Bernard Williams and Don Terry finished second in the 2009-10 Magnolia Crappie Club championship. And to hear them tell it, they felt a little bit like they used to feel when their mommas made them go get their own switches for their butt whippings.

The tournament team loaned another team two 14-foot crappie poles with line counter reels to use during the championship event. As it turns out, the team to whom Williams and Terry loaned the poles turned right around and used those poles to put a good old-fashioned beat down on the gracious givers.

Although the poles were important, it was the technique that the winning team was able to put to work with those poles that vaulted them into the only spot higher than Williams and Terry. And since Williams and Terry are experts at trolling crankbaits, you could say that they were beaten at their own game.

Williams and Terry live just across a creek from each other in Jackson, and they are only eight miles from the Madison Landing at Ross Barnett. Therefore, they get to spend a lot of time perfecting their crankbait trolling on the front porch and on the big pond.

Apparently, crappie anglers are more willing to share their secrets than bass anglers, and that's how Williams and Terry learned how to troll crankbaits for crappie. Kent Driscoll with BnM Poles introduced Williams to the technique as a way of taming the tough bite during the summer at Ross Barnett.

"I had a lot of long-lining experience, and I didn't think it was much of a switch to switch from jigs to crankbaits," Williams recalled. "I went out and bought some line-counter reels, a book called Precision Trolling, "The Troller's Bible," and a bunch of crankbaits. Then Don and I started going to the water to pull crankbaits just about every day until we got it perfected."

Williams quickly learned that trolling crankbaits was a more exact science than trolling with jigs. He chose to spool up with 15-pound-test Power Pro braided line, and his book told him exactly how much line he needed to let out to get a Brad's Wiggler or a Storm Wiggle Wart to dive down to 12 feet.

His book also told him how much line to let out to get a Bandit, a Bomber or just about any other crankbait he could think of down to any depth he desired. Then all he had to do was calibrate his reels so that he would know how much line he had out, find a good river ledge and set out as many poles as he could manage.

Although he learned how to troll crankbaits so he could catch crappie during the dog days of summer, Williams soon realized that this technique was just as deadly on wintertime crappie.

"December is an awesome month for it," Williams said. "The shad kind of bunch up when it gets cold just like they do during the summer when it's really hot. Crappie bunch up around all the shad, and sit under them waiting on a shad to fall out. My goal is to get my crankbait in that zone between the crappie and the bottom of the shad."

Williams and Terry admit they didn't think crappie in water as cold as the upper 40s would eat crankbaits like they do, but some of the largest crappie they have ever caught prove them wrong time and time again. They've given up trying to figure out why and have just accepted the fact that they do.

To understand how Williams and Terry troll crankbaits, they think it's best to start with the crankbait and work back to their rods and reels as far as explaining the equipment they use.

First off, they use Brad's Wigglers or Storm Wiggle Warts because of their painted diving bills. Other cranks like Bandits are extremely popular with crappie trollers, and this team uses them, too, but they prefer the Wigglers and Warts because they believe they better imitate the 2 1/2- to 3 1/2-inch gizzard shad that the big slabs like.

"The painted bill gives these crankbaits a longer profile in the water," said Terry. "If you've got a crankbait with a clear bill, it doesn't look as long in the water. We've had success trolling Bandits, but we paint those clear lips before we use them."

Other than trying to get a long profile in the water, Williams and Terry also modify their crankbaits so that they just throw out a splash of color. They prefer to purchase blank crankbaits that haven't been painted yet and add their own color later.

"I hit up the nail-supply shops and buy a bunch of crazy nail polish," Williams admitted. "Pink, orange, black, blue, clear with different color flakes - anything can work. I've found that the bright neon colors work best on clear days and the darker black and blues do better when it's overcast."

Since crappie feed up toward the surface rather than down, Williams paints only the bottoms of his blank crankbaits. He may give the sides a splash or two of color, but there's no use in him painting the backs of his crankbaits.

Working back toward their rods and reels, the fishing partners use 15-pound-test Hi-Vis Yellow Power Pro or Vicious braided line rather than monofilament. They explained that they only have to let out maybe 45 or 50 feet of line to get their crankbaits down to 12 feet, whereas somebody using mono might have to let out 100 feet just to get their baits down to 10 feet.

"That 15-pound braid has the same diameter as 4-pound mono," Williams explained. "The thinner diameter helps your baits get down quicker. Another advantage to the braided line is that if we catch a stump or root, we can save $4.75 every time we straighten a hook and get our baits back."

Although he thought about sitting on this secret, Williams revealed that many of the most successful crankbait trollers use 12-pound-test Sufix lead core line. The extra weight in the line means they can let out even less line and still get their baits down to the crappie. And less line with so many baits out means less tangles and frustration.

Although some of their fellow Magnolia Crappie Club members may scoff at the notion, Williams and Terry spool their braided line onto Okuma Magda Pro 15 line counter reels. Their reasoning is simple.

"If we catch a fish with 54 feet of line out," Terry explained, "we can put it right back at 54 feet with no guessing whatsoever. People have every kind of way of marking their line, but we think the line-counter reels are necessary so we don't have to worry if we're in the right spot or not."

Williams and Terry attach their line-counter reels to B'n'M trolling rods anywhere from 8 to 16 feet. They position the longest rods at the front of their boat, and use progressively shorter rods as they move to the back. This creates a fan of crankbaits coming through the water, and it minimizes any tangling that may occur.

While all this specialized equipment is important when it comes to trolling crankbaits for crappie, it's worthless if you don't use it in the right spot. And for Williams and Terry, the right spot is river bends.

"We try to troll river bends because that's where the shad are," Williams said. "And where the shad are, you're going to find the crappie stacked up somewhere close. We kill them in those turns. It seems like the inside beds are best early in the morning, and the outside bends get better later in the day."

The trollers approach the river bends up to six different ways to make sure they thoroughly cover the structure. They pull parallel to the bend, perpendicular to the bend and at 45-degree angles. They fish the shallower ledge, the deeper channel and just about every inch of a good river bend.

"They're not going to be far from that river bend," Williams added. "Amazingly, there doesn't even need to be any trash on it to make it good. It can be bare as can be and still hold fish as long as shad are there. They're even better if they have stumps, but stumps aren't necessary for us to fish a river bend."

Because they expect the cold water to have the crappie a little lethargic, Williams and Terry troll anywhere from 1.3 to 1.5 m.p.h. Moving slower than they do during summer allows them to keep their crankbaits at the right depth while giving crappie plenty of time to react to their offerings.

Williams and Terry say trolling crankbaits will catch big crappie in lakes like Ross Barnett, Chotard, Grenada and Enid all the way through Christmas and into the new year.

This specialized technique may sound too scientific and overly complicated, but it's really not that hard to master. Perhaps the most important thing to remember about trolling crankbaits for crappie is to not loan your best poles to your friends - unless you really like getting whipped with your own switch.