trolling for crappies in any season

Troll For Crappies – 3 Amazingly Simply Steps

Catch Big Crappie With Long-Line Trolling 

Why Should You Troll For Crappies

As a crappie angler you wish to spend more time catching crappies. Long-line trolling is one of the very best methods to discover and catch crappie quickly. Long-lining covers water and is specifically good at capturing suspending crappie. Here’s a more detailed take a look at the approach to long-line trolling.

Many serious crappie fishermen alter their techniques with the seasons, not because they wish to, but since the body of water and target types require it. However, some anglers discover something they like and stay with it. Not all methods can be effective all year, however long-line trolling is one crappie fishing exception.

Anglers generally long-line troll, or “pull,” by securing rod and draws in stationary rod racks and letting line out behind the boat, pulling 1/32 to 1/4-ounce jigs at numerous depths and speeds through most likely areas with a trolling motor.

Remember trolling for crappie is generally casting and recovering, but you’re letting the boat do the cranking, and you can use multiple rods to get more baits in numerous depths and spreads to increase your possibilities of catching fish!

Moving about with multiple baits on multiple poles is a sure-fire method to discover scattered schools of fall crappie.

popular crappie lure for trolling

What is Long-Line Trolling For Specs?

Long-line trolling for crappie involves pulling jigs and soft-plastics through a rod spread positioned at the back of the boat. You want to fish your lines 60 to 80 meters behind the boat depending on the weight of the lure and the pound test of your lines on the reel. It is best to keep the rod pointer parallel to the water for optimal hook set.

Moving about with multiple baits on several poles is a sure-fire way to find scattered schools of autumn crappie.

What is the best speed do you troll for crappie?

The best boat speed for long-line trolling is between 1.0 to 1.3 miles-per-hour (mph). The brisk pace is one reason this technique shines for crappie anglers as a preferred tactic for covering water and locating scattered or suspended crappie. Not to mention triggering bites from big, aggressive fish!

Long-line trolling works well for pre-spawn and post-spawn crappie; however, it can be effective throughout the year under the right conditions.

best trolling speed for crappies is 1.2 mph

How to Rig for Crappie – Trolling With the Spread

Willow-leaf blades are preferred most days as they run the best at 1 to 1.3 mph. Alternating high-vis line within the trolling spread. Different colors make it easier to fix line tangles. The High-vis line also helps track a jig’s action while maneuvering the boat when trolling.

Start out at 0.8 mph and change up to 1.5 mph trolling speed as needed is the primary tactic we take.

If the bite is inactive, they will make “S” curves with the boat. This reduces the speed of the lures on the poles on the inside of the “S” and increases lure speed on the outside. Regardless of the propulsion system you use you want to vary the speed.

Depth is determined by speed, length of line out, lure weight and drag. While there are formulas that will give exact directions to attain a given depth with any size lure If their baits are hitting the bottom or snagging on cover, they’ll reel up until they’re above it. Normally we use 1/64 ounce jig but can go as high as 1/8 ounce jig based on conditions

What is the best month to catch black crappie trolling

Long-line trolling can be successful during all four seasons, but adjustments are necessary to match the mood of the crappie. Here are tips for each season:

Spring long-lining finds anglers in the shallowest waters of the year. Although long-lining isn’t feasible shallower than 2 feet, 4- to 8-foot deep water can be very productive.  

“As long as there’s enough light penetration, the crappie will spawn. That’s why fish spawn deeper in clear lakes than stained or muddy lakes,” . Mid-sized, 1/16 to 1/8-ounce jig heads and bright colors are good choices. 

Where to Long-line

Long-lining can be done in nearly any water, with the only snag being, well, snags. In areas with heavy cover, keeping the baits just above the cover is key for both catching fish and avoiding hang-ups.  

Flats are the best areas to longline on most waters and during most of the year. The Buntings prefer 10-15 feet deep flats at the back of creeks. 

Scan ledges and look for cover that’s holding fish, and then pull baits right across the top of the cover. Also rock piles are effective locations to fish over especially in lakes with clear water clarity.

Main channels will occasionally hold suspended crappie, and making wide swaths pulling multiple baits is a great way to target these fish.

Tackle & Equipment For White Crappie Fishing

Fishing line will play a big part in how deep these lures run, and the heavier the line weight you use, the shallower the bait will go. Using a lighter line will allow the bait to run deeper with less resistance being trolled through the water. Along most weed edges, 4- to 6-pound test will keep cranks at a good depth that relates to the zone where fish are most likely found. 

You can troll from the same boat you already use when crappie fishing. Use the same rods, reels, poles, line and other tackle already in service.

Use one pole or a dozen, but determine beforehand if there are any restrictions. In some areas, you can fish with as many poles as you dare to; elsewhere, the number is limited.

If the wind’s blowing, you can get by without a trolling motor, but you’re not likely to catch as many crappie. Wind drifting is a one-way, time-consuming affair.

Make a drift, take up the poles, motor back up, reset the poles, drift again.

An electric trolling motor allows constant fishing without fuss. It also permits you to vary your speed and control direction, important factors when chasing fussy crappie.

Fishing line will play a big part in how deep these lures run, and the heavier the line weight you use, the shallower the bait will go. Using a lighter line will allow the bait to run deeper with less resistance being trolled through the water. Along most weed edges, 4- to 6-pound test will keep cranks at a good depth that relates to the zone where fish are most likely found.

Anglers who enjoy trolling often mount two pedestal seats side-by-side on the front deck behind a bar that holds six to eight rod holders. A sonar fish-finder may also be mounted on the bar, with the transducer attached to the trolling motor. With this setup, two anglers can experiment with different baits at different depths to quickly determine where crappie are holding. 

TIP: When you find schooling crappie, throw out a marker buoy so you can anchor just outside the school and cast to it, or continue to troll around the concentration. A savvy angler may take crappie from one of these marked spots for an hour or more, so long as the fish aren’t spooked. 

Spider Rigging For Specks

The slow-trolling method known as spider rigging has been used for years to catch boatloads of crappies on almost any body of water in any weather and water conditions. Boats toting numerous long crappie poles, from bow to stern, are a common sight on Dixie lakes, where crappie crafts look like mutant water spiders skimming across the surface. 

In a lot of places spider rigs are not allowed and only one rod and one hook are allowed, so check the regs. In Indiana, you can legally use three rods and two hooks per pole.

That allows two people to work six poles and a bunch of hooks when spider rigging, which is just asking for tangles!

CRAPPIE USA trail allows competitors to use four rods apiece for each team member or eight rods for an angler competing individually. So the crappie pros scale down their spider rigging to meet tournament requirements. Sparse rigging has multiple advantages. 

Trolling for crappie with a crankbait

Anglers generally long-line troll, or “pull,” by securing rod and reels in stationary rod holders and letting line out behind the boat, pulling 1/32 to 1/4-ounce jig at various depths and speeds through likely areas with your electric motor.

Use a small deep running crank bait and above the crank bait I put a 3-way approximately 2 feet to 4 feet and some times as far as 10 feet above the crank bait. To the three way attach a 3 foot piece of stiffer monofilament like 4 pound test or 6 pound test at max and attach a small jig either marabou or twister style jig. 

Remove the hooks from the crank bait, to be legal, as the crank bait is used to dive deep and hold the jig at a consistent depth, on 8# line typically 14′-17′ deep on the depth finder and I troll open water looking for fish. This allows me to cover a lot of water. After the spawn I will troll 20′ to 35′ of water depth looking for pods of fish. Varying the speed to find the speed that will trigger the crappies. Varies by day so experimentation is key.  The wobble action of the crank bait really puts a nice action on the jig. This works well when creek mouths open on to a flat creating a deeper area or old creek channel

I slow troll with a Capps & Coleman rig. It’s basically a 3 way swivel with about a 10″ leader and bait holder hook off one eye, then maybe a 30″ leader with a egg sinker looped through it a few times, leaving another 10″ leader and bait holder hook. Now you have 2 baited hooks about 20″ apart.

I use fathead minnows for bait and with my graph, I drop the rig down to where crappie are suspended. I’ll make depth adjustments till I start getting bit. Then I mark the hi vis yellow mono with a magic marker where it comes off the reel. Then you only have to feed line off to the mark and get back to the correct depth. I’m usually trolling about .5 MPH. The egg sinkers vary in weight for depth fishing. I use from a 1/2 oz to 1 oz. 

spider fishing tips

Final Tip

Finding the baitfish like fathead minnow is important to catching fish. Bait can’t live below the thermocline so they end up forming tight schools out in the main lake and at the mouths of major creeks and rivers.

They suspend around 12 to 15 feet deep out over 20 – 25 feet of water. If you are marking bait on your fish finder, that’s where you will find crappie. Trolling crankbaits for crappie requires some commitment on the angler’s part. While you might be able to throw a crankbait out behind the boat and hold the pole in hand until you get a bite, setting your boat up ahead of time with the right rod holders, rods, reels, and line are some of the necessities to insure success!

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About the Author Nik Rowe

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