By Tim Huffman
There is no perfect list of the best lakes in the country. One fisherman may love a stump-filled lake while another fisherman hates it. What makes a good lake good can include big fish, numbers of fish and secondary factors including launching, local accommodations, beauty or uniqueness and other factors. Therefore, picking best lakes is difficult. This list is a combination of inputs from many fishermen and using other parameters. The top eight should be on everyone’s list of must-try waters because they are proven big-slab producers.
GRENADA, MS #1
Still at the number one spot, this big-crappie producer is on the bucket list of any fishermen serious about putting a 3-pounder in the boat and on the wall. The lake can be rough in the wind and it’s crowded in the spring. However, the payoff can be the best stringer of fish you’ve ever caught. The next bite can be a 3-plus pounder you’ll remember forever. The key period is from early March until the second week of April. Don’t let stained-murky water fool you, that’s normal color. Overlooked Grenada fishing is the summer bite with crankbaits, and slow trolling works then, too. Size: 35,000 acres, depending upon level.
WASHINGTON LAKE, MS #2
Washington is a favorite of many fishermen because it is an easy lake to fish and navigate. It’s not a huge oxbow so finding fish isn’t as difficult as in a large reservoir. You can often find fish by looking where the crowds of fishermen are located. Top methods include slow and fast trolling. This is a land-locked oxbow making it more stable and consistent compared to most other oxbows. Size: 5000 acres.
SANTEE COOPER, SC #3
Santee is the largest super-lake system in our top seven. Two lakes, Marion and Moultrie, create Santee Cooper. Santee is capable of giving up quality crappie in good numbers. The two lakes give a fisherman a choice of fishing styles with jigging, casting, slow trolling and fast trolling all being techniques used on the lake. For safety, wind must be considered when picking areas to fish. March and April are good months with typical spawning patterns. A wildcard tip: August is brutally hot but has excellent mid-day fishing when fish are pushed tight to brushpiles in about eight feet of water. Size: Marion 110,000; Moultrie 60,000 acres.
ARKLABUTLA, MS #4
This lake is difficult to put in the top seven because it is so hit-and-miss. It’s easy to score a big stringer of fish one trip and the next two trips struggle to catch a few. However, the potential for a super big fish is always present and is worth the effort. The spawn peak is around the end of March thru April. Seek shallow water. Slow trolling is popular but vertical jigging can be good too. Catch post-spawn through fall crappie by trolling crankbaits. 2018 was a good year and so should 2019. Size: 11,200 acres.
LAKE FORK, TX #5
Texas offers good crappie lakes, many overlooked. Lake Fork stands out because of its massive size and opportunities. Visible cover, submerged cover, docks and more are places to find big fish. Tactics can vary on the lake with vertical jigging being a popular favorite. You should be physically and mentally prepared for a slab attack at any time. Size: 27.000 acres
- JOHNS RIVER, FL #6
December through February is peak time at the St. John’s River. There may be some cold weather, but in general, temperatures are moderate making it a comfortable winter fishing lake. There are plenty of pound and a half crappie with two-plus fairly common. The black crappie are some of the prettiest fish in the country. You can catch crappie while watching birds, alligator and manatee, all at the same time. Size: 310 miles long.
LAKE CONWAY, AR #7
This lake, near Little Rock, will be a controversial pick because it’s not nationally popular as a top crappie spot. Even some of the locals shun the lake because navigation is difficult and the stumpy lake is brutal on equipment. However, this is a crappie producing hotspot that will give up some three pounders every year. Vertical jigging is popular but casting and slow trolling are also used depending upon the season and area. Pick your tactic, find your fish and enjoy a unique, fantastic trip. Size: 6,700 acres.
LAKE D’ARBONNE, LA #8
This lake is probably under-rated. It produces ample numbers of 1.75- to 2.25-pound crappie, with several 2.50-plus slabs. It is a fisherman’s paradise with channels, flats, submerged cover and lots of exposed cover. A fisherman can cast, jig, slow troll and pull jigs. February is a prime pre-spawn month. Summer air temperatures can be brutal, so fall, winter and spring are the seasons to visit. Size: 15,200 acres.
See the all the Top 50 Crappie Lakes for 2019 at www.monstercrappie.com