Trolling Rip Rap During The Spawn
Phillip Gentry
While most anglers head for woody cover during the crappie spawn, Steve Coleman suggests heading for the nearest rip rapped bank. The jumble of rocks makes create spawning sites for crappie.
Male crappie may hold so shallow, their fins may almost be sticking out of the water. A good set of polarized sun glasses will help you catch those fish.
Another bonus to rip rap is that it often holds trapped driftwood, making even better spawning structure.
Despite their aggressive nature, sensitive poles will help you detect quick bites before crappie have a chance to spit the bait out.
“You’ll find crappie spawning anywhere on these dams or any rip rap bank,” said Coleman. “Find where the rip rap comes down and meets the bottom, most of those fish, they’ll back up into those rocks.  They’ve got to have cover, just like brush, to hide their nests and the rip rap provides all that for them.”

Once the females move in and lay eggs, male crappie take over protecting the nest until the fry are hatched. It’s during this time that anglers will notice the dramatic color changes in the males as they put on their “spawning colors”. With hormones running high, these overprotective male crappie will attack anything that comes in close proximity to their nest.

“I look for big pieces of rock that have rolled down into the lake, individual hunks of rock,” said Coleman. “Those males will swarm around a big rock just like they will a stump. When you’re trolling rocks, you want to be as shallow as you can get.  If it’s 18 inches deep, put your poles 18 inches deep and go right down the edge of the rocks.  Those males will try to knock your bait out of the water.”

Bite detection is rarely a problem with males in such an aggressive mood, however, Coleman states that a good way to maximize bites is to visually watch the extreme shallows between rocks and boulders. Often times crappie will be just below the surface of the water and can actually be seen with polarized sun glasses.

“Oh yeah, wear you a good set of polarized glasses,” he said. “Even when the water is a little choppy or muddy, those fish will be so shallow you can see them laying on top of the rock with their fins almost sticking out of the water.”

The Capps and Coleman setup for slow vertical trolling is patently the same as the famous team uses for any type of trolling, with a couple of notable differences. The double hook minnow rig is replaced with a single jig and they match their line size with the typical size fish in the lake they’re fishing.

“We’ll be using 1/8th ounce jigs when we’re trolling rip rap.  Jigs don’t hang up in rocks as bad, they’ll usually bounce off the rocks.  We’re going to be trolling them on 16 foot B’n’M jig poles, the Buck’s graphite jig poles. Those are the best rods for trolling deep or shallow,” said Coleman.

“Of course, we’re going to be using our new Capps and Coleman line and most times if we’re fishing big fish country, like Grenada Lake, we’re going to be using 8# test.  Lakes that have smaller fish up to a pound and a half that are not as aggressive, we’ll go back down to 6# line” he said. 

Anglers who continue to spider rig troll for crappie throughout the spawn are accustomed to getting away with speeding up, which allows them to cover more water. Coleman claims when trolling rip rap slower is better for eliciting more strikes from aggressive males.

“Your trolling speed needs to be slow, real slow,” said Coleman.  “Most times, when you troll rip rap in the spring, those male crappie are not trying to attack  that bait and feed on it, they’re trying to kill it and get it out of the nest. A lot of times your jig will just shake, the fish is trying to kill the jig and you’ll see the line move left or right.  As soon as you see that, you’ve got to get him because they just suck it in, kill it and spit it out.” 

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