Advanced Tight Line Tactics
Phillip Gentry
Once you’ve learned the basics of tight lining, or slow vertical trolling for crappie, it’s time to start putting some of these advanced tactics from the B’n’M pros to work.
Using a ¼ leadhead as a weight taught Whitey Outlaw to slow down to a snail’s pace, resulting in a better class of fish.
Tim Blackley explains that focusing on water and structure most likely to produce fish, not trolling off across open water, is a major key to successful tight lining.
Kyle Schoenherr, along with partner Rodney Neuhaus won both major Crappie Championships in 2015 by slow crawling through heavy cover.

In B’n’M’s last Tips and Tactics article, we discussed the art of tight line fishing for crappie. Tight lining, which is also known as spider rigging, slow vertical trolling, or simply pushing is probably the most commonly used tactic for catching crappie by tournament anglers and pros.

Tight lining is deadly in that it places not just one bait but multiple baits right in a crappie’s face. It works in both deep water and shallow and some anglers, with significant trophy cases at home, do nothing but tight line all year long.

At the advanced level, tight lining is more than just bumping around in open water hoping a fish swims by. Advanced tight line tactics hone in on specific target areas that not only hold crappie, but the biggest crappie any given lake has to offer.

To help you up your game, B’n’M queried several of our pro staffers who have not only perfected tight lining, but have used the tactic to win major crappie tournaments.

Scott Williams

Fishing in his home state of Georgia, Scott and his father Billy Williams are major competitors who love to tight line for crappie. Scott said one of the first things he does when dialing in is to match the number of hooks he uses per rod with the pattern and areas he’ll be fishing.

“In more open water, we’ll use two hooks,” said Williams. “If we are tight to cover or fishing shallow water with a lot of standing debris, we will take that down to just one hook. The idea is that you don’t want a big crappie to take you into cover and get that extra hook buried in the timber.”

Williams said the beauty of tight lining while searching for crappie is that baits can be presented at differing depths. He uses a system for balancing his spread that puts shallower baits out in front of the boat and deeper baits to the side.

“I number my rods 1 – 4 on the right and 1 – 4 on the left,” said Williams. “Number 1 is always straight out and the shallowest, then get deeper on each side. It’s a good system to keep up with where that fish was in the water column when you catch him or get a bite. On slow days it’s even more important.”

Whitey Outlaw

South Carolina pro Whitey Outlaw has won several National Crappie Championships and tight lining is always his go-to tactic. He said his success all starts with his rig. He typically uses a two hook rig with one live bait hook on one end of a 3 way swivel and a ¼ oz Rockport Rattler jighead paired with either live, artificial, or both, on the other end.

“I’ve won more money and more tournaments on this rig than any other,” he said. “It’s light, there’s no weight other than the jighead, and that makes you fish slower. Fishing slower may not catch you as many fish as something like long lining, but it will catch you better fish.”

Outlaw said the rig works well down to 15 feet and requires pinpoint boat control to fish, which he said also pays out in the quality of fish caught.

Tim Blackley

Fishing Reelfoot Lake has taught Hornbeak, TN pro Tim Blackley to eliminate as much unproductive water as possible before putting out the first line. Blackley said he starts with the high percentage zones based on the season and conditions, but will hone in on specific areas from there.

“Tight lining is slow, it’s supposed to be slow. People talk about trolling are talking about pulling baits and lures behind the boat,” said Blackley. “Once we get in an area where the fish are, that might be one bend in a creek channel or even one stump flat, we work it over and stay in that zone.”

Kyle Schoenherr and Rodney Neuhaus

Last year’s Crappie Masters National Champion and Crappie USA Classic winner Kyle Schoenherr and partner Rodney Neuhaus relied on tight lining in heavy cover to win both of last year’s big events. Schoenherr said it takes a lot of patience to run 6 – 8 long fishing rods into heavy cover, but that’s where the fish are.

“We scan an area thoroughly and mark the high spots and know where we’re likely to hang up,” said Schoenherr. “If it’s really heavy emerging cover we will find lanes, usually creek channels or ditches and tighten up and just ease along through it. Slow doesn’t begin to describe it.”

To keep from having to spend a lot of precious fishing time in the trenches re-tying. Neuhaus said the pair opt for heavier line. If they aren’t using 15 pound braid, they might opt for the same test line or higher in fluorocarbon.

“A lot of times we can shake a hang-up loose,” said Neuhaus. “If not, the stronger line will bend the light wire Tru-Turn hooks we use and then it’s a lot quicker to bend a hook back than retie a whole rig.”

Whether you are a tournament tested pro or a newcomer to the sport of crappie fishing, B’n’M has got the tools and the know-how to make you a better crappie angler. Visit us online at bnmpoles.com