Southwest Missouri Has Some Of The Most Famous, Lakes Many Of Which Are Full Of Crappie!
Judging by the boat traffic and full ramps, it’s no longer a secret that crappie fishing in southwest Missouri has become a religion.
Bass Pro Shops headquarters was placed perfectly here for a good reason as it combines great outdoor opportunities, especially for fishermen! Trout run from several streams, professional bass circuits fill hotels but to me the area is a crappie fisherman’s paradise.
What Makes This Area So Good For Crappie Fishermen?
Millions of dollars from outside visitors pour into the area every year, so the Missouri Department of Conservation puts a lot of effort into managing fish species, especially in the Ozarks.
With that management comes a great deal of monitoring all fish species from the top of the food chain down. When large predator fish are allowed to flourish they can keep the smaller game fish’s populations under control helping an ecosystem reach its full potential.
Crappie are an important prey for bass, blue catfish, and flathead catfish. It’s no coincidence that there’s a healthy population of these predator fish in these lakes. Smaller crappie are eaten allowing for larger fish to free range on their own forage.
What follows is what I consider to be the top crappie lakes in southwest Missouri!
Table Rock Lake
Kicking things off is one well known very deep lake that takes up much of Stone County Missouri.
Starting with the ten-inch minimum lake rule, you know this is a serious destination for slabs!
If you visit Table Rock Lake in early April begin looking for pre-spawn fish staging just outside of well protected coves that the fish will use within the next few weeks. They will be feeding aggressively in the fifteen-to-twenty feet range.
During the full spawn, basic techniques work by fishing shallow brush and tree tops. Popping bobbers near bluff walls can be productive as well as you’re picking both pre spawn and post spawn fish off, coming and going.
Once summer hits, look for crappie between twenty and thirty feet, especially around bridge piers and brush piles.
Fall and Winter provide great action in the creeks especially along banks where contour lines jump quickly. I also love bluff fishing this time of year!
If camping is your thing, then you’ll have no problems finding a location along this lake and boat ramps are plentiful!
Stockton lake is a retreat for locals as they don’t wish to compete against all the boat traffic and visitors at the more popular lakes like Ozarks and Table Rock.
Located within Cedar, Dade, and Polk Counties, Stockton offers everything when it comes to amenities. Camping is available, you have several marinas you can stop off at, and there are boat ramps all around the lake!
Wind is not usually a factor here because of the high banks so it’s great for kayakers.
Crappie here are really impressive. While perhaps not the largest average size, they’re plenty of ten inchers to go around, and you’ll have a blast catching unders until you get those keepers!
Summer, fall, and winter, I would not stray far from the bluff walls to catch crappie. The deep shelves provide them with everything they need so start there. Most can be caught between fifteen and forty feet deep throughout the three seasons.
In the spring, shallow pockets and coves with flooded timber, laydowns, and buck brush should be targeted for spawning crappie.
Harry S. Truman Reservoir
Flooded Timber, muddy water, and high banks usually mean great crappie fishing! Enter Truman Lake inside Clinton and Warsaw Counties in southwestern Missouri.
An impoundment from the Osage river, Truman is an amazing target rich lake full of standing timber. Any tree at any time has the potential to be loaded with white and black crappie in the nine to ten inch range.
Outside of the spawn, the lake is pretty easy to pattern. Use jigs in the twelve-to-twenty-five-foot range around brush piles and visible timber near the creek channel in summer and winter. Work your way closer to the bank in the fall, and then concentrate heavily on shallow stumps and laydowns during the spawn in the middle of April, all the way up to the end of May.
You’ll know when it’s time to head out to the deeper water when the banks only give up dark colored males signaling the spawn has neared its end.
Pomme De Terre Lake
Hickory and Polk counties have one of lesser known but very respected crappie fishing destinations in the state of Missouri with Lake Pomme De Terre. The average size of crappie caught here can be off the charts!
Starting with the back of flooded timber in the creek arms, late April can be effortless when the spawn is in full swing. The action can be so quick in fact, that I don’t see any reason spending a lot of money on minnows as plastics will produce just as many fish. With the water clarity, curly tails will be your best bet in the two to three inch range
Lake Of The Ozarks
It’s one of the most popular lakes in the country for boating, recreation, and fishing! Lake Of The Ozarks lies within Benton, Camden, Miller, and Morgan Counties, which benefit from the influx of tourism dollars starting in April.
The crappie fishing here is on fire 365 days a year but location can vary depending on water clarity.
Beginning in spring, when the water temperature reaches sixty degrees the backs of shallow pockets will attract large females. Search any visible cover between two to six feet fishing a Shelton’s Curly Tail in 3″, by attaching a cork a couple of feet above the jig. Cast towards the bank or structure and begin popping it back to you. It shouldn’t take long to fill a live well!
From post spawn through the summer, and into fall, the docks that litter the lake become primary structure that both black and white crappie can be found. Knowing how to dock shoot is critical, as most docks are of the floating kind that have very low clearance.
Winter time crappie can still be found under the docks but trolling or spider rigging out off the drops in 25-35 feet of water is a popular proven strategy.
Be cautious in summer as boat traffic makes the lake hazardous, so by sticking to coves you’ll cut down on the waves and washed out banks.
It’s no wonder why the southwestern area of the show me state is hailed as a crappie haven. The lakes listed above have huge populations of large sized crappie and the lakes themselves are big enough to get away from other anglers.
Though some of the lakes are extremely deep, normal fish behavior patterns are in affect. Look for structure and you’ll find the fish. For rules and regulations be sure to check out the Missouri Department of Conservation!