The earth shook, smoke belched from underfoot, sulfur fumes permeated the air and the Mississippi River reversed course. “Mighty Mo” with waves as high as 20 feet flowed inland into a local cypress forest. That was the birth of ReelfootLake those violent days of December 1811 and January 1812.

When the settlers returned to the area from their safe havens further inland, they discovered the lake. It was given the name Reelfoot after a local Chickasaw chieftain from the area.
Many of the bald cypress trees that fell during those violent days are still beneath the water. Others stand upright as sentinels attracting crappie and other panfish to their “knees.”

Today, this northwest Tennessee lake is a veritable fish factory with some 50 plus species of fish. Most popular are: crappie, largemouth bass, yellow bass, bluegill (bream), and channel catfish. Of a secondary interest to anglers are the carp, gar, bowfin, shad and drum. In the fall and winter months, waterfowl hunters find an infinite variety of ducks and geese. Eagles follow the waterfowl in to stay at the lake for the winter and enjoy the mild temperatures and ample supply of fish on which to feed.

Reelfoot is located in Lake and Obion counties about 17 miles southwest of Union City. It is a shallow, fertile lake with an average depth of 5.2 feet. The deepest point is 18 feet deep. Thousands of fish enjoy the natural cover and dead vegetation that accelerates algae, bacteria, phytoplankton and zooplankton growth that abounds in the lake. The cypress stumps, called knees, dot the lake, as do the many fallen trees that lie like sleeping giants beneath the surface.

Beginning in March and continuing into the summer, the crappie, bream, bass and yellow bass action is best.

Ground pounders can fish from shore or from piers located around the lake. Some of these solid, roomy piers snake through the cypress stumps and trees to provide access to the water just outside the trees. It is an exciting place to fish since one never can be sure just what we will be catching.

Large numbers of forage fish come into the areas followed by predator fish to feed. Pin-minnows in the lake are the right size and in large enough numbers to provide crappie with great forage.

The crappie usually move into shallow areas of the lake in early April, and then out gradually as the spawn ends, until they are in the deeper water stump areas. They remain there until July.

The best luck with crappie comes on jigs tipped with a small minnow or plastic tube jig. 1/32nd ounce or 1/80th ounce jigs worked best. Add those Berkley Crappie Nibbles as an additional inducement to the fish. Suspend them about 18 inches beneath a small float (bobber). A small split shot helps hold the float upright. For the angler using plastic tube jigs one has to experiment in order to find the color the fish prefer on a specific day. They can be fussy sometimes.


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