Writing this monthly column serves as a fishing calendar for me, and because my monthly entry in this magazine must be turned in a full month before the issue date, it serves to cause me to look ahead, to get ready for what's coming. That is, as I write this June column, which will deal with summer patterns and techniques, I'm actually still trying to figure out this April's crappie spawn on Barnett Reservoir.

So while I'm going to tell you about long-lining and pulling crankbaits for summertime crappie, I'm actually retying hooks and jigs on shallow rigs readying my crappie stuff for one more try at finding this year's shallow-spawning crop.

Seems that the Barnett crappie this April have kept lots of us guessing and scratching our heads. I admit that I spent an inordinate amount of time this spring trying to get on the spawn. I did not succeed. I never did find crappie in the grass, on the rocks, down at the Sawdust Pile, on the Trace, behind the islands, at the Rose's Bluff "big fish hole" or in Oil Well Woods in any consistent pattern or numbers.

I know some of you did. I kept hearing those tales of "they bit good yesterday." But every lead I followed drew blanks for me.

All in all, April was a very frustrating month. I should have gone to Grenada, they tell me. Where the Barnett spawn was "off," the Grenada spawn was red hot, I'm told. I heard tales, again and again, of limits of huge fish with plenty of 3-pounders thrown in.

Good for you, Grenadians.

Thankfully, we're fast approaching summer crappie patterns. I'm excited because I really look forward to getting my trolling gear out. I am going to learn how to long-line jigs this summer - that's a promise. I've been saying that since last summer when I bought one of those high-dollar Minn-Kota Terrova trolling motors with Auto Pilot.

This year they've come out with iPilot, which seems logical and makes me wish I had waited a year to get my Terrova. The iPilot is a GPS-connected steering component that is supposed to make trolling a cinch. They tell me that I can lock in a trolling speed, waypoints and even retrace trolling trails if I want. Geez, that's great. I can't wait.

I know that lots of other Terrova owners can't wait to add this component to their now out-dated equipment, too, because mine has been on backorder for two months.

I still have some issues with my Terrova 80. The foot control is useless to me. Oh, it works, but the darn thing is not responsive to the level of subtlety that my old cable-driven foot control was. It is impossible to hold on a spot or present a bait slowly with the wind blowing to structure-bound crappie. Forget it. I find that my minnows or jigs just sweep by the strike zone rather than settle in and hold.

I addressed the issue of the battery drain in this space last summer. Plan on it. If you're going to get a Terrova 80, go ahead and buy two more deep-cycle batteries and a dedicated charger for those two new batteries. The T-80 draws more amps than any motor Minn-Kota sells, including the 36-volt Terrova 101.

And I find that every once in a while for no apparent reason, my compass-driven Terrova loses its way. I'll have the darn thing pointed at and traveling toward a "locked-in" point, and all of a sudden the electric steering motor starts spinning the unit in circles. A tap on the foot control stops the spinning, but it seems to happen when I'm busy landing a big fish. And, no, I am not accidentally stepping on the foot control while grabbing the dip net. The darn thing just loses its way.

Lastly, I am not happy about the way I ended up mounting the darn thing. I had to locate the mount so that the almost 10-inch overhang doesn't come in contact with the front rubber bumper on my Basscat trailer when loading or unloading on the steep boat ramps at Barnett. I had no problem with the Motor Guide cable-drive I took off my Basscat.

But I do love the relatively hands-free, relatively trouble-free operation when pulling baits behind the boat on long treks covering lots of water. It's almost "set it and forget it" technology - almost. And, I can't wait to add the iPilot. Maybe that will stop the darn thing from losing its way.

I'm loving pulling crankbaits more and more for crappie. I had some unbelievable outings, especially last fall. And since I found the Wiggle Wart, I'm convinced that this summer will be great, too. Sorry, Bandit. Sorry, Wally Marshall. Sorry, Rapala. Sorry, Bill Dance Strike King. Sorry, Norman Lures. You all make good quality cranks that catch fish. But I've had much better success with the Storm Wiggle Wart.

I need some more of their now discontinued Mid-Warts that run around 5 or 6 feet deep. I have plenty of the original WW (11 to 13 feet deep) and the Mag WW (15 + feet deep). And I've already, this April, caught a few slabs trolling cranks. June should be a great trolling month.

What I haven't done, yet, that I am going to commit to this summer is figuring out that long-lining-jig stuff. It is not as easy as it looks - at least for me. My biggest problem is the slower pace that is required when trolling jigs versus crankbaits.

With cranks, I'm traveling between 1.5 to 2.0 mph. With jigs, they tell me I need to slow down to .5 to .9 mph. Now, unless you've tried it, you have no idea just how slow that is. Think about it for a second. How fast do you walk? Just normal, I'm-in-no-hurry-to-get-there gait. I've GPSed it, and I figure I move normally from point to point on dry land at around 2.5 to 3 mph.

Try this. Put a GPS in your hand and walk purposely at .5 mph. Man, you're barely moving. So, either I've got to go to jig-pulling school or I've got to approach this from a totally different mindset. I really think there's something they're not telling me.

I will figure this long-lining, jig-pulling, snail's-pace fishing out so I can catch 'em as big as they grow this summer. See you on the lake. I'll be the one creeping along cursing that darn trolling motor.