Rod Wall of Ninety Six, SC recently joined the B’n’M pro-staff and was highly recruited for his abilities to long line for crappie. Wall and his teenage son and tournament partner Braxton long line for crappie anytime they can and have had tremendous success doing so on the tournament trails. We asked Rod to give us the basics to get started in long line trolling.
According to Wall, the basics of long lining center on water temperature, water clarity, depth of presentation, and using the right equipment. So let’s get started.
1. Water Temperature
“We begin long lining for crappie in the spring when water temperatures have reached their bottom peak and begin to climb as spring approaches,” said Wall.
Generally speaking, Wall wants the water to be at least 50 degrees and rising. While varying greatly with your climate, this can be anywhere from late January to the middle of March. For fall anglers, the reverse also works when temperatures peak after the summer and begin to fall back below 80.
2. Water Clarity
While even black crappie show a propensity to suspend in pre- and post spawn, the higher in the water column the fish hold, the easier it is to target them by long lining. Typical late winter and spring rains on clear lakes will cause the backs of many tributaries to become muddy while the main lake remains clear.
“I look for color change zones, areas where muddy water transitions into clear water,” said Wall. “It is this “olive colored” water that will hold suspended crappie with enough visibility for them to feed.”
3. Depth of Presentation
Volumes could be written on depth of presentation when trolling. In fact, one book, Precision Trolling, is considered by many to be the Troller’s Bible, though the book was designed as a walleye angler’s reference. The book details many facets of trolling that are worth reading for both long lining and trolling crankbaits for crappie.
Wall indicated that the depth of presentation when long line trolling is a function of boat speed, amount of line out, jig weight, and line diameter. Each of these factors play a part in how deep jigs will swim and whether you reach the level the crappie are suspended at. Since this is Long Lining 101, Wall referenced trolling a 1/16 oz jig head pulled on 6 pound test line an average cast distance (40 – 50 feet) behind the boat. The variable then becomes boat speed.
Boat Speed (mph) Depth 6 lb. Test .010 diameter
.4 15’ – 18’
.5 13’ – 15’
.6 11’ – 13’
.7 9’ – 11’
.8 7’ – 9’
.9 5’ – 7’
The caveat to this chart is that other lesser variables also affect boat speed, particularly wind drift and current. Consider using the chart as a “bore sighting” tool, then use your own time on the water to zero in on specific depths, bearing in mind it is much better to be slightly above than below the fish as crappie feed in an upward position.
“Find a 10 foot flat with a level bottom then experiment with different variables to find what combination would put you occasionally skimming bottom,” said Wall, “ then work from there on works best in your boat, your baits, and your setup.”
Long line trolling works to its potential with a proper electronics system that will both accurately record the depth the fish are holding at and measure boat speed, typically GPS, to 1/10 of a mph. To achieve this speed, a good variable speed trolling motor is needed. Six rods and up are used for long lining and require an adjustable and sturdy rod holder system to properly space and distribute the rods. Many anglers overlook the importance of the rod itself in long lining.
“You need a rod that loads properly as it sets the hook,” said Wall. “Too stiff a rod will lose fish that are hooked and too limber will not establish a quality hook set.”
Wall uses staggered length rods on the sides of his long lining setup and identical 9 foot rods across the stern. Where permitted, he will use 16 rods total in his long line setup. On each side, he uses a 16’, 14’, 12’, and a 10’ rod, all in a Driftmaster trolling bar. On each rear corner of the boat, he uses a Driftmaster 4 rod T bar to hold four Roger Gant “Difference” rods across the stern.”
“We use the B’n’M Pro Staff Trolling Rods for our side rods,” he said. “One trick we’ve learned is to really lighten up the jig weight and line out on the two outer rods. That will frequently catch fish that are sunning so close to the surface, they won’t show up on downward sonar but can be detected using side scan.”
Want to know more? Pick up a copy of B’n’M’s newest DVD “Anytime, Any Place, In Any Water Crappie, No 2. Hosted by B’n’M pro-staffer Russ Bailey. DVDs are available at Bass Pro Shops, Grizzly Jig, and a host of outdoor retailers or order them on our website at www.bnmpoles.com.