Spring Crappie Fishing: Prespawn and Schooling | Great Days Outdoors

We’re done with winter and ready for some fishing action. It’s time to catch the slabs.


I know those big black-and-white speckled crappie are here. They’ve got to be here. I just haven’t found them yet. So I will keep drifting this stretch of water in good faith.

My boat, with its long rods angled out over the water, is slowly drifting down the mouth of a small river that feeds into a major lake. The time is right. Spring is here, and the crappie have got to be getting ready to spawn. I just need to find the fish.

I look at my electronic display on the fish finder and I see that my drift is matching the contours of the old river bed below me. I can also see the old stumps of trees that once grew along the river. This is a perfect setup. So where are the crappie?

I’m beginning to doubt a lot of things in the world at this point. The time is right. The water is right. My rigs should be right. So what’s wrong?


One of my long, lightweight crappie rods with six-pound-test line suddenly dips and dives, and I know that things are getting better fast. And then another rod dips, and another bends with the weight of a fish.

As I work the first fat crappie to the boat, I can only hope the other hooked fish stay hooked. My problem now is that I’ve got too much of a good thing. It’s a high-energy confusion of splashing crappie, flopping crappie, crappie being unhooked and dropped into the livewell. My problem has shifted from one of not enough fish to almost too many fish at once.

But that’s a good problem to have. I think I can deal with this kind of problem. In fact, I invite this problem every spring when crappie spawning season comes around on Alabama’s lakes and streams.

Let’s Get Ready for Some Spring Crappie Fishing

One of the best crappie anglers, Captain Lee Pitts, lives and guides on Weiss Lake. And if there’s a better place in this part of the world to find crappie than Weiss Lake, we’re not aware of it.

“Crappie fishing in spring changes daily, weather being the key factor.”

Captain Lee spends a lot of his time guiding anglers from all over the country to some memorable spring crappie fishing trips. He was kind enough to share his long experience catching crappie in the spring when they’re schooling up and getting ready for the annual spawn.

Captain Lee tells us, “Spring in the South is a great month for several different techniques for spring crappie fishing. Some crappie have already migrated to the backs of creeks looking for the shallow stumps and brush piles. Some are staging on deeper points and creek channels, and some crappie are leaving their winter deep water. Crappie fishing in spring changes daily, weather being the key factor. If it warms up for a few days, crappie will move shallow; if a cold front comes through, they will pull back deeper.”


“In spring, crappie move quite a bit,” he adds. “This is where your electronics can save you a lot of unproductive fishing time. I rely greatly on my Humminbird units, not only with my down image but my side scan also. I can idle with my outboard and cover a lot of water while looking for crappie instead of hours of casting. One thing to remember about electronics: if the screen is blank, it does not lie, it’s time to move on.”

A beautiful sight while spring crappie fishing.

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Where Do We Look to Find the Slabs?

Crappie are creatures of habit and do tend to use some of the same places year to year when possible. There are some contributing factors such as a change in water levels, change in structure, change in bottom contour and fishing pressure.

All these factors play into crappie spawning areas. Like every day on the water, some days are better than others. Spring is great for catching not only numbers of crappie, but big ones as well. These fish are feeding up for the spawn and are at their full weight.

With all the crappie moving so much in spring, longline trolling is a great technique for staying on these moving fish. This slow-trolling technique allows crappie anglers to cover a lot of water to locate the best concentration of big crappie.

Also, by presenting a range of lure colors and sizes, anglers can fine-tune their presentation to give the slabs exactly what they want on a specific day. And as described at the start of this article, when several of the longline rods go off at the same time, it can be a lot of fun.

When it comes to selecting specific lures for this spring pre-spawn crappie, Captain Lee keeps it pretty simple. Small jigs are traditionally very productive crappie lures in spring, but crappie anglers can improve their chances of really loading up the ice chest with fat crappie by choosing the right kind and size of jig.

Captain Lee says, “I prefer soft-plastics in spring. The fish are feeding up and aggressive. My main baits are the Bobby Garland Baby Shad, the Garland Slab Slay “R” and the Stroll “R” for when they move shallow.”

Where are the Best Waters for Big Spring Crappie?

Captain Lee has fished most of the major lakes in Alabama, and he has caught crappie from all of them.

When asked about his advice for anglers who want to really catch some good spring crappie, he says, “Almost any body of water in Alabama has crappie, but some of the lakes that stand out are Weiss Lake, Neely Henry, and Lake Guntersville. For a chance to catch the crappie of a lifetime, my favorite is Weiss.”

“A live minnow dropped on the outside edges of these old treetops can yield some great spring crappie fishing.”

Anglers in South Alabama are not out of luck when it comes to spring crappie, either. The Mobile Delta has some tremendous spring crappie fishing, and anglers can work the shorelines of the major rivers of the Delta and then run up the side tributaries to work shallow shorelines. Delta crappie chasers need to look for blowdowns, especially old treetops that have the tips of the old limbs out in deeper water.

A live minnow dropped on the outside edges of these old treetops can yield some great crappie fishing. The largest crappie will often be deeper in the old treetop, and anglers then need to use their long crappie rods to lift and drop the live minnow gently into open pockets.

When a fat two-pound crappie takes a minnow under a float, the angler will need to get that fish out of the snag quickly or face losing the fish and hook to the old underwater wood.

Final thoughts About This Fine Time of Year

Springtime in Alabama is a great time of year, and it’s a great time to introduce younger anglers to the joys of fishing. There’s nothing like taking a youngster to the water with a bucket of minnows and some long crappie poles or even cane poles and catching a good mess of crappie for supper.

And it’s not such a bad time for older anglers, either.

Captain Lee says, “The great thing about crappie fishing is you don’t need to break the bank to get out and catch crappie. From running around in a high-dollar boat with the latest and greatest electronics to wading the bank with a stringer hooked on your belt loop, there’s something for everybody. So get out there and get after them.”

We couldn’t agree more. Spring is a wonderful time and spring crappie fishing is a great way to enjoy another great day outdoors.

Important Contact Information

Captain Lee Pitts



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