I knew what I was looking at across the rippled surface of Lake Washington, but the combination of watery eyes and wafting snow had me at least partially convinced that Bo Hudson and Brad Chapel were something other than two crappie anglers working to catch a limit of fish.

Rather, the whole scene reminded me of something straight out of a sci-fi flick - something about giant spiders attacking the local folk and sucking the marrow out of their bones before spinning them up in giant webs for a midnight snack.

To the best of my late-night recollection, their boat looked just like one of those spiders sneaking into range at about one mile an hour with hardly a second glance from the nearby victims. Slow, steady and deadly.

My mirage was shattered when one of the whimsical legs to the front of the spider bent toward the water. Hudson, in the front of the boat, reached down to pick up the leg, and lifted it toward the sky.

Moments later, a leg in the back did the same. Chapel, who was helping Hudson add his crappie to their creel, strained to reach it in time, but he was able to yank another slab from the silvery Lake Washington water.

Veteran crappie anglers might think that Hudson and Chapel, the 2009-10 Magnolia Crappie Club Champions, were catching these crappie with a technique known as spider rigging, but no. According to them, they were longlining, which is apparently an entirely different way of fishing.

While longlining may look like spider rigging or slow trolling to the untrained eye, Hudson and Chapel say that longlining is its own specialized crappie-fishing technique. And it is the team's perfection of this technique that catapulted them to the top of the Magnolia Crappie Club.

"Longlining may not look much different above the water, but it's a lot different than spider rigging or slow trolling under the water," said Hudson. "Longlining is kind of like pulling crankbaits, only you're pulling plastic jigs rather than crankbaits."

All are multiple-pole techniques. Spider rigging is when two anglers at the front of the boat let out only as much line as the depth they're fishing. Slow trolling is when an angler in front and in back set out lines all around the boat at the depth being fished.

On the other hand, longlining involves casting baits about 60 to 70 yards behind the boat no matter if the pole will be positioned up front or at the back. Then the speed of the boat is controlled to allow all the jigs way behind the boat to run at the desired depths.

"You can usually tell if somebody is longlining rather than spider rigging or slow trolling because they are constantly moving and moving pretty good," Hudson explained. "Because of that, long lining is a good way to cover lots of water and look for active fish. We're not trying to pull one fish out of a brush pile. We're looking for suspended fish that are actively eating."

Hudson and Chapel got interested in longlining after an angler named Earl Brinks, who was using the technique with great success in the Magnolia Crappie Club tournaments, started taking their money.

They saw what he was doing, and decided that they had to learn the technique. Brinks advised the tournament team to learn and perfect the technique by finding a relatively clean 10-foot flat where they could figure out what sized jigheads would run at what depths at what speed.

"We could tell when we got a jighead and speed that would run consistently at 10 feet because we could see the rod tip bumping when the jig hit bottom," said Chapel. "Once we figured out what jigheads and plastics would run at 10 feet at one mile an hour, then all we had to do was increase or decrease our jighead weight to make our baits run deeper or shallower."

Hudson and Chapel took three months to start getting the idea. Once it all came together, Hudson says it was like somebody clicked on the light bulb. They are still learning different combinations to get their baits to run where they want them to run, but they can now pick exactly what they need to cover anywhere from the top of the water to the bottom.

Their standard rig includes two 1/16-ounce Bobby Garland Mo'Glo jigheads rigged with Bobby Garland Stroll'R jigs. At the end of a long cast, these two jigs run 10 feet deep at one mile an hour. Considering that they run up to 10 poles at Ross Barnett Reservoir, that means they have 20 jigs out at one time while longlining.

"Two jigs on each line doubles your chances of catching fish," Hudson pointed out. "And we think having out all these jigs makes it look like a school of baitfish to the crappie. Maybe they think one fish is chasing another. I don't know, but whatever it is it puts the fish into a frenzy when you pull all these jigs by them."

Once they get all these lines in the water, Hudson mans the front of the boat while Chapel works the back. They usually have four to six poles on the back and two to four poles on the front, and each man has a role to play.

It is the responsibility of the front man to control the boat. He has to keep the boat moving at one mile an hour while all the while scanning the depth finder and GPS to try to figure out where the fish are.

"When Brad or I catch a fish," said Hudson, "I look down to see how fast we were going, the water depth and what kind of structure the fish was on. Say we've got a fish on and I look down to see that we were going one and a half miles an hour in 12 feet of water over a river ledge. Now I've got to try to mentally take all that in and try to mimic it as best I can as we keep fishing."

In the back of the boat, Chapel's primary job is to figure out what the fish want to bite. He constantly changes bait colors and jighead sizes until he catches a fish. It's not unusual for him to have out six different baits all at the same time and all running at different depths.

If he's doing his job, the back of the boat looks like his tackle box exploded leaving a swath of bait destruction in its wake.

"While Bo his controlling the boat," Chapel said, "I'm continually changing baits until I figure out what the crappie want to hit. I change colors maybe every 10 minutes or so, and just play around with different looks and jigheads until I figure it out."

The best time to be in their boat is when it all comes together. Once Hudson and Chapel unlock the specific pattern, they change all their poles to either the hot color of some variation of it, and they set all their jigs to the same depth.

Hudson and Chapel ride the hot pattern as long as it pans out, but as soon as they stop getting bit, the process starts all over again.

Because longlining puts out so many lines and baits behind a boat, Hudson says it's a good idea to learn how to move and turn your boat while using all the same kinds of jigs and plastics.

"That way all your baits act the same way in the water," he explained. "The last thing you want is 19 Stroll'R jigs out there with one tube jig running a little bit different and messing everything up. Once you learn how different baits and jigs track, then you can start playing around a little bit. But the best thing to do is to keep it all the same so you don't have any surprises, especially in the turns."

Both anglers pointed out that the best time to try longlining is from October through May with November being one of the best months. This is when shad move up into the river channels at lakes like Ross Barnett, and start chasing bait.

The ideal situation is a combination of some kind of drop off like a river ledge, baitfish and suspended crappie that are actively feeding. And that's exactly what Hudson and Chapel find during November at many lakes in Mississippi.

"We've done well with longlining at Ross Barnett, Lake Washington, Lake Lee, Grenada Lake, Sardis and Enid," Hudson said. "If you're just learning, oxbow lakes like Lake Washington are good places to try because there's not a whole lot of depth change. They have slow-falling banks with big vast flats, and most of your fish are white crappie that suspend this time of year."

Spider rigging, slow trolling and longlining may all look the same on the surface, but Hudson and Chapel believe that longlining is the absolute best way to catch Mississippi crappie during the fall, winter and spring.

And more often than not, they've proven themselves to be expert longliners rather than sci-fi spiders.