The key to summer crappie fishing is knowing where to find the crappie, not where you think they should be found.
Steve McCadams of Paris, Tennessee, has guided crappie fishermen for more than 30 years on nearby Kentucky Lake, a typical flatland reservoir. McCadams rates summer as "extremely good if an angler is willing to change his habit of shallow water fishing and fish where the crappie are instead of where he wants them to be."
McCadams continues that "where the crappie are" this time of year is along deep ledges bordering the old Tennessee River channel. "Now their comfort zone is 18-24 feet deep, and frequently they'll hold on structure close to water that's deeper than this — 30 feet or more. Further, they'll concentrate around special features on these dropoffs, like points or a cluster of stumps. Finding some type cover on the ledge is critical to locating these fish."
McCadams starts his search by studying a topo map, then scanning likely places with his fish finder. "I check my maps for bars and creek junctions along the main river channel, then I go look at them with my depth finder. First, I'll locate a dropoff and mark a 50 to 100 yard stretch of it with floating buoys. Then I'll come back and run over it slowly with my depth finder, searching for those irregular features where crappie like to hold."
Specifically, McCadams hopes to find cover near the edge of the drop with fish returns close by. He also watches his fish finder for baitfish, which have drawn the crappie to the channel to start with.
"When I find something that looks good, I'll fish it with a jig (1/4-ounce lead jig head and tube jig body) or a two-hook crappie rig baited with live minnows. I'll work right down in the stumps, feeling for the cover with my jig or sinker. This is where the bites will come."
McCadams says a typical day involves a lot of "hunt and peck," trying different spots, catching a few crappie here, a few there. "Many times they bite best in the afternoons, when the current kicks up," he remarks.