Randy Luttrell displays a 3.83-lb slab that he and Garrett Steele caught during the 2020 Crappie Masters tournament on Grenada Lake. Few fish ever reach this massive weight, but Grenada produced several last year and will likely do the same in 2021.
Top Ten Crappie Lakes for 2021
by Tim Huffman
Choices for size or numbers
Ask 20 fishermen to name the top crappie waters and you will probably get 20 different lists of lakes. Some fishermen prefer waters with jumbo crappie and others prefer a lake where you can catch big numbers of fish for fun and the freezer. Some fishermen love stump-filled waters while others want more open water that is safe and easy to troll.
This article discusses five top picks for a chance at a big, monster slab and five picks for a fun trip catching numbers of crappie, plus a link to review the top 50 crappie lakes for 2021.
Tournament results show an average “Big Fish” weight of 3.5 pounds! Read on to see what lake it is.
#1 Big-Crappie: Grenada Lake, MS. 35,000 acres. It is number one for a good reason…it is the best lake in the country for a fisherman to have a real shot at a three-pound crappie. It is a big-fish factory with fast growth rates, good management practices and great high-water spawns the past three years. A quick look at last year’s tournament results shows an average winning weight of 17.50 pounds for seven fish and an incredible average big fish weight of 3.50-pounds.
It does get heavy fishing pressure and it is not a wind-friendly lake. Navigation requires a little care because of big mud flats and areas with wood. However, the negatives mean little compared to the rush of hooking a three-pound slab on a 12-foot pole with three feet of line out. Best bet for monsters is in mid-Feb thru March.
#2 Big-Crappie: Arklabutla, MS. 11,000 acres. Want to catch the biggest crappie imaginable? This lake produces some of the largest crappie in the country. It is numbers aren’t high and it can be a very difficult lake to fish, especially if muddied from rains or wind across mud flats, but catch the timing right and your big fish of a lifetime is there for you to find and catch. With LiveScope now popular, expect a few four-pound monsters to come out in 2021.
#3 Big-Crappie: Lake Fork, TX. 27,000 acres. Fishermen can use different
methods on this lake but is best known as a great jigging lake. Standing timber and submerged wood makes this a jigging paradise. Crappie numbers and size are outstanding. Excellent, huge slabs are common. It is a great year-round pick.
#4 Big Crappie: Clear Lake, CA. 43,000 acres. This pick will surprise most readers, but it definitely deserves the ranking and is the best crappie lake in the all the western states. Four tournaments last year had a big-fish average weight of 2.83 pounds. According to guide Ed Legan, there are plenty of two and three pounders caught every year. On Feb 17th this year, a 4.33-pound (certified scale weight) was caught for a new California black crappie state record. The lake is also ranked #1 by Bassmasters.
#5 Big Crappie: Millwood Lake, AR. 29,000 acres. This lake doesn’t receive much national attention but serous crappie fishermen have been catching giants from this lake for many years. Navigation can be tricky and wind can be deadly, but pick the right days and the right areas in the southwest Arkansas lake, and you’ll have a bragging stringer of big slabs.
Note: Several lakes barely missed the top five list, including: Santee Cooper, SC; Eagle Lake, MS; and Lake Conway, AR. For a northern big fish lake, Wilhelm, PA, produced a 20-inch, 4.02-lb monster in mid-February this year.
WANT TO CATCH BIG NUMBERS OF CRAPPIE?
#1 for Numbers: D’Arbonne, LA. Three-pounders are not common, but the numbers of good 1.5 to 2.25-pound crappie makes it a crazy fun place to fish. It has a wide variety of waters allowing any technique a fisherman enjoys using. Check for water levels and conditions because it is a river-fed lake that fluctuates with big rains. The main channels are marked but you better be idling if you are anywhere else.
#2 for Numbers: Truman Lake, MO. 55,000 acres. This has been a hot lake for two years. The size has improved, but its great numbers of average-sized fish make this a bucket-list lake. Single-pole jigging is the ticket for lots of fun action. It is not required, but LiveScope is an advantage to spot good fish on stumps and to keep a bait in their faces until they hit.
#3 for Numbers: Sardis, MS. 98,000 acres. This is a strong lake for catching numbers of good fish over the 12-inch length limit. You and your family, or fishing buddy, can have a great time with lots of action. Pulling crankbaits is popular and so is power trolling, while LiveScoping is providing action around the wood cover. Keep an eye on your weather app because it doesn’t take much wind to make this a very dangerous lake.
#4 for Numbers: Washington, MS. 5000 acres. This lake has a history of great fishing. Although sizes may be down compared to previous years, the numbers of fish keep it high on the list. Flats at five to eight feet next to deeper water are ideal places to pull or spider rig. The lake is small, easy to navigate and heavily pressured.
#5 for Numbers: Weiss Lake, AL. 32,000 acres. The “Crappie Capital of the World” has provided great fishing for many years. It has both black and white crappie in good numbers that can be caught with a variety of methods. Pulling jigs and shooting or pitching docks are popular methods. It is simply a fun place to fish for serious or fun fishermen.
Note: Just missing the top five list: Enid, MS; Lake of the Pines, TX; Ross Barnett, MS; and the St. John’s River, FL.
Check out a list of the Top 50 Crappie Lakes for 2021.
(Tim Huffman has specialized in crappie fishing, writing and photography since 1988. He is currently the Editor/Senior Writer for Crappie Masters Magazine, freelance contributor to four magazines, book author and Senior Writer for CrappieNow Digital Magazine.)