Post-spawn crappie fishermen move to crankbaits

After the spawn, when Mississippi’s slab crappie move out to deep water, trolling crankbaits might be the best way to trick them into biting.

In the spring, crappie fishermen across Mississippi can’t wait for those slabs to begin their push shallow. When it’s crappie season, everyone can catch crappie, 

But it’s a different story as soon as the spawn is over.

Rather than flounder around, looking for fish lingering in the shallows and hoping for a late wave of spawners, guide Torch Tindle of Cleveland gets his crankbait poles out and starts cranking for post-spawn crappie.

“When these fish come off the spawn, they start moving out to deeper water,” said Tindle. “During the spawn, crappie don’t do a lot of eating, so they are hungry. That’s what you want when you’re trying to catch them on crankbaits.”

Whether pulling them from the rear of the boat or pushing them off the front, crankbaits account for large numbers of Mississippi crappie after the spawn. (Photo by Phillip Gentry)

Tindle (662-515-0175) guides on several lakes across Mississippi, including Ross Barnett and  Washington, but he concentrates on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes: Grenada, Sardis, Enid and Arkabutla. The make up of these four lakes have a similarity that make them ideal for catching crappie on crankbaits.

“None of the Corps lakes have much in the way of structure in the main lake,” he said. “The first of May, I start right outside the tree line in the upper parts of the lake and will work my way west as the summer progresses.”

Tindle said anglers can expect to find crappie suspended at depths of 9 to 15 feet. He said they generally go just deep enough to block out most of the sunlight with muddy water.

Tindle’s setup

Tindle’s setup for trolling crankbaits from the stern of his boat is pretty standard. He has rod holders set up in the corners and pulls crankbaits with B’n’M trolling rods, graduated from 10 to 18 feet long. All of his rods are paired with line-counter reels, and he spools each reel with 40-pound Power Pro braid.

“All the fish see is the crankbait coming at them,” Tindle said. “I don’t worry about them being line-shy. The 40-pound Power Pro is the same diameter as 10-pound mono, so when you’re using the Precision Trolling App to calculate speed and the amount of line out with the crankbait you’re using, it all works out for 10-pound test line.”

Tindle prefers a high-visibility yellow braid for trolling crankbaits so he can see how the lines and crankbaits are tracking.

Since the Corps lakes have limits on how many rods an angler can fish, Tindle will stick with pulling crankbaits with up to two clients in the boat. If the chance to fish with more then two arises, he may push crankbaits from the front of the boat in power-trolling fashion.

“I’ll rig up four extra rods and run them off the front,” he said. “These are 18-foot B’n’M rods, but they are the bigger Pow’r Trollers. I rig them with a 4-ounce trolling weight on the main line, then a 3-foot leader to the crankbait.”

Crappie tend to suspend in the 9- to 15-foot depth range through the spring and summer on Mississippi’s U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes. (Photo by Phillip Gentry)

Breaking tradition

A lot of debate about how to propel the boat has ensued over the years. Some anglers prefer to troll with a plate over the big motor, while others use only a beefy trolling motor. Tindle breaks from tradition here by using a small outboard as a kicker.

“I have a 2½ HP Mercury outboard I use as a kicker on the back,” he said. “That lets me run between 1.6 and 2.0 mph for fishing crankbaits. I set the motor and lock it facing straight ahead, but I’ve also got my remote-control trolling motor out up front. I run just enough power on it to steer the front of the boat.” 

Tindle has been a fan of Bandit crankbaits for years but recently switched to Delta’s Custom Crappie Cranks from a manufacturer in Pearl. Tindle said they are the best he’s ever seen at catching crappie.

“You can buy them in any color combination, and they run true right out of the box,” he said. “A lot of guys know about using bright colors — bright pinks, bubble gum, and for Sardis, the gold color — but my hands-down favorite is a color they call black hornet. It’s black with a green underbelly.”

Presentation

Tindle said the key to catching crappie is dialing in on the right depth of presentation. Other than using the Precision Trolling App on his phone, he will start off varying the amount of line out on the line-counter reels from around 100 feet on the longest rod to 60 feet on the shortest on each side of the boat.  

“From there, you just have to dial in on the fish,” he said. “They seem to just roam these flats, and they move closer and closer towards the dam as the summer progresses. Some days, they might be up in the water at 9 feet and others down around 15 feet, no matter how deep the water is under them.”

“I guess that’s the challenge,” said Tindle. “You just got to get out there and dial in on them.”

The right tool for the job

You’ve probably heard the adage that warns “Never take a knife to a gunfight.”

But that winds up being the case many times over when crappie anglers hit the water. Crappie are generally considered a light to ultralight species, so anglers who chase crappie make sure they take their crappie poles with them when they go fishing.

With the sophistication of various crappie techniques, just grabbing your “crappie poles” may no longer fit the bill, especially when you’re pulling a boatload of crankbaits or power trolling. 

One size fits all

Consider your average bass fisherman. During a day of fishing, he may use one rod for cranking, one rod for worming and another rod for flipping brush. Different tactics require different rods. Creating the right tool for the job is what has landed West Point-based B’n’M Poles (www.bnmpoles.com) at the top of the panfish rod industry.

“Some of my pro staff guys came to me one day and said, ‘We need a rod that will have enough backbone to troll a 5-ounce sinker or pull 4-inch crankbaits at 2 miles per hour and still have the sensitivity to land crappie,” said Jack Wells, B’n’M’s president.

“I didn’t ask why, because these guys catch crappie all over the country, but I knew we had a job on our hands. To design this type of rod, we enlisted 10 of our top pro fishermen to create the best graphite trolling rod available. The Pro Staff Trolling Rod is the result of this research. This rod has a great blend of strength and tip action for even the most aggressive trolling enthusiasts.” 

These rods, made of 100% graphite, comes in lengths from 8 to 16 feet, in 2- and 3-piece configurations for easy storage.

Troller’s ‘Bible’ available as smartphone app

The information contained in the publication Precision Trolling is a troller’s dream come true. Dubbed the “Troller’s Bible” by anglers who use this information to target fish at specific depths, Precision Trolling is just what the name implies: a method that allows anglers to accurately predict the running depths of their favorite lures and diving devices.

Anglers who want all the information from the book Precision Trolling, can now have it in a smartphone app. (Courtesy Precision Trolling Data)

By manipulating lead-length, anglers can easily “aim” their favorite fishing lures at specific depths and accurately target fish they are seeing on their sonar while avoiding costly snagged lures. Even better, once a productive lead length is determined, it’s easy to duplicate that lure and lead-length combination with other lines, putting more lures in the strike zone.

Precision Trolling Data App

The Precision Trolling Data App (www.precisiontrollingdata.com) goes a step further. Once an angler has determined that a particular lure and lead length are effective at catching fish, it’s easy to search for other lures in the list of Precision Trolling App that achieve similar depths. Once a productive depth is determined, it’s a logical step to try different lures at the same depth to determine which fish react best to.

The app allows anglers to access a wealth of trolling data. The familiar “Dive Curves” made popular in the Precision Trolling book are incorporated into easy to use “pickers” or “wheels”. The data wheels let you adjust the “feet down” to determine the “feet back.” This is particularly useful if you want to target fish you are seeing on your sonar unit at a certain depth. The data wheel also allows anglers to adjust the “feet back” to determine the “feet down” that the lure will dive — a fast and effective way of zeroing in on a depth with any of the lures or diving devices included in the Precision Trolling App.

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Phillip Gentry
About Phillip Gentry 375 Articles
Phillip Gentry is a freelance outdoor writer and photographer who says that if it swims, walks, hops, flies or crawls he’s usually not too far behind.

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