Table Rock Lake

Clearwater Crappie

Posted by Phil Lilley on April 14th, 2008
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When I was a kid fishing in farm ponds in southeast Kansas, we’d catch crappie — lots of them. There seemed to be an endless supply of the rascals. My favorite place was an old rock quarry just south of the hospital my dad worked at. It had high rock walls and lots of structure to fish around inside. The water was clear most of the time since the quarry had a rock bottom instead of the usual mud and clay. Even then, we had to use lighter line to fool the crappie. I guess the experience was preparing me for what I would face on Table Rock Lake.

Oklahomans and Kansans are amazed by our gin-clear water here in southern Missouri. Stained, cloudy, muddy — even “chocotate milk” — are the adjectives used to describe ideal crappie conditions in their lakes, rivers and ponds. Table Rock can be incredibly clear, giving the advantage to the weary fish that inhabit its waters.

Light line in only one key to successful crappie fishing. One person that has seemed to have mastered this feat is Mike Abdon, conservation agent for the Missouri Department of Conservation. He likes fishing in the Long Arm of the lake, hitting all the cuts, ledges, snags and cedar trees alongs several miles of bank that this area offers.

There are places where people don’t expect crappie like small cuts in the high, rock walls of a bluff bank. These cuts are congregating spots for fish and the structure they offer is perfect for holding crappie. These cuts or jets (places where the rock wall jets outward) can be small but hold a good school of fish.

Brushy is an area to the southwest of Gage’s Marina. Its long cove is dotted with side coves full of old cedar trees with good, fairly steep-sloped banks. It’s sheltered from the spring winds but tends to warm up faster than most areas on the lake. Its structure is perfect breeding ground for crappie.

I’ve done my share of crappie fishing in the Long Arm of Table Rock, all the way into Arkansas mostly. Mark and Linda, owners of Cricket Creek Marina, have been instrumental in helping me locate and find the right lure to catch fish. Just to the north of the dock is a cut that’s deep and full of trees. On up farther is Blair Branch, a long cove the heads southeast and again is full of brush and trees along the sloped banks. South of the dock there’s Cricket, Yocom and Long creeks with literally thousands of brush covered banks, coves filled with cedars and cuts and jets off rock bluffs.

As for lures, my still all-time favorite is the swimming minnow on a 1/16th-ounce jig head. Favorite colors are purple, chartruese, smoke and electric blue. Minnow fishing with a long crappie rod is very popular. I tried it one time with my neighbor and caught nothing but bass — and those crappie rods don’t handle big bass very well! Light line is the key, though. Sure you’ll lose a few big crappie to brush, but your hook-up ratio will increase dramatically if you go to four- or six-pound line, clear or green.

Abdon fishes a micro jig under a float around brush at times. He says when the fish get tight-mouthed, micros can lure a bite when nothing else can. Sometimes they don’t even want it to move. The jig will just be sitting there, and the strike will be just a nudge of the float.

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