Kenny Allen doesn’t begin to claim he’s one of the crappie pros who first hit on trolling crankbaits for big slabs, but he said he’s smart enough to know when a technique is worth using — and in January in many Southeastern reservoirs, dropping a half-dozen crankbaits behind your boat and pulling them along at various depths is a very productive way to put cold-water slabs in the boat.
“Few fishermen really do this, but they do it a lot up north and around (Mississippi’s) Grenada Lake and in the Memphis area, but it’s a great way to catch crappie when they’re in deeper water, especially in the winter,” said Allen, a long-time tournament crappie fisherman from Browns Summit, N.C. “A guy won the national championship a couple of years ago at Grenada pulling crankbaits, and a lot of people took notice.”
Allen said when crappie get deeper than about 8 to 10 feet, crankbaits really become a great weapon.
He said he’ll fish a spread of six rods, three on either side of the bow — a setup Allen loves because his favorite technique is “pushing” mini jigs and minnows vertically from the bow of his boat.
“You can catch crappie on crankbaits in the winter or any time the fish go deeper,” Allen said. “Around here, you’ll catch a lot of fish at Buggs Island (aka John H. Kerr) Lake pulling crankbaits during the winter.”
Allen said most fishermen troll with Bandit 200 crankbaits in a variety of colors. He said using a Color-C-Lector is a key for him because he can use the device to see which colors are most visible at different depths, and then adjust when the crappie start biting.
He might start out with six different, bright colors. With a half-dozen fish in the boat, he might have switched all six baits out to one hot color.
“Mostly, I like to fish pinks, yellows and other bright colors,” Allen said.
And, by letting out different lengths of line, he can get crankbaits to pull at different depths.
“I can get them down to 8 feet by trolling along at 1 mph. If I want to get the baits deeper, I can add some weight to the line,” he said.
Allen add a small, 1/4-ounce crimp-on weight to the line about 2 feet in front of a crankbait to drop the lure a few feet deeper in case crappie are in 12 to 15 feet of water.
If he can get the bait within a couple of feet of the depth they’re holding, crappie will swim up to strike the baits.
Rocky points are favorite places for Allen to troll crankbaits for winter crappie.