumps. South Kentucky fishes a tad bit more like Barkley, but then again, it’s more like river the further south you go. Fishing structure on both body’s of water is normally your best option.”
“Kentucky has great numbers and good overall size fish,” Capps said. “It has good populations of both black and white crappie.”
10. Lake Washington, Mississippi
There are so many good crappie lakes for trophy crappie that they all seem to ebb and flow. One year one lake is hot and the next another one is hot. But Washington always stays consistent. It has reasonable numbers of crappie but it’s the common place 3-pound crappie that gets it listed in the top 10 destinations on most well known crappie anglers’ lists.
It generally has pretty stable water conditions, characterized by sloughs and swamps full of cypress trees, knees, stick-ups, old piers, and more to fish. Crappie will suspend higher in the water column foraging on pot-gut minnows. If you’re going to be in the western Mississippi Delta, be sure to make the trek to Washington this spring.
9. Sardis Lake, Mississippi
“No list of top destinations is complete without mentioning Sardis,” said Jerry Hancock.
“Sardis has great size and great numbers combined,” Ronnie Capps said.
“Eufaula and Sardis both have crazy numbers of fish for those that just want to catch something,” Robert Carlisle said.
Sardis is a 98,000 acre lake just outside of Oxford, Miss. along the Tallahatchie River. The lake is another destination for good sized crappie with incredible numbers although 3-pound crappie are not as common as some of the other crappie lakes not far from Sardis. If you just want to catch fish, Sardis is a good bet.
Be aware the lake can fluctuate several feet with a few inches of rain, so it can be somewhat volatile in the spring. But when you hit it right, it can be lights out crappie fishing with single pole jigging, open water stalking, tight-line trolling, shooting docks, casting to brush and timber as well as live bait fishing.
8. Millwood Lake, Arkansas
“Millwood fishes bigger than any lake in America,” said Todd Huckabee. “That’s because the whole lake is good. Not just one area so you can literally go anywhere on the lake and be close to good crappie fishing somewhere nearby. Whether up in the grass, out in the lake, or up the river, it is all swampy and amazing. And it’s one of the few Arkansas lakes that produces 3-pound crappie daily.”
Just north of Texarkana, Millwood is inundated with an abundance of great crappie cover including cypress trees, button willows, standing timber, laydowns, brush piles as well as creek channels, deep holes, humps and other structure features to make finding deep crappie and shallow crappie equally easy and satisfying.
“This lake isn’t mentioned as much as other popular crappie lakes, but it has massive crappie as well,” Kevin Rogers said. “Millwood offers everything a crappie fisherman could want—from clearer water up the river in the oxbows to massive flats on the main channel. Giant female slabs will spawn right on hard timber all over the main lake. It doesn’t get a lot of tournament exposure some of the other lakes get, but it is a great crappie destination no doubt! In fact, my father and I won a crappie tournament there in 2008 and it has been one of my favorite lakes ever since.”
7. Eufaula Lake, Oklahoma
“Eufaula Lake is a numbers lake and has been for my 24 years of guiding here,” said Todd Huckabee. “It’s very easy fishing for first time people, more ramps and access than any other lake I have fished, and literally eater sized crappie everywhere.”
“When it comes to crappie fishing, Eufaula Lake has been producing nice numbers of crappie for the last 30 years,” said Mr. Crappie, Wally Marshall. “The limit on crappie is a crazy 37 per person. I love this lake because it’s loaded with old Bodark trees, slang for bois d’arc or hard Osage Orange trees. Awesome for holding crappie darn near year around.
“I mainly focus on the tributaries that run into Eufaula, using techniques like vertical fishing or pitching to standing timber and stumps back in the bays and creek channels. Lake Eufaula is normally a pretty stained lake so you can get almost right on top of crappie. I like to use a 10ft crappie rod when i target this lake year around. If you’re looking for numbers Lake Eufaula is the place to be. Oh, and don’t forget to eat in Krebs if you like Italian food. It’s the Bomb.”
“Eufaula Lake has crappie from one end of the lake to the other,” said Kevin Rogers. “Although it’s not a ‘crappie of a lifetime lake’, it’s most definitely a ‘fill your freezer lake.’ The massive population of crappie is amazing at this Oklahoma gem!”
6. Truman Lake, Missouri
“Truman Lake is my home lake and it makes my top 10 due to the number of crappie,” said Kevin Rogers. “I haven’t been anywhere in the country over the past 30 years of crappie fishing that even comes close to the number of crappie that live there. Truman is the elite summer time lake in the country because they bite when it’s hot—in fact, the hotter the better!”
“Truman is one of the best classic lakes for standing timber crappie fishing,” said Robert Carlisle.
“Always known for great numbers and a must visit lake for single pole fishing,” Jerry Hancock said. “Truman has started pumping out some great quality in recent years!”
“It is phenomenal because you have potential of catching fish exceeding 2-pounds plus quantity,” Matt Rogers said. “The lake is full of standing timber that don’t require you to own high end electronics to fish. The lake accepts all types of techniques to target black crappie or white crappie. There are four arms of the lake with two major river arms. The Osage River is my favorite. Its large size and numbers will provide good practice for finding and tracking crappie in timber.”
5. Lake O the Pines, Texas
“I spend more time on this lake than I do my home lake, and it’s 8 hours from my house,” said Kevin Rogers. “I would have ranked it higher, but it’s not as good in the spring as Lake Fork or say a Grenada. That being said, it’s at the top of the list because from October to January, this lake really shines!
“During those months when most the country is frozen, Lake O’ the Pines shells out big crappie on the regular. This lake is full of world class black and white species, and more times than not, they are living in the same locations. That in itself makes for a fun day of slab swinging!”
“One of the wintertime stops for countless crappie anglers,” said Jerry Hancock. “You can’t think about big crappie and not think about The Pines!”
4. St. John’s River, Florida
Another one of the scenic bucket-list destinations for crappie, especially black crappie, the St. John’s River offers unique fishing for great big black crappie and great numbers as well. These are some of the prettiest crappie you will find anywhere in that tannic water.
“If you’re after huge black crappie and beautiful scenery, these Florida fishery’s have to be at the top of your list,” said Jerry Hancock.
“Man, do I love this fishery,” said Wally Marshall. “It has it all, but I have a different take on this river than most.
“I have always heard crappie fishing was no good after it got hot during the summer months. Well, I proceeded to prove a point that crappie will hit a 2-inch Shad pole and catch them casting in the summer. Sure nuff, the water temp was 89 degrees and the temp was 102. I was catching crappie on every cast, and no one was there to witness this awesome day on the St.John’s River because it was too hot.
“I think for a sure bet February thru June, the St.Johns is a no-can-miss when it comes to catching big slab black crappie. Oh and don’t forget the big shell crackers. Great places to eat and stay. If ! didn’t have to live in Texas, I would move to the St. Johns River. It’s that good of a fishery for crappie. You can do it all: troll, shoot docks, vertical jig and cast. It’s a blast to fish!”
3. Lake D’Arbonne, Louisiana
Several on our panel had this as their favorite crappie destination. While most casual anglers probably don’t have it on their list, it’s been one of the most popular stops among the tournament anglers because it’s a beautiful fishery that anglers can get lost in and away from the crowds and catch crappie in a ton of different ways. So you can find crappie fishing the way you like to fish.
“One of the most popular stops on the crappie tournament circuits and for good reason,” said Jerry Hancock. “It consistently pumps out huge stringers of crappie.”
“This is a stable fishery that offers anglers great size and really great numbers,” Ronnie Capps said. “While a giant crappie over 3 pounds is not all that common, it usually kicks out really heavy limits.”
“Lake D’Arbonne is full of crappie, and they are all over the lake,” said Kevin Rogers. “It’s also a really cool place to visit as the people are extremely friendly and the food is amazing! I’ve seen crappie tournaments won on every crappie bait and technique around the sun on this lake. You can do it all here.”
“What a scenic and diverse destination Lake D’Arbonne is,” said Matt Rogers. “This is a lake that a fishermen can go to and use any technique he likes. There are open flats to troll, brush piles as well as stumps to jig, cypress trees to catch spawning fish on, and open water suspended fish to cast at using forward facing sonars.
“The lake is not a massive body of water like others that can overwhelm a traveling angler. Papermouths, white perch, sac-a-lait or crappie, whatever you’d like to call them, there are a thousand for every color of jig K & M Tackle Shop has in stock at Lake D’Arbonne. The accommodations and easy accessibility to the water make it a top three lake for me.”
2. Lake Fork, Texas
“Lake Fork has been producing limits of crappie for many years,” said Wally Marshall. “Matter of fact, I was the first crappie guide on Lake Fork back in the 1980s. In those early years, Lake Fork was loaded with black crappie. Fishing the bridge pilings was money, and those black crappie swarmed under the shade of the bridges making it easy to catch limits daily.
“Now, the tide has turned on Lake Fork, as it’s full of big white crappie along with some nice black crappie still in the mix. White crappie tend to hang on the visible timber, submerged timber and brush piles. Black crappie like to hang on the grass lines, brush piles and bridges. Lake Fork has it all, and you can target crappie with just about every technique in the book. Whether you like vertical jigging timber, casting to cover, shooting docks or slow trolling, it’s easy to see why Lake Fork is tops on my list.”
“Lake Fork is on the top of my list for a reason,” Kevin Rogers said. “There is no other lake like it for catching giant crappie. They absolutely smash jigs harder than any crappie in the country. My theory surrounding Lake Fork is the crappie spend their lives hiding, running and swimming away from those giant 10-pound Texas largemouth bass. In turn, this makes them tough and mean! From February through May, it’s, hands down, my No. 1 lake, and it’s still impressive the rest of the year too!”