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Texas Sportsman
East Texas' Overlooked Slab Hotspots
Believe it or not, there are some super spots for taking slab crappie that many local anglers would just as soon keep silent about. But we'll let you in on the secret. (March 2010)

The bump on the line was subtle. Even though I was using a light-action rod, had I not been watching the line I never would have noticed the bite.

A quick flip of the wrist sent the jig home and I started reeling in another slab crappie. You want to know the best part? The day was just then dawning, and I had not driven even 10 minutes to get to the lake. Small-water fisheries have their advantages at times, and the luxury of close proximity is one of them.

Holding a lot of fish is another!

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We've all been there. You want to go fishing. Check that, you need to go fishing, but gas is expensive or you don't have a full day to devote to chasing crappie. And Sam Rayburn, Lake Fork, Caddo and Toledo Bend are all hours away from your doorstep. You don't feel like competing with other anglers or congested boat ramps and sometimes, heaven forbid, the fish aren't biting on those lakes.

Those of us living in the eastern part of the state are in luck in situations like that. Most likely there is a small reservoir located within 15 minutes of your house that has respectable, and sometimes remarkable, crappie fishing. You just have to know where to look and what to use.

Let's look at a few of those lakes and see what the local anglers use to put slabs in the boat right now.

Lake Gilmer hasn't been a lake very long. As a matter of fact, just over a decade ago I spent time tracking deer in the bottomland that now makes up the floor of the lake. There is a set of antlers in my living room from a buck taken in an area that is now 20 feet under water.

Today you won't find deer in the middle of this somewhat diminutive 1,000-acre impoundment, but what you will find are crappie, lots of crappie. The same brush that once attracted deer now serves as ideal habitat for fish. Because the lake is so young, it's difficult to find an angler with decades of experience on its waters. But those who do frequent it have learned quickly how to find crappie in the spring.

One such angler is Robert Howell, who spends a lot of time on Gilmer and many of the other small lakes in the region, not just fishing for, but catching a lot of crappie in waters most of us pass on the way to a real lake. As owner of Crazy Angler Tackle (, specializing in selling material to make your own jigs, Robert knows a thing or two about crappie fishing, especially on smaller bodies of water.

Sometimes, when researching an article, I come across something I've never tried or heard of; this was one of those times. According to Robert, one of the keys to finding crappie on a new lake is to find the old burn piles where the big stumps, brush and treetops were bulldozed into a mound and burned before the lake was filled. These areas tend to hold more crappie, as the burned stumps attract the small baitfish, feeding on who-knows-what, which in turn attracts more predators. The problem with locating these spots is that on a depthfinder it is impossible to tell the difference between a regular pile of brush set out by other anglers and a burned pile from before the lake was flooded.

To get around that, Robert has put together a small tool that will immediately tell him the difference between the two. When anchored over a suspected burn pile, Robert takes a small section of angle iron wrapped in nylon rope that has the ends frayed, ties it onto a length of rope and gently lowers it onto the pile. Don't just drop down like a cannonball or you'll scare off the fish. Rather, lower it as if it were glass.

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