Crankin’ Carolina Crappie

Crankin’ Carolina Crappie

April 04, 2019

Crankin’ Carolina Crappie

By Phillip Gentry

Trolling crankbaits for crappie has become a well-known tactic in most areas of the Mid-West and West. Crappie anglers in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas have come to rely on crankbaits to fill the livewell, especially during the late spring and summer months.

Once you move further east, however, into Georgia and the Carolinas, trolling crankbaits is relatively unheard of, especially for crappie fishing. Not one to miss an opportunity, B’n’M pro-staffer Stokes McClellan of Huntersville, NC had an idea.

“I first saw this tactic while fishing out West around Mississippi and Texas and asked myself why wouldn’t that work back home in the Carolinas” said McClellan. “The first thing I figured out was that trolling crankbaits didn’t go so well everywhere, but on some of our lakes it works great.”


B’n’M pro staffer soon learned there are differences between cranking for crappie out west and cranking for them in the clear waters of North Carolina.

What the crappie pro discovered was that crappie often suspend on certain Carolina lakes after the post spawn. The warming water gets their metabolism up and makes them more aggressive. Higher metabolism means they eat more and fast food is on the menu.


“This is primarily a white crappie tactic” claims McClellan. “That doesn’t mean it won’t catch black crappie but I do much better on lakes like High Rock, Hickory, and Norman which are all known to have good concentrations of white crappie in them.” 

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


Setting up your boat to troll crankbaits is pretty standard. McClellan uses B’n’M pro staff trolling rods and Driftmaster Rod holders.

“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 baits mean 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,” he said. “That’s another reason this is a big fish tactic, most of the smaller fish won’t hang around for fear of being eaten.”


Another tip he has for Carolina anglers is to look for medium depth flats adjacent to deeper water. His target speed will be from 1.8 – 2.1 mph and indicates that as the weather gets hotter, the faster he’ll troll. He staggers his line out setting two rod from 75 – 80 out and the other two at 90 – 100 feet out on either side of the boat.


“I like to look for the intersection of a point and the channel where the water is about 30 feet deep on the main lake and mid to upper 20’s after the spawn” he said, “fish will suspend somewhere between 18 – 20 feet deep. That’s typical for many of our lakes because the water is a lot clearer than out west.”

According to McClellan, trolling speed is not as critical in achieving the right depth as it is with slower trolling tactics. There’s a point of diminishing returns where the crankbait is only going to dig so deep and then the line will develop a long bow underwater due to drag.

“The faster trolling speed while crank baiting makes it easier to fish than tight-line spider rig trolling because of all the boat traffic during the spring and summer” he said. “The boats rocks bad in all the wakes and the tight line poles go from smacking the water to 4 feet in the air. When cranking, the line says tight and there’s little effect on the baits.”


Even a black crappie can’t resist the temptation of a crankbait as it comes rattling by.

McClellan warns that the bite will be different from what most Carolina anglers are accustomed to when long lining or tight lining. A B’n’M Pro Staff Trolling Rod trolled at 2 mph will have a pretty good bend anyway but when a fish hits, he said it’ll go almost double. McClellan is often surprised by what he finds.


“We’ll get a 2 pound crappie with the whole crankbait stuck down in his mouth” he said. “That tells me that the fish came to eat and tried to swallow the bait before it could get away.”


Catching fish is what we’re all about at B’n’M Fishing. For more tips and tactics, visit our website at


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