Best Bet Crappie…

As of this writing, the water temps are running about 51, and if it is sunny, the fish will move up late in the day. The water level is 600.5 and will be coming back to 596 ft. above sea level then hold there until mid- May. Summer pool is 599.7, and they won’t let it come up for spring rain reasons. Remember, they are a flood control lake first and foremost.

This time of the year it is all about finding the best water temperature on the surface. The pre-spawn starts in at about 55 degrees and gets significantly better at 60. 62-68 brings in the females, and this process on Lake Shelbyville can take a month or longer.

Why so long? Simple – this lake is gin-clear on the south end and very deep, so water temps take much longer to warm. The north end has big mid-depth bays that get a lot of afternoon sun and warm quickly.

Mornings you will have thousands of crappie suspending just out in deeper water waiting on surface temps to climb up into that magic 55-60 range. These fish are still catchable, and the spider riggers just tear them up moving along fishing anywhere from 6 ft. down to 6 inches.

Then, late in the day, some fish will move up into the four to six-foot range and try to make a bed. The only problem now with Shelbyville is the water is falling and will drop about four to five feet until about May 15th or so then the rule curve will change to bring it back up to almost where it is now.

I have found that crappie will use some of the same spots they always do even though the water depths are technically too deep so this time of year I would just run them and try and fish up and over the top of them. All on the north end from Bo-Woods over to Wilborn boat ramps. This part of the lake always starts the spawn first then you can use similar tactics right on down the lake and follow the spawn for the next month.

Minnows play a big role in finding hungry male crappie this time of year. They want to pack on as much weight as they can for the upcoming spawn plus they feel the minnows are a threat to eat their fry, so they just gorge on them.

You can still use jigs, and some never switch to minnows, but you will hear reports of the crappie just nipping or swatting at them and not taking them. This can be due to the males just not wanting them near their beds or the dingy water color they are just having a hard time seeing them.

Once the water temps hit that magic 55, I always had on minnows and slip bobbers and stayed off the structure and pitched over to it fishing slightly above it. Like I said, the surface temps warm much quicker than the rest of the water column, so fish suspend in the spring.

By staying back so far it was hard to tight line a jig or even pendulum it over the top of structure, so this is why you just never saw me with jigs in the boat during the actual spawn ritual. They will work, but I always had three to four of us the boat so marking off structure then staying back fifteen feet or so works better for large parties.

We have several guides working through our website this year, but as for me, I got news that my other shoulder has a possible torn Rotator after just doing my left last year I will most likely be doing my right in the next few weeks. Right now it is bothering me a ton as they have taken me off all pain meds to weaken my resistance to them to get ready for the upcoming surgery. By the time I am ready to return to guiding I will be the Million dollar man, totally re-built. Anyway, we have very competent guides working with us, but most have full-time jobs and only do this weekends so as you can see the slots fill very quickly so I wouldn’t wait long to book. Give me a call at 217-840-1221 best during the evenings. Or shoot me an email at

Steve Welch
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