Travis Bullock with daughter, Keegan with some post-spawn slabs from Missouri’s Truman Lake.
Catching Crappie After the Spawn
by Ron Wong
New fishing time, new techniques
No matter what body of water you fish, after crappie spawn, generally in shallower water, they are going to move to cover or structure. That’s where they will rest up and feed up following the rigors of spawning.
The depths where crappie will hold post-spawn vary widely, depending upon the geography and available habitat in your lake. Here’s we will discuss Truman Lake in Missouri, midways in the country but somewhat similar to other prime crappie waters across the country.
Located between the towns of Warsaw and Clinton, Missouri, this 55,600-acre lake has more than 900 miles of shoreline. It is fed by two major rivers, the Grand River and the Osage River.
When Truman Lake was created in 1979, more than 8,800 acres of timber was left standing, providing excellent habitat for crappie. In the upper end of the lake along the Osage River arm, one can find the shoreline lined with standing timber and stumps. While on the main lake, standing timber and stumps will be prevalent on flats in the coves and bays.
When navigating on the coves on the main lake, there are some boat lanes that have been created for safer boating. Crappie fishermen will find the lower end of the lake to be clear and the upper end, especially in the river to be mostly stained and will be muddy after rainfall.
During a normal year in May, most of the crappie will have spawned, especially in the upper end of the lake, although there may be some late spawners in the lower end of the lake.
We picked the brains of some professional fisherman that frequent Truman Lake.
Shannon Beckmann is a professional crappie fisherman that lives in Stover, Missouri just a long cast away from Truman Lake. Shannon likes to fish the Osage River arm of the lake and mainly the short pockets and coves on the river. All the pockets/cove will have some stumps and standing timber with deeper water in the middle of them.
His preference is to single pole, vertical jig a 1/16-ounce hand-tied hair jig tipped with a small minnow in May after the spawn. He said, “start in the middle of a pocket and move towards the bank until you find what (depth) of the pocket the fish are residing, then fish all pockets at the desired depth.”
He recommends using heavier line in the heavier cover. His preference is 8- or 10-pound test clear Slime Line.
They say the apple never falls far from the tree. That’s the case for Shannon Beckmann’s son, Kyler. The pair regularly team up on the professional crappie circuit. Kyler is also the owner/operator of Kyler Beckmann Guide Service on Truman Lake. Like his Dad, Kyler prefers the Osage River arm because it holds a better population of big white crappie.
During May Beckmann will mostly fish the main river channel which is adorned with visible stumps and some standing timber. His go-to tackle includes hand -tied 1/8 or 1/16-ounce hair jigs or 1/8-ounce Pro-Built jigs rigged with a Bobby Garland baby shad. He says he will focus on cover 5-8 feet deep in or near deeper water. He says that pattern will be his favorite until the Fall. Except he will occasionally fish rock bluff banks which tend to hold more black crappie. On the steep rock banks, he will often single pole vertical jig in the deeper water.
Travis Bullock, a professional crappie fisherman who fishes on the American Crappie Trail and Crappie Masters circuits, enjoys taking his youngest daughter, Keegan to Truman Lake.
Unlike the Beckmanns, Bullock likes to fish the lower part of Truman Lake. There, for the late spawning fish in May, he will focus on chunk-rock and pea gravel banks on the shoreline. Best to fish 1 to 5 feet deep along the shoreline with smaller profile baits such as Bobby Garland baby shad or 2-inch Slab Slayer on a 1/16-ounce jig head. If buck bushes are present, that is a bonus and will spend time vertical jigging around and in the middle of bushes.
Once the crappie has spawned on the main part of the lake, they will move to adjacent flats and most fish can be caught 5-8 feet deep suspended over deeper water. Larger baits such as a 3-inch Slab Slayer will work well.
Some bullet points on post-spawn crappie from the pros:
- Fish visible cover
- Fish slow when a weather front moves through the area
- Do not bounce your bait up and down, leave it still
- On sunny days, fish the shady side of cover
- Single pole vertical jigging is best throughout the entire lake
- When fishing hedge trees (prevalent on some flats), drop your bait in the middle of the cover
- In stained/muddy water, orange is a good color to be on your offering
- When fishing standing timber, pitch your bait out front cover and let it swing to it
- Once you catch a fish or 2 off a piece of cover, move to next piece of cover
- Try to pattern best depth for the day
- If not using a minnow on jig, use some type of attractant
For those that want to fish the main lake (lower end), lodging and supplies can be found in Warsaw. For those fishing the upper end of the lake, Clinton has lodging, and supplies is nearby launch areas. The daily limit of crappie is 15 and each fish must be at least 9 inches long.
Truman Lake is truly a destination to catch crappie that averages 1.25 to 1.75 pounds after the spawn. As the crappie recover from the rigors of spawn, it is not uncommon to catch fish above the 2-pound mark. Because of the abundance of stumps and standing timber throughout the lake, practice safe boating. Enjoy the excellent crappie fishing this lake has to offer.
(Ron Wong is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, retired from FedEx after 34 years, and currently serves on the boards of several organizations. He is an avid fisherman and outdoor writer. He also co-hosts the weekly radio show Outdoors with Larry Rea, airing in Memphis, Tenn. Saturday mornings from 6-7:30 a.m. on ESPN790.)