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.”