Rod Wall’s Tales From The Darkside
Phillip Gentry
Though night fishing tactics for crappie have changed only slightly over the years, how and why you use them can make a big difference in your success.
Slow vertical trolling is a popular day time tactic for catching crappie that, after a little modification, can also be used at night.
About every 10 years, Wall finds himself adding one more piece of night fishing gear that he can’t do without. B’n’M’s The Difference rod is now on that list.
Wall seldom anchors his boat anymore, preferring to use his trolling motor to remain stationary or slowly maneuver around likely areas.
Historically, the lion’s share of night fishing for crappie on most lakes is done from a boat tied to a bridge or anchored on a drop off. When fishing at night, rods are placed in rod holders and baits, almost exclusively live minnows, are staggered at 2 foot intervals from 4 feet down to the middle of the water column. Artificial lighting is used to attract baitfish which in turn draws crappie. Gone are the days of the old Coleman lantern hung out over the water. Today’s replacements are cool, sleek submersible models that glow green in the surrounding water.

While trolling for crappie during the daylight hours has become a favorite among today’s crappie culture, night time fishing is and always has been a stationary past time. Wall, a crappie trolling aficionado, indicates there’s room for change.

In truth, I’ve not had a lot of success with long line trolling at night,” he said. “My son Braxton and I have tried it a couple of times and our best success was during the full moon when crappie were scattered.”

Slow vertical trolling, what many anglers refer to as spider rigging, has garnered the guide more success. Wall said the secret to slow vertical trolling at night is to go about half as fast as you would go during the day. In fact it’s very similar to traditional stationary night fishing without being tied down.

“Crappie at night are very nomadic, they get up and suspend high in the water and they just move,” he said.  “I believe they’re more active at night in the summertime because they can suspend, especially when the water is clearer in the summertime.”

It seems like every decade or so, Wall picks up one piece of gear to implement into his night fishing regalia. He still uses the time tested Coleman lantern, not to attract fish, but for ambient light while he’s fishing. A decade or so ago he implemented green 12 volt submersible lights. He uses one on each corner of his boat. The latest, and greatest, piece of equipment to make it into his arsenal is a trolling motor - actually it’s a feature built into his new Minn Kota Terrova model.

“It’s the same trolling motor that runs off the iPilot remote,” he said. “It has a feature called Spot Lock.  What that does is fixates on a certain GPS position, so if the wind blows you off the mark, the trolling motor will compensate by automatically cutting on, move the boat back to the position and hold you in that general spot. I never have to anchor or tie up.”

“That’s also why I love to fish nights with 3 to 5 mph winds,” he said. “That’s just enough breeze to keep you cool and keep the bugs off but it’s not blowing you off the water and you can stay, more or less, stationary.”

The remainder of Wall’s set-up is pretty standard for night fishing. He uses B’n’M crappie rods in 7 &  9 foot lengths his preference are Roger Gant designed “The Difference” rods. Wall added his own customization to the rod design by painting  the tips of the rods with ordinary white primer spray paint, paying particular attention to the back of the spine. The white primer reflects the green glow of the lights and makes the rod tip shine so he can see when he’s getting a bite. For the clear waters that he fishes, Wall uses 6 pound test line and single crappie hooks on a split shot rig baited with live minnows.

Wall trolls more to find congregations of fish than to actually fish. He may slow troll awhile until he crosses paths with a school, then lock the trolling motor and fish in that school.

“I put my lights out and draw bait first,” he said. “If I’ve been in one spot a while and don’t have bait or I’m not catching fish, it’s time to move.  What I’ll do is I’ll turn the spot lock feature off and turn the iPilot on and set course across the channel or further back moving at just 1/10 to 2/10 mph.  If you’ve got bait and start losing it, slow down. You can go too fast. Move down that break till you start getting bites, then put the lock on and fish.”

To contact Rod Wall of Slabmaster Guide Service, call 864-993-8868 or visit his website at  www.slabmasterguideservice.com