by Tim Huffman
The best 50 crappie lakes? There’s no better way to get a few people upset. Maybe their lakes were ranked too low, they believe other lakes were overrated/underrated or they’re not happy a lake didn’t make the list. They could be right. A top 10 isn’t too difficult, but after that, many are so close they become difficult to pick and rank.
My list includes a variety of factors with two important ones being lake history and current picks from top crappie tournament fishermen and pros who know which lakes are on upward and downward trends.
1. Grenada Lake MS An overwhelming number one pick again. It’s the best lake for a shot at a 3-pound slab crappie. Prime time is late February thru mid-April.
2. D’Arbonne, LA Pros rate this as the top lake for catching large numbers of good crappie between 1.25 to 2.25-pounds with a few big kickers likely. It’s unique because any technique can be successfully used there.
3. Lake Fork, TX A great southern lake for one-pole vertical jigging. It has good numbers and the crappie are big. It is a year-round destination.
4. St. John’s River, FL This lake jumped a few spots on the list. It’s number one for the prettiest scenery and abundant wildlife. Fish are beautiful, tinted black crappie. Tournament weights this January proves it’s still great. It’s a bucket-list trip for December thru February.
5. Lake Washington, MS A jump to the number five spot. A heavily-pressured lake, but a fantastic, easy-to-fish lake providing good numbers and quality crappie. A visiting fisherman can have success. It has earned this high ranking.
6. Truman Lake, MO A jump of five spots on the list. A hot lake for several years! It has plenty of numbers for lots of action and the fish weights have improved. It’s a perfect one-pole jigging lake.
7. Alabama River, AL The only reason it’s not ranked higher is because it’s a hit-or-miss water due to river fluctuations and current. However, when it’s right, there are few waters more fun or productive. Pay attention to current because it’s the key factor to where fish are located.
8. Sardis MS A fantastic lake for catching numbers of fish with plenty over the 12-inch length limit. Long-lining, power trolling and LiveScoping are good techniques.
9. Millwood Lake, AR A sleeper lake that has a history of producing big slab crappie. The lake features ample visible and submerged wood…perfect crappie habitat.
10. Santee Cooper SC Marion and Moultrie total 170,000 acres, with unique wooly swamps to wide open water with ledges and submerged wood. Numbers are good and trophy fish are common. It’s difficult to learn because of its size. Consider hiring a guide for the first day.
11. Barnett, MS A lake overshadowed by Grenada, but it has better numbers of fish and produces its share of good slabs.
12. Dardanelle, AR A big jump in ratings despite several years of difficult fishing due to high water. A river lake with many good spots to catch crappie. Crappie sizes can be very good.
13. Barkley, KY/TN A lot of water provides good fishing with overall numbers improving. It’s taken a beating from carp and fishing pressure, but it’s in a big upswing for crappie.
14. Clear Lake, CA Best crappie lake in the west. It’s a big-fish lake producing a lot of two- and three-pounders, and a state record 4.33-pounder in Feb 2021. A definite Bucket List lake for those headed to the west coast.
15. Eufaula, OK A big jump on the list because it produces fantastic numbers. Consider hiring a guide for the first day to learn the best areas and tactics.
16. Arklabutla, MS This lake jumps all over the list from year to year. It has the biggest crappie in the country but can be a very tough lake to fish. It’s a monster crappie destination.
17. Kentucky Lake, KY/TN A lake that has struggled whether due to a downward cycle or carp, but it is on an upswing cycle again and the experts like it.
18. Lake of the Pines, TX 19,780 acres. This lake is deep and known as a great crappie lake. Texas is blessed with many good big-fish crappie lakes.
19. Jordan, AL This pick is not on everyone’s list, but it’s a good fishery with dock shooting, casting and long-lining methods being popular. It does have heavy recreational boating.
20. Reelfoot, TN A cypress-filled, shallow water lake that is on a big upswing after being down for a few years. It’s unique, cypress-filled waters make it fun to fish.
21. Enid, MS
22. Guntersville, AL
23. Weiss Lake, AL
24. Ouachita River, LA
25. Eagle Lake, MS
26. Lake Talquin, FL
27. Conway, AR
28. Neely Henry, GA
29. Crescent Lake, FL
30. Clarks Hill, GA
31. Toledo Bend, TX
32. Harris Lake, SC
33. Wilson, AL
34. Logan Martin, AL
35. Lake of the Woods, CAN
36. Palestine, TX
37. Pickwick MS/TN/AL
38. Cypress, TX
39. Greenwood, SC
40. Murray, SC
41. Wheeler Lake, AL
42. Lake of the Ozarks, MO
43. John’s Lake, FL
44. Lake Monroe, IN
45. Kinkaid, IL
46. West Point, GA
47. Monroe Lake, FL
48. Pymatuning, PA
49. Oconee Lake, GA
50. Lake Cumberland, KY
Other Good Waters
The following are few good waters just missing the list. Eldorado KS; Okeechobee FL; Rathbun IA; Mosquito OH; Bussey Break Reservoir LA; Lake Champlain NY/VT; Candlewood Lake CT; Shenago Lake PA, BowString MN, Wilhelm PA. If you follow Facebook, you’ll see other lakes that produce an occasional whooper.
Fishing isn’t always about catching the biggest crappie. There are many waters around the country where a fisherman can catch good numbers of small crappie. A lot of action makes for a fun trip. These are the best lakes to take kids, family and people learning how to fish.