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Fishhound Releases Its List of 50 Top U.S. Crappie Waters
for 2014

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The sunfish family rules in North America! Bluegill are beloved – the “first fish” that delivered most of us to our beloved sport. Bass generate excitement and drive development in the tackle industry. But when it comes to earnest everyday angling pursuit, crappie rank number one across most of America. Crappie are fan favorites because they’re abundant and widespread…and you can find specimens in waters north and south. Just consider: Lake of the Woods slabs at the Canadian border; top Minnesota fisheries like Bowstring, Leech and Winnibigoshish; the fabled Santee Cooper crappie fishery; the superb speck fishing along Florida’s St. John’s River…and on and on. But where is the absolute best fishing for tasty, sporty and, yes, often challenging species? Both the catch records and the experts place the top crappie waters in almost two parallel regions – 1) the reservoirs along the “I-55 Crappie Corridor,” stretching from Tennessee’s Reelfoot Lake down to deep into the state of Mississippi, and 2) the many outstanding waters of Alabama, along the Alabama, Tennessee, Coosa and Chatooga rivers. In fact, both these states feature waters that could have replaced several of the leaders on Fishhound’s list with a coin toss!


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Photo: Fishhound

Yes, singular waters in other regions have earned their world-class reputations, and, in peak years, might even get the edge against one or more of the waters on the Fishhound Top 10 list. But, more years than not, Fishhound’s top 10 would be among the betting man’s choices. Crappie experts from across the country and the Fishhound staff contributed to the creation of this year’s Top 50 and Top 10 crappie lists. However, a special thanks goes to pro anglers and fishing educators Ronnie Capps, Russ Bailey, Kyle Schoenherr and Brian Brosdahl, as well as to T.J. Stallings and Crappie Now magazine, for tapping their experience and taking the time to share some of their vast knowledge of these great crappie-fishing waters…and pass their judgment on a topic that will surely be hotly debated.

Below are the top 10 crappie waters on Fishhound’s list of 50, presented by Cortland Line Company, Humminbird, Mustad Hooks, CastAway Rods and Okuma. To view the entire list, click here.

1. Grenada Lake (Mississippi)
If size is the measure of greatness, Grenada weighs in at the top of the leader board. The local tourism bureau touts Grenada as “The Home of the 3-Pound Crappie.” Natural lake fertility and good lake management certainly account for much of the lake’s consistent slab production, but Grenada also has the “X” factor that defies all analysis. “Records are broken here on a regular basis,” says crappie fishing legend Ronnie Capps, who caught seven Grenada “specks” topping the 3-pound mark over a five-day period – including a 3.66-pound monster. Learn more about Grenada Lake at the Fishhound website.

2. Kentucky Lake (Kentucky)
Man and Nature teamed to fashion crappie paradise at 160,300-acre Kentucky Lake. Season after season, it produces crappie by the boatful to pro and vacationing angler alike, which is why it has been one of the most popular fisheries on the planet for decades. “This lake is a consistent producer of great stringers of crappie,” says Ohio-based pro angler and crappie educator Russ Bailey. “From its renowned ledge fishing to the thousands of stake beds, planted cover and laydowns along the shoreline, this lake offers an incredible variety of patterns.” That means your favorite style of crappie fishing probably will work quite fine here! Learn more about Kentucky Lake at the Fishhound website.

3. Reelfoot Lake (Tennessee)
For consistently good numbers and quality fish year round, Reelfoot Lake is as good as it gets! Reelfoot is the home base of Ronnie Capps, who, with teammate Steve Coleman, has built a record-setting angling career that includes seven national crappie championships. Their Reelfoot “research” lab has helped them amass $1.5 million in crappie tournament winnings. Capps credits Reelfoot’s consistency to water stability. “The water level doesn’t fluctuate more than three feet year round,” says Capps. Learn more about Reelfoot Lake at the Fishhound website.

4. Weiss Lake (Alabama)
This 30,200-acre impoundment may have been the first to stake an honest claim to being the “Crappie Capital of the World” before tourism barkers bought the rubber stamp.

“Weiss may not produce as many giant fish as it did 20 years ago, but the numbers keep this lake high on the list,” notes T.J. Stallings, director of marketing for TTI-Blakemore and co-founder of Crappie NOW magazine. “Weiss has an excellent population of both black and white crappie, and plenty of giants still come in each year.” Learn more about Weiss Lake at the Fishhound website.

5. Sardis Lake (Mississippi)
Water levels are again low at Sardis at this writing, and reports say a winter die-off of threadfin shad has left fish a bit thinner than usual. But that isn’t likely to change the opinions of top crappie anglers about this blue ribbon water located on Mississippi’s “I-55 Crappie Corridor.” T.J. Stallings compares Sardis to Grenada, and many pros laud Sardis for its consistent limits and abundant slabs. “Sardis has an excellent population of big fish and great numbers,” says Russ Bailey. “It is one of my favorite summer lakes. Trolling crankbaits is my pattern of choice!” Learn more about Sardis Lake at the Fishhound website.

6. Ross Barnett Reservoir (Alabama/Mississippi)
Does Alabama or Mississippi have the better crappie waters? Both states stake strong claims to the number one spot, but Ross Barnett Reservoir adds one more loud vote in Mississippi’s favor. You can catch ‘em shallow or you can catch ‘em deep on this habitat-rich water. You will find segments of the RB crappie population relating to timber, stumps, aquatic vegetation and even lily pads and rip rap at one time or other during the season, and key combinations of cover and structure – especially along deep channels and other “ledges” – may be crappie magnets for much of the season. Learn more about Ross Barnett Reservoir at the Fishhound website.

7. Alabama River (Alabama)
Crappie Now’s T.J. Stallings swears that he lives to fish this crappie factory. That’s not just local pride for the Wetumpka, Alabama resident. The moody, scenic river – one of two local waters used in the filming of the movie “Big Fish” – produces BIG FISH, indeed! Crappie pro Kyle Schoenherr, who shared Alabama State Championship honors with teammate Rodney Neuhaus several years ago, credits an abundance of natural hybrids – crosses between black and white crappie – in part for the numbers of oversized specks that come to boat. Learn more about the Alabama River at the Fishhound website.

8. Neely Henry Lake (Alabama)
Great crappie waters often have wonderful neighbors, and such is the case for Neely Henry, the 11,000-plus-acre impoundment located between Logan Martin and Weiss lakes in northeast Alabama. Neely Henry ranks an easy Top 5 rating from Ronnie Capps who credits relatively stable lake/river conditions, a balance of big black and white crappie populations for its outstanding productivity year after year. “The lake also gets plenty of natural cross fish during the spawn,” adds Capps, who claims hybrids are more aggressive and achieve faster growth rates. “I have taken a couple of three pounders here and actually saw a 4 pound, 12-ounce live hybrid crappie come from the lake.” Learn more about Neely Henry Lake at the Fishhound website.

9. Truman Lake (Missouri)
You will find only three of our Top 10 crappie lakes outside the state lines of Mississippi and Alabama. Missouri’s 55,600-acre Truman Lake edges into this elite list as much for its “classic crappie lake” looks and “everyman” appeal as for its fast action and consistent output of magnum crappie. “This lake has to be a top pick with its fence rows, hedge trees, stumps, tree tops and more,” says Kyle Schoenherr, “It’s a lake for guys who love to fish classic cover. Even guys who don’t understand electronics can rely on their eyes and still do well.” Learn more about Truman Lake at the Fishhound website.

10. Logan Martin Lake (Alabama)
Luck, they say, is where you find it. And crappie lovers find lots o’ luck along the nearly 50-mile length of this superb Coosa River impoundment. “This lake has so much cover variety that it is easy to have good luck here!” says crappie pro and TV host Russ Bailey. “I’ve made many trips to this lake and I have always caught great numbers and very healthy and big fish here.” Logan Martin tends to get more attention from recreational boaters than from crappie anglers, but it ain’t bad being on the crappie instead of the water skis! Learn more about Logan Martin Lake at the Fishhound website.

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