Historians claim Reelfoot Lake was created in the early 1800s by a series of earthquakes which opened crevices in the earth so deep that the Mississippi River flowed backward to fill them up. Centuries later, the result of the rumbling destruction is a pristine, cypress tree-laden, five-mile lake that is the crown jewel of Northwest Tennessee.
Crappie Fishing Technique
Anglers will want to use the spider-rigging technique to catch lots of crappie. This is basically trolling with several poles spread out and held in a rack, typically from the boat’s bow. From above, with poles extended, the boat would resemble a spider walking across the surface; thus, the name. The tactic allows anglers to have many hooks in the water, all maintained at consistent depths while passing over the lake’s sunken cypress forest. Though in many places, above the surface, Reelfoot Lake may look like open water, but there are loads of stumps, logs and other features that crappie love.
Consistency is the key when spider rigging, you want to keep all your baits at the same depth as you troll above submerged structure. Deep is a relative term at Reelfoot. This is not a man-made reservoir, so there are no tremendous depths to be found in much of the lake. This helps anglers better locate the fish. So, use your electronics to find schooling fish and simply present your baits at the level they’re holding. Most often this will also be at or slightly above submerged structures.
Typically, spider-rig anglers have two-hook rigs on each pole. A crappie jig tipped with a minnow is the favorite of most. All the traditional crappie jig colors work, but you may want to experiment with different colors on top and bottom hooks to see if you can fine-tune the crappies’ preference.
This is a popular lake. It draws anglers from all over the country, and you will not be alone in the expanses of open water, but there is plenty of room, and even more important, plenty of fish. Because of the lake’s popularity, it’s not difficult to find public ramps providing easy access to the lake.
There are many outfitters in the area ready to help you catch some crappie as well. Bill Dance recommends life-long resident and fishing guide Jackie Van Cleave. He is familiar with spider-rigging in the open waters of Reelfoot Lake, and has even competed professionally on the crappie tournament circuit.
Fishing for Bass
Bass fishing at Reelfoot Lake can also be fantastic, too. In summer, anglers often fish pad fields and cypress. Topwater baits among the pads can be great, as can plastic worms and lizards at greater depths.
Fishing for Catfish
Fishing for catfish is always a good option with all traditional cat baits. But it’s the bluegill that most often takes center spotlight in summer at Reelfoot. Crickets and worms work on light tackle. A local preference is to fish a small hair or feather jig tipped with a waxworm or piece of a red wiggler.
If while fishing for crappie, you find the winds are too high to spider-rig, go after the big bluegills. You can then get out of the wind in one of the lake’s many pockets, or among the standing cypress. All the traditional panfishing methods and baits work, and you can catch a lot of Reelfoot bluegill in a hurry if you locate spawning beds.
Reelfoot Lake is a true natural wonder. It’s where bald eagles soar, and the fish are plentiful. It’s always a great place to fish in Tennessee. So, whether you’re a Tennessee resident or visitor, make sure to plan a trip, and get there as soon as you can for great crappie fishing.
Whether it's small creeks or big impoundments, our state's clear, often-rocky waters hold some of my favorite fighters.