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By Eric Prey - Focused Fishing Guide Service

More anglers everyday are realizing that Table Rock Lake has an abundance of crappie, they’re also realizing crappie on a deep clear lake are not as easy to find and catch as they are on shallow dirty water lakes. Just like their cousins in dirty water lakes, crappie on Table Rock follow an easily recognizable pattern in the spring and if you hit it right, you’ll fill your live well with some tasty fish. Crappie, just like most freshwater fish, spawn in the spring, to spawn they move from their deeper water haunts to the shallows where they lay eggs and keep the species going for another year. In this article we’ll breakdown the timing, locations and triggers that crappie on Table Rock use throughout the spring spawn.


The pre-spawn season generally is February through mid-April, water temps range from mid-forties to upper fifties. Early in the pre-spawn crappie are not truly staging but they do begin to position themselves shallower and closer to spawning habit. During this period, Febru-ary through March, you will find schools of crappie moving from deep treetops and brush piles to shallower trees and brush. There are multiple triggers that cause the fish to start moving but the most important are water temperature and the amount of daylight throughout the day. Water temperatures from 45-50 and daylight of ten hours or more will get a crappie’s biological clock ticking faster and they will start to move.

On Table Rock we look for fish to move from 20’ – 30’ deep to 10’- 20’ over brush and trees. This move can happen very quickly and because they are “on the clock” they can move day to day sliding up shallower and closer to spawning locations. Crappie anglers have the most success early in the spawn on the ends of channel swing banks close to deep water. Large creeks and rivers see the crappie move first, areas like Long Creek, Piney Creek and the Kings River tend to turn on before areas down lake. Start on deeper brush and trees moving progressively shallower until you find where crappie are holding. Once you find crappie, light weight crappie jigs and soft plastics in natural colors like Monkey Milk or Pearl are great offerings, if they are ignoring your lures switching to a live minnow on a slip bobber rig will almost always put fish in the boat.

Water temps climbing into the low sixties and twelve hours of daylight will start a mass migration towards the bank. Crappie will still be off the bank in a pre-spawn mode, but they will be shallower and much more aggressive. Shallow brush around docks and points is always a good bet when the water is this warm, look for docks and points close to spawning pockets to hold most of the fish. Don’t overlook large laydowns and logs in the rivers and creeks as well, crappie love to follow cover that leads from deep water to shallow when moving up to spawn. Lure selection remains the same as when water temperatures were cooler, but minnows tend to be an emergency back up plan.


Crappie anglers have better hearing than the best watchdog in the world when the spawn begins, you’ll see them around bait shops, tackle stores and boat ramps listening for six little words: “the crappie are on the bank”. This is the best thing a crappie angler will hear all year, it means the fish are shallow and extremely aggressive, limits are quick and easy. If you don’t want to spend your days hanging out at the bait shop, triggers that move crappie up to spawn are easy to spot. Start looking less than five feet deep in late April through mid-May, water temperatures will be in the mid-sixties and daylight lasts more than 12 hours a day. Rivers and creeks will have spawning crappie before the main lake will, find warm stained water and cast crappie jigs and small soft plastics around any wood cover less than five foot deep on gravel and rock / gravel mixed banks in pockets and coves. While some anglers will still use live bait, seasoned crappie anglers prefer artificial lures because they can cover water quickly and efficiently. The spawn is by far the most fun time of the year to catch crappie, the action is fast, and the bite is great.

Post Spawn

Much like other freshwater fish, post spawn crappies can be tough to catch early in the post spawn. The fish are recovering from the spawning process and can be a bit skittish and lethargic. Within a few days of leaving the spawning ground crappie will move back to the shallow brush, trees, and laydowns they used in the pre-spawn. They will become aggressive again trying to regain weight lost during the spawn and warmer water will have their metabolism burning calories faster than before the spawn. Look for fish to be on brush and standing timber again over 10’ – 20’ of water, crappie will be schooled up again and when you find a group and start feeding catching several out of a school is likely. Crappie jigs and soft plastics are usual offerings but having a bucket of minnow and a slip bobber rig can save the day when all else fails.

Table Rock Lake isn’t known as a crappie fishing destination but what it lacks in numbers it more than makes up in the average size of fish caught. Spring is the best time to find and catch crappie everywhere and Table Rock is no exception. Pay attention to water temperature and daylight hours and you should be able to follow crappie through their annual spawning run and put a few meals of fresh caught filets on the table.

Eric Prey is the Owner/Operator of Focused Fishing Guide Service on Table Rock, Taneycomo and Bull Shoals lakes

To book a trip or contact him: or Call: 417-860-4743


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