Power Trolling With Les Smith
By Phillip Gentry
Late summer can be a tough time to fish for crappie. The fish are deep, the weather is hot enough to cook eggs on the dashboard, and there’s scarcely enough breeze to even move the air. With all that said, there is a crappie fishing tactic that excels under these conditions. It’s called Power Trolling.
B’n’M Ambassador Les Smith has been a power trolling fan for about as far back as he can remember. He picked up the tactic from the old guys that used bamboo poles with the tips broken off and trolled big, deep diving Bomber crankbaits.
Since those days, the tactic has been refined, integrating better sonar technology, better fishing line, updated trolling motors and of course, better fishing rods. Smith has had a lot to do with those refinements and shares what he knows, while inviting others to share their knowledge in a Facebook page he created entitled Power Trolling For Crappie.
At its basic form, power trolling is a fast-moving trolling tactic that uses up to 3-ounce egg weights to control the depth of presentation of a trolled crankbait, jig, or combination of the two.
Crankbaits are crappie catching machines, either trolled from the rear of the boat or by using weights and pushing them off the front.
Smith power trolls from his center console boat using a remote control 36-volt electric trolling motor to propel the boat. Since Mississippi regulations limit the rod count to four per person, he often runs four power trolling rods from the front and trolls crankbaits from four more rods at the back, so long as there are two anglers in the boat.
“Boat speed is critical,” he said. “I try to maintain a speed of 1.6 – 1.7 mph with my Minn Kota Terrova trolling motor. It has the iPilot remote with it so I can control the boat from anywhere on the boat and don’t have to fool with a foot pedal.”
For Smith, the hottest time of the year for power trolling is through the summer. August is his favorite time to power troll.
“I’ll troll Picos, Bandits, Strike King crankbaits as well as a whole host of custom-made crankbaits painted in colors specifically targeted for crappie,” he said. “At the same time I’m running crankbaits, I’ve also got droppers rigged with Crappie Magnet Fin Spins. This time of year, it’s the Pro Series with a Slab Curly hooked on underneath the dressing that seems to catch more fish.”
Smith ties loop knots in his leaders which allows him to offer crappie an assortment of Crappie Magnet baits at varying depths.
Although Smith’s home waters are Sardis and Enid in Northern Mississippi, he claims the tactics will work in many other venues across the country for anglers targeting primarily white crappie.
“By now the crappie are moving out into deeper water,” he said. “I’m looking for deep flats that have 20 – 25 feet of water on them and I’ll catch most of my fish just 2 – 3 feet off the bottom.”
To get his baits to that depth off the front of the boat, he’ll pull out line on the 18-foot B’n’M Pow’R Troller until the egg weight touches the bottom of the rod. With a 5-foot leader attached past the weight, that puts his baits right in that bottom-hugging strike zone with the boat cruising at 1.7 mph.
For the crankbaits on the rear of the boat, he’ll let out 120 and 140 feet of line respectively from his B’n’M Pro Staff Trolling Rods. The diving depths will vary based on the type of crankbait he’s using, but that’s generally where he wants to be and the fish will often make some last second depth adjustments to intercept the baits when the cranks come cruising by.
Power trolling from the front and trolling crankbaits from the rear, Les Smith and his crappie catching machine are the coolest things you’ll see on the water during the summer.
Obviously, he’s not fishing blind - either below the boat or out in front. Smith uses forward-facing real time sonar unit mounted on the bow of the boat and he can see what level crappie are suspended at before he gets there. Early and late in the day, he’s making adjustments and steering the boat based on where he sees the most concentrations of fish.
“Early in the morning, crappie tend to get a little higher in the water column,” he said. “By the end of the day, both the front and the back baits are running at almost identical depths and that’s usually right off the bottom.”
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