Summer Trolling For Crappie – Part 1 Crankbaiting For White Crappie
Phillip Gentry
Trolling crankbaits will catch plenty of big white crappie during the summer when most anglers think it’s too hot to fish.
By having a system of rod holders equipped with Pro Staff rods and line counter reels, Driscoll can turn his boat into a trolling machine
Most any 3 – 4 inch crankbait will work for catching crappie, it’s important to know how deep the lure is designed to dive on the test line you are using.
Dialing in on depth, speed, and location can load the livewell with crappie in a short time.

Anglers think crappie only bite during the spring and fall are missing out on some prime fishing, even through the heat of summer. B’n’M pro-staffer Kent Driscoll from Nashville, TN explains that crappie will feed actively during the summer when warmer water cranks up the fishing. Driscoll said one of the best ways to locate and catch summer crappie is by trolling.

The two predominant species of crappie both behave and relate to the water column differently so Driscoll suggests altering your trolling approach to the fish you are after, whether that be white crappie, or white perch if you prefer, or if your chasing black crappie, commonly referred to as specks.

In the first of a two part series, Driscoll will explain the technique he uses to troll for white crappie, using bass-sized crankbaits for bait.

“Pulling crank baits for white crappie is my favorite way to catch them in the summer,” said Driscoll. “Those big white crappie will absolutely nail a 3- 4 inch crankbait, and even when it’s hot, trolling keeps you moving at a pretty fast rate so that keeps some air moving when you’re out on the water.”

Driscoll pulls crankbaits on eight rods that he runs along each side of his boat—four to a side. The rods he uses are BnM Pro Staffs, a super stiff rod which keeps the crankbait 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.

“That’s your basic set up,” he said. “You’re going to want to vary your speed from 1.5 to 1.7 - 1.8 sometimes faster if you can get away with it.  Sometimes slower if the fish are in a negative mood, you just got to vary speeds to figure out what they want.”

The depth of presentation of the crankbaits is a coordination of variables including the amount of line out, working depth of the crankbait, and boat speed. Driscoll ranges his boat speed on average between 1.5 mph and 2.0 mph. Such precise graduations in speed require the uses of a GPS enabled electronics system that will measure speed to the tenth of a mph.

In order to get his boat to troll at and maintain that speed, Driscoll uses a 24 volt Minn Kota trolling motor. He can control the trolling motor from anywhere on the boat while he watches his graph for fish and his chart for humps and ditches that white crappie love to suspend over.

“Finding the baitfish is important to catching fish” said Driscoll. “Bait can’t live below the thermocline so they end up forming tight schools out in the main lake and at the mouths of major creeks. They suspend around 12 to 15 feet deep out over 20 – 25 feet of water. If I’m marking bait on my graph, that’s where I know I’ll find crappie.”

The pro has mounted Driftmaster rod holders on either side of his boat at the center of the gunnel. The rod holders hold the trolling rods, which are equipped with line counter reels, securely while pulling cranks.

Having the line counters precisely measures the distance each crankbait 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 crankbaits stay separated. The front rod, the 14 footer, is rigged as a downrod 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 depthfinder.

His line choice is a 10 pound Vicious hi vis green in stained water and clear line in clear water. The visibility and higher than average test line helps him keep the cranks running straight and allows his to retrieve a bait if it gets snagged.

Driscoll said that crankbait trolling anglers will catch the lion’s share of crappie when the weather gets hot by targeting suspended fish. In order to target suspended crappie, he uses a line out formula. As an example, If he wants to target fish that are holding 12 feet deep, he lets out 110 feet of line. His formula is:

Amount of line out / 10 + 1 foot. So to get to 12 feet he lets out 110 / 10 + 1 = 12 feet.

For the downrod calculation, using a 2 ounce weight above the crankbait, he simply doubles the amount of line out for the depth he wants to fish. So to reach 12 feet, he lets out 24 feet of line.

 “Somedays the crappie want the bait slower and somedays they want it a little faster” said Driscoll. “Covering as much water as possible in order to find willing fish is another secret to the formula. When you get those variables figured out, you can really wear some big white crappie out.”

Next time, long line trolling on clear water lakes is a great tactic to catch black crappie in the summer. Check back for all the info you’ll need.