Use Side Imaging/Structure Scan Sonar Technology To Locate Pre-Spawn Crappie
Phillip Gentry
– B’n’M pro staffer Kent Driscoll was quick to embrace side imaging/structure scan technology when it first became available to the retail market. It has become an integral part of his crappie fishing ever since.
This side view screen shot of an underwater tree depicts a crappie angler’s dream – hundreds of crappie looking for something to eat.
AnyTime, AnyPlace, In Any Water Crappie video host Russ Bailey demonstrates the dock shooting techniques he has made famous.
Another amazing screen shot using the side imaging/structure scan technology available in today’s sonar units clearly shows an underwater bridge holding a school of over 500 crappie.

While staging in the pre-spawn, crappie have a nasty habit of hiding in plain sight, at times making them a challenge to catch. It’s also a time of year when black crappie and white crappie, wrongfully considered by many to be one species, show just how different they can be.

In days gone by, anglers considered conditions and locations to figure out the crappie hide-and-seek pattern. Black crappie favored heavy structure, clear water, and hiding in numbers. White crappie favored more open water, dingy or murky waters, and preferred to suspend and spread out. The phrase “eliminating water” was developed by anglers who spent time fishing without catching.

Like everything in today’s modern world, technology leads the way, often doubling or tripling in speed, capacity, and ability every few years. Fishing technology is no different. Sonar that used to be a vague, downward view of the water in black and white blips is now capable of showing a 360 degree view of the underwater world in living color and intimate detail.

B’n’M pro-staff manager Kent Driscoll, like all of the B’n’M prostaff, was quick to embrace side imaging/structure scan technology as soon as it became available to the retail industry and has graduated through several generations of upgrades since then.

“I use the new technology year round, not just during the spring,” said Driscoll. “A few weeks ago at Lake Washington in the Mississippi Delta, my tournament partner John Harrison and I rode around in the boat in the dark, just graphing the areas we were interested in fishing. It’s amazing what you can see and the detail you see it in, especially without any glare from the sun.”

Driscoll touts two pre-spawn situations where side imaging/structure scan sonar technology has helped him countless times to find fish, then catch them. Crappie may move shallow during the pre-spawn but not be in the shallows, which is where the sonar shines.

“You can ride by a boat dock that has some decent water depth under it and view it from different angles,” said Driscoll. “That will allow you to count the number of fish under it, and even what supports the fish are holding against. And if you don’t see fish, you move on to the next one.”

Marking crappie with modern sonar during the pre-spawn also works when there isn’t any structure around. While migrating their way back to the shallows, crappie will suspend over the edge of a tributary channel. Attempting to ride over the top of these fish to get them in the sonar cone pushes them out of the way, giving the false impression that no fish are in the vicinity.

“When crappie are suspending shallow, the best way to mark them is set your side imaging out to about 70 feet,” he said. “Even if they’re holding only a foot or two deep, you can see them on the graph on either side of the boat. Those are perfect trolling fish, either tight lining or long lining, and you’d never know they were there with only down ward facing sonar.”

As suggested, modern sonar is useful to the crappie angler year round. B’n’M pro-staffer and resident video host of “AnyTime, AnyPlace, In Any Water Crappie! Versions 1 and 2, Russ Bailey, relies on side imaging/structure scan during the post spawn phase of the year when crappie on his home lakes in Ohio play hide-and-seek.

“There’s not much cover in our lakes, most of which are canals that are about 15 feet deep with a flat bottom,” said Bailey. “Look along the shoreline at its rows and rows of pontoon boats, you notice there are very few boat houses to provide shade and cover, so crappie will hold under the pontoons. You could spend all day shooting a jig under each boat and still get skunked, because there are so many pontoon boats to choose from. With the side imaging, it’s a matter of graphing fish on the first run through the row of pontoons, making notes of which ones are holding fish, then circle back and catch the fire out of them.”

Bailey’s dock shooting exploits have even prompted Southern Pro Jigs to design a dock shooting kit that incorporates all of Russ’ favorite jig weights and colors and even a handful of the ice floats that Russ has made famous for catching crappie under docks and pontoons.

“The sonar shows you where to spend your time, then all I need is a Southern Pro Russ Bailey Dock Shooting Kit, a B’n’M Sharpshooter rod and then look out, it’s time to fill the livewell.”

B’n’M promotes all the advancements in crappie fishing because we know that crappie fishermen are always looking for better and more effective ways to catch them. No matter whether you’re a spider rigger, a long liner, dock shooter or just a good old fashion jig pole angler, B’n’M has got a rod specifically designed for your needs. Check us out on the web at our newly redesigned website at or find us on Facebook/bnmpoles. Good fishin’