“They work just as good during the fall and winter too,” said Brad Taylor, part time crappie guide, past president of the Magnolia Crappie Club, and one of B’n;M’s crankbait trolling experts. “I love to fish them during the months of October and November in the oxbow lakes near my home in Greenville, Mississippi.”
“It’s a suspended fish tactic, not just a summertime tactic” was Taylor’s explanation, indicating that Mississippi Delta crappie spend much of the fall suspended, chasing migrating shad and not really relating to any specific structure. That’s the same pattern for summer fishing except during summer they’re suspending in the thermocline to avoid the heat and bottom predators. Taylor summed it up by saying that trolling cranks for crappie was still a largely undiscovered art.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, perhaps some explanation of the “art” that is trolling crankbaits is in order. For that we’ll need to climb high atop the mountain and speak with the Dali Llama of crankbaiting, who also happens to be B’n’M’s pro-staff director, Kent Driscoll.
“I have several key ingredients that make my crankbaiting system work” said Driscoll, “and while you could substitute a few things here and there, I believe the key ingredients to my system are what make it so successful.”
Driscoll pulls crankbaits on eight rods that he runs along each side of his boat—four to a side. The rods he uses are BnM Pro Staffs, a super stiff rod which keeps the crankbait from putting too much bend in the rod while trolled. He graduates the rods in length, starting with an 8 foot rod nearest the transom, then moves up to a 10 footer, a 12 footer and finally a 14 foot rod nearest the front.
To hold these rods, Driscoll has mounted a 4 foot Driftmaster T-5100 trolling bar on either side of his boat at the center of the gunnel. The bar contains 4 rod holders to hold the trolling rods, which are equipped with line counter reels. Having the line counters precisely measures the distance each crankbait is trolled behind the boat. The 8 foot rod has the longest line, then the distance out decreases as the rod length increases. This way the crankbaits stay separated. The front rod, the 14 footer, is rigged as a downrod with a 2 ounce egg sinker that is attached 3 feet in front of the crank. The weight allows the long rod to run more perpendicular and targets fish at whatever depth Driscoll finds on his depthfinder. His line choice is a 12 pound high visibility line. The visibility and higher than average test line helps him keep the cranks running straight and allows him to retrieve a bait if it gets snagged.
The means of locomotion when trolling crankbaits is a matter of preference depending on where you go. Driscoll favors using a trolling plate to dampen the thrust of the big motor on his War Eagle Predator boat while Taylor opts for the greener approach.
“I know a lot of guys troll with their big outboard or a small gas kicker motor,” Taylor said, “but for me the most important piece of crank baiting gear is a Minn Kota Terrova electric trolling motor. “I have an 80 pound thrust auto pilot that has the i-Pilot control system. That auto pilot is the greatest thing ever invented for pulling crank baits. It handles all the steering and boat control. You just set it and forget it.”
Even in cooler water, both experts agree that the target trolling speed is between 1.4 – 1.9 mph on the GPS. Taylor will stagger the lines on his rods at 70 feet on the shortest rod and go 70, 80, and 90 feet on one side and 80, 90, 110 feet on the other. He also likes to make a lot of turns while trolling when he first starts looking for fish. That helps him find the right depth. But not every pole on the market can handle that kind of stress.
With the sophistication of various crappie techniques, just grabbing your “crappie poles” may no longer fit the bill. Consider your average largemouth bass angler. During a day of bass 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 at the top of the panfish fishing rod industry.
B’n’M president Jack Wells had this explanation. “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 crank baits at 2 miles per hour and still have the sensitivity to land crappie.”
“I didn’t ask why because these guys catch crappie all over the country, but I knew we had a job on our hands” he said. “To design this type of rod, we enlisted 10 of our top professional 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.”
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