Crappie in Tennessee and Oklahoma, Bass in Missouri

Author’s Note: Although water and weather temperatures are cooling down, don’t put away your rod and reel just yet. There are plenty of big bass and fat crappie to be caught in November and December. To find out where to catch the biggest and the most bass and crappie this month, we asked two of the best professional fisherman in the industry – Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Michigan, four-time BASS Angler-of-the-Year and two-time Bassmaster Classic winner, and Ronnie Capps of Tiptonville, Tennessee, who, along with his partner, is co-winner of more than $1.4 million earned catching crappie, as well as co-winner of the 2009 Crappie USA South Region Regional Event – to name their favorites. VanDam has proven that he’s one of the best bass fishermen in the nation, and has surpassed tournament winnings of more than $3.5 million.

Capps’ Picks for Crappie:

Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee – Anytime after the first frost, the crappie bite turns on at Reelfoot. Reelfoot Lake was created when an earthquake left a gigantic hole in the ground and all the timber on the land fell into the hole. After the earthquake, the Mississippi River ran backwards, filling up the lake. Now the lake is full of trees and stumps, which is ideal habitat for crappie. The water level doesn’t seem to fluctuate. My partner, Steve Coleman, and I will be slow-trolling (often called spider-rigging) for the crappie at this time of year, using B’n’M minnow rigs with two hooks and a weight. I’ll have out eight, 14 foot, three-section B’n’M Capps & Coleman Series Trolling rods, rigged with a 2 1/2 inch minnow. As the water cools down, I prefer to fish the bigger minnows, because that’s generally the size of the younger shad. I’ll be slow-trolling over 12 to 15 feet of water. I’ve caught the crappie as shallow as 5 feet deep. I start slow-trolling my minnows about 1 foot off the bottom and then I raise my minnows until I locate the depth at which the crappie are holding. Generally as the sun rises, the crappie will move closer to the surface. Crappie will weigh about 8 ounces to 1 or 1-1/2 pounds each, and you can catch 2 pounders.

Grand Lake in Oklahoma near Muskogee, Oklahoma – To catch the crappie at Grand Lake, fish the main river channel of the Grand River and the deep side of the underwater river ledge, just like you’ll fish Neely Henry in Alabama at this time of year. The crappie I’ll catch will weigh from 3/4 to 1-1/2 pounds each.

VanDam’s Choice for Bass:

Table Rock Lake in Missouri – As the water temperature starts to cool down, the bass in this lake will be moving toward their winter pattern. This lake has a tremendous spinner-bait bite, and that’s why I like it. Too, this lake homes big largemouths, smallmouths and spotted bass, and if you make three different casts, you can catch a different species on each cast. I prefer a 1/2 ounce willowleaf spinner bait in the Sexy Shad color, because the bass are really keying-on shad at this time of year. I’ll primarily be fishing the main lake points that have wind blowing into them using 17 pound test line. I’ll expect to catch 3 to 5 pound bass, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to catch a 7 to a 10 pound largemouth there.

This article is part of a series on fall and winter fishing hotspots. Click here for bass and crappie in Florida. Click here for coldwater crappie at Grenada and Sardis Lakes in Mississippi.

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