B’n’M Pro’s Tips for Summer Crank Bait Trolling
Phillip Gentry
For Summertime fishing, trolling crankbaits for crappie is hard to beat, no matter where you fish.
For pro Stokes McClellan, better success is achieved by pulling cranks in an area where he has already marked scattered baitfish.
Brad Taylor is a big believer in using braided line for trolling cranks, it provides more action to the baits and the smaller diameter trolls deeper than mono.
Steve Coleman offered that while the thermocline establishes the proper depth, it’s a combination of structure and cover that he and Ronnie Capps use to locate fish during the summer.
“I have several key ingredients that make my crank bait trolling system work” said Kent Driscoll, B’n’M pro and self-professed crank baitaholic. “While you could substitute a few things here and there, I believe the key ingredients to my trolling system are what make it so successful.”

Driscoll pulls crank baits on eight rods that he runs along each side of his boat—four to a side. The rods he uses are B’n’M Pro Staff Trolling rods, a super stiff rod which keeps the crank bait 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. The pro 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 crank bait 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 crank baits stay separated. The front rod, the 14 footer, is rigged as a down rod 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 depth finder. His line choice is a 12 pound Vicious hi vis green. 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.

After you get your boat rigged and ready to troll crank baits for crappie, it’s all a matter of covering enough water to find where the fish are. North Carolina pro Stokes McClellan’s number one tip is to look for baitfish on his graph before deciding to put lines out.

“I want to make sure I’m seeing baitfish in scattered pods in the area I intend to fish before I start trolling” said McClellan, who targets open water areas exclusively for this tactic. “Scattered bait means nervous bait and that means predators are down there pushing them around and likely feeding on them. Those predators might be stripers or bass but hopefully they’ll be big crappie, the kind that will hang around even where there’s bigger fish in the area. That’s another reason that crank baiting is a big fish tactic, most of the smaller fish won’t hang around for fear of being eaten.”

Mississippi pro Brad Taylor suggested adjusting the amount of line out to target deeper holding summer crappie but always keep your line distances staggered. He explained that if all the lines are placed at the same distance, when you go into a turn the baits will pile up and tangle. With the lines staggered, the crank baits slide under and over each other according to the length. Another factor in Taylor’s success with diving depth is the type of line used.

“I use 10 pound Vicious braided line,” he said. “That raises a lot of eye brows but you can take two identical rods and run 10 pound mono on one next to 10 pound braid on the other and see the difference in action by watching the rod tip. Mono has more stretch and takes action away. I believe the braid is the better choice. If you run it with the B’n’M pro staff rod, there’s no worry of pulling hooks out of a crappie’s soft mouth either. The rod absorbs all the shock.”

Finally, Tennessee pro Steve Coleman puts together the final two pieces to the puzzle which involve structure and cover when fishing thermoclines.

“We’ve made a living fishing break lines,” said Coleman. “We’ll get on a specific break line and just follow it all over the lake. Since we already know that crappie are suspended at the level of the thermocline, the key is to put the crank baits right in the top of the thermocline and then follow the break line until you come across the fish holding on or above some kind of structure.”

Too hot to fish? Here at B’n’M, we say the fishing is too hot not to fish. Grab a handful of crank baits, some of our Pro-Staff trolling rods and go hit the water. When you do, visit us on Facebook at  www.facebook.com/bnmpoles and tell us how you did.