Winning Crappie Tournaments – There’s an App For That
Philip Gentry
B’n’M’s father and son team of Rod and Braxton Wall recently won the Southern Crappie state crappie tournament championship on South Carolina’s Lake Greenwood. The pair said they owed their win to an iPhone app that allowed the team to keep up with rising and falling water levels during the two-day tournament.
The Wall’s used their knowledge of matching water moving through the dam to the depths were using to put together their winning catch.
. By long lining using a combination of poles including Pro Staff Trolling rods and Roger Gant’s “The Difference”, the Walls were able to tailor their trolling depths to catch more fish.
The sight of a big fish coming to the boat is even more exciting when fishing with children. B’n’M makes rods for all levels of experience – from tournament pro to week-end angler.
“On both Friday and Saturday, Santee-Cooper alternated between pulling water through the dam and letting water accumulate in front of the dam,” said Wall. “Braxton and I quickly discovered that when the water was rising, the fish would come up and when they pulled water through the dam, causing current in the lake, the crappie would sink down in the lake.”

Typically this time of year, crappie key on baitfish and were following the movements of the forage as they sought refuge in the depths when the current was moving and sought the warmth of the shallows when the water rose. The difficult part of fishing this pattern was knowing when the water was running and when it wasn’t when the team was fishing nearly 10 miles from the dam.

“I build docks for a living, so I’m keenly aware of what the water is doing on a daily basis,” said Wall. “Santee-Cooper updates their water levels on their website on an hourly basis, so between watching our sonar for the location of the fish, I was monitoring the water levels on Santee-Cooper’s website using my iPhone.”

By long lining to locate and catch their crappie, The Walls used a variety of B’n’M products in their long lining setup. Pulling 1/16 ounce crappie jigs behind the boat, the team would troll the shallow waters adjacent to the main river channel when Santee-Cooper, which operates the turbines at the Buzzard’s Roost dam, was allowing run-off from days of recent rainfall to accumulate and would troll the edges of the main channel when current was running through the dam.

“Our set-up for long lining is to use Pro-Staff Trolling Rods for the two outside rods and a row of Roger Gant’s “The Difference” rods in 8 and 9 foot lengths across the middle,” said Wall. “They’d pull water for about 2 hours, then quit for a couple of hours, then start up again. By keeping up with when the water was running and when it wasn’t, we could position ourselves where we could always find fish. It wasn’t so much the rising water that pushed the fish shallow, it might only rise ½ inch in that 2 hour time period, but it was a lack of current that allowed the baitfish to hold near the surface, and the crappie followed.”

Not only did the team tailor their location, they also tailored their trolling speed to reach the fish.

“When the fish were up, we’d troll at 1.2 – 1.5 miles per hour, that pulled our jigs up so we were fishing about 3 feet deep,” he said. “When they pulled water and the fish were down, we’d slow down to .5 - .6 miles per hour and catch fish 12 – 14 feet deep where they were holding on the edge of the channel out of the current.”

Often a challenge for two experienced adult anglers, the elder Wall doesn’t feel he’s at any kind of disadvantage by fishing with his 14 year old son.

“Braxton has been fishing with me since he was old enough to fish,” said Wall. “He loves it as much as I do and he’s really a dedicated angler and is a veteran at not only handling the rods, but figuring out what the fish are doing during a tournament.”

A good case in point is this past win. The pair caught a couple of nice fish Saturday morning, including a 2.06 pound crappie, then lost track of the fish. Losing their heads could have cost them the tournament.

“Braxton agreed that we needed to pull all the rods in and spend some time riding the lake looking for fish on our sonar, said Wall. “We spent about 10 minutes just watching the graph without a hook in the water. We finally found the school and went back to catching fish.”

If there is a down side to the father-son strategy, it’s that the younger Wall, can’t always afford the time needed to pre-fish or the travel time that’s required to fish crappie tournaments across the country. However, his Dad said Braxton understands the importance of doing well in school or he won’t be able to fish tournaments. In fact, the youngster has achieved near perfect scores on his end-of course exams for the past two years.

“His school is pretty strict about the number of days missed, it’s hard for his administrators to understand that he’s not just laying out of school, he’s competing at a professional level with other tournament anglers,” said Wall. “But I think they’re starting to come around and realize that this is something special that not many kids get the opportunity to do.”

The elder Wall is hopeful to be able to keep his son as his partner for upcoming tournaments that will take the teams to the states of Alabama and Mississippi. Not only is Braxton a great angler, but who else would be better at keeping up with iPhone apps than a 14 year old kid?

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