October 7, 2015 Share

Cold Water Crappie: New Lake

Catching cold water crappie seems like a pretty straightforward proposition. Locate the schools and fill your livewell… Locate being the operative word here. Below you will find a few key hacks for finding crappie schools on new lakes.

As with any first trip to a new lake, you will be relying heavily on your electronics to map the bottom of the lake. Where are the humps, drop offs, submerged cover, etc.? If you didn’t bring along your diving equipment the only way to know is by paying attention to your electronics.

Seek and ye shall find…

First things first, identify the water temperature of the lake. If it is below 50 degrees, crappie will traditionally stage in deeper water near cover. Use your electronics to find deep, submerged cover. Tree tops, deep weeks, and large rocks are a great place to start.

Fish the evenings if possible. If you have a south/southeast facing bay, target that area. The water temperature will be much warmer than the rest of the lake and you can almost bet crappies will be schooled in those areas. If you find yourself in a situation where the water temperature is slightly warmer than the rest of the lake, look for structure. This could be anything from a submerged brush pile to dock pilings.

Pay special attention to inside turns. Below you will find a screenshot Steve recently took from his Garmin on a fall trip. While he wasn’t targeting crappies, he found these stacks, consistently, on inside turns of large bays.


Look for the baitfish

Crappie, just like all freshwater fish this time of year, are actively feeding. Using your electronics, and being able to identify schools of baitfish on your electronics, is key.

PowerBait Atomic Pulse Tubes

PowerBait Atomic Pulse Tubes

Berkley Flicker Shad

Berkley Flicker Shad

PowerBait Atomic Teaser

PowerBait Atomic Teaser


Everyone knows that live bait works. It has for centuries but if you haven’t tried swimbaits, cranks, and artificial for fall crappie you are missing out. A crank works very well for locating fish in a water column. You can adjust your retrieve rate to target various depths. Artificial plastics like Berkley Gulp! are deadly on crappie, no matter what time of year. We love using Gulp! because we don’t have to constantly re-tie live bait. No mess. No hassle.

Don’t be afraid to cover some water if you are having trouble locating schools. Tie on a small crank or even a swim bait to key in on larger crappie.