By Dan Johnson

Crappies are creatures of habit, and during the prespawn period schools of papermouths flock to predictable places. Such behavior creates some of the season’s finest fishing opportunities for anglers who know where to look.

In early spring, crappies are drawn to the warmest water in the system. As we talked about last week, these movements are driven by hunger. The quest for suitable spawning habitat doesn’t kick in until water temperatures warm into the 50-degree range. Prior to that, it’s all about food.

Which leads us to five top areas to connect with hungry crappies this spring.

1. Shallow, Dark-Bottomed Bays
Few places pull in crappies like a muddy bay brimming with baitfish and other aquatic edibles. While some of the best bays are often located on the north side of the lake, where they’re sheltered from cool winds and receive the sun’s full benefit, I’ve found plenty of hotspots on all sides of my favorite fisheries.

2. Dead-End Canals
Boat channels can be crappie Meccas, but the backs of dead-end canals in natural lakes are truly special places. I’ve enjoyed epic action at the far end of such waterways, with fish sometimes holding in mere inches of water.

3. Dead-End Sloughs In Rivers
Similar to dead-end canals in natural lakes, a box-canyon backwater can hold the mother lode of prespawn crappies. Sheltered from the current, the fish enjoy fine dining and ample cover, particularly where flooded brush and last season’s vegetation sweeten the pot.

4. Marinas
In rivers and reservoirs alike, marinas are must-fish areas during the early season. Often located in sheltered areas where water temperatures warm faster than the main lake or river, they commonly offer a variety of fish-attracting cover including docks, pilings and well-placed brush piles.

5. Shallow Coves
Much like dark-bottomed bays, coves attract spring crappies, particularly on manmade reservoirs. Those with warm incoming creeks are especially good. Given a firm bottom and flooded brush or stumps, the area may produce fish through the spawn as well.