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Trolling Cranks for Crappie


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By Ray - Posted on 05 June 2009

Here is a good article I found on trolling crank baits for crappiei.
Think big in trolling for summer crappie
Spider rigging with bass baits a productive technique
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By GARY GARTH
Special to The Courier-Journal

BY gary garth, SPECIAL TO THE C-J
Doug Muench uses Bandit crankbaits trolled six abreast to pull suspended crappie out of Kentucky Lake when they're in their summer pattern.
Crappie are one of the most popular sport fish in the region. But by the time spring melts into June, these panfish have completed their spawn, shaken off the post-spawn blues and moved into their summer pattern.
From Taylorsville Lake to Green River Lake, Patoka Lake to Lake Barkley and beyond, you'll find them suspended and scattered over flats and along creek and river channels.
This can turn summer crappie fishingi into an exercise in frustration. The fish are fairly easy to catch — just bounce a minnow off a crappie's nose and most likely it'll swallow it. Finding them is the key.
Some anglers solve this problem by "spider rigging." They'll drape six, eight or even more rods from their boats and literally dredge an area with jigs and/or minnows. This approach is slow and methodical, but it does work.
Doug Muench has taken the spider rigging approach and put it on steroids. His formula: Use bigger baits, cover more water and catch more fish.
Muench trolls for crappie using gaudy hardbaits, the kind that tackle designers skillfully craft to lure bass fishermen within range of a cash register. He has outfitted his Triton with six rod holders across the stern. He rigs a half-dozen 6- or 6½-foot light-action spinning rods with 6-pound high-visibility monofilament, ties a 100, 200 or 300 series Bandit crankbait (depending on how deep he wishes to fish) onto each rod, feeds out 20 or more yards of line and prowls the flats.

Then he spends most of his time grabbing rods and reeling in crappie.

Muench's approach is trolling NASCAR style, and it's a highly successful search-and-catch technique for suspended fish that are scattered across hundreds of acres of water. It's a little unorthodox, perhaps, but it's hard to argue with the results.

"When crappie start suspending is really when fishing like this with crankbaits is at its best," he said after tossing a 12-inch fish into the livewell. "For this technique it's better to wait until after fish have come off the beds. I usually do best in the summer."

You've probably never heard of Muench, a Tennessee businessman who neither guides nor competes in tournaments. I met him during a recent trip to Kentucky Lake, one of the nation's best panfish producers. We were on the water a couple of weeks after the spawn, and local fishing reports had not been positive.

Muench laid out his lines, checked his depth finder and GPS and made a pass where a large flat breaks into a secondary channel drop. We hooked a half-dozen crappie, including four keepers, on the first pass.

We were on Kentucky Lake, of course, which has been surrendering slab-size crappie for 50 years. Muench fishes here often (he lives about 20 minutes from the water) but also has used this trolling technique on other waters in Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and beyond. It rarely fails him.

"When you go to a lake that you're not familiar with, this is a pretty good technique," he said.

I was a little surprised that suspended crappie would so readily hit a big crankbait built for bass, but hit it they did. Most of our fish were keepers (10-inch minimum length on Kentucky Lake) along with a few short fish.

When trolling for crappie, Muench likes the Bandit 100, 200 and 300 series crankbaits. The 100 series will run 3-5 feet deep, the 200 down to eight feet and the 300 down to 10-12 feet — deeper if you feed out more line.

We were trolling at a 1.3 mph clip (as registered by the GPS).

"You can run fast or slow," Muench said. "It's whatever the fish want."

It's important to have the rods set far enough apart to keep the lines from tangling. Crappie aren't hard fighters, but they can tangle lines. Also, trim the baits so they run straight. After that, watch the rod tips. When one dips, don't hesitate in setting the hook because crappie, like bass, have an almost unnatural ability to escape two razor-sharp treble hooks.

"It's kind of like (saltwater) fishing," Muench said. "Just watch the pole, and when you see it bend over, reach down and pick it up."

He's a believer in Bandit crankbaits. He trims and tinkers with them to keep them running straight, but I got the impression that the brand of baits would be largely immaterial. Color is important but probably not critical. On sunny days Muench uses bright colors — white, usually. Overcast days call for dull or muted colors. We were fishing under a partly cloudy sky and caught fish on white, chartreuse and red crawfish colors, among others.

The advantage of trolling for crappie is speed. You can cover a large section of water fairly quickly. When a 20 mph south wind began to whip the lake to whitecaps, we pulled in the lines and made a short run into a cove that would have held Papa John's Cardinal Stadium and the adjacent parking lots. One pass along a heavily timbered bank collected another five fish — all keepers.

Occasionally you'll get more than bargained for. While bringing in the lines to escape the wind, we ran through a school of white bass. Five of the six rods sprang to life.

"What a mess," Muench said. "But when they're here, you can't hardly help but catch them"

That's a good problem to have.

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Refers to the degree of transparancy of the water you are fishing. This determines the distance and depth that a fish is able to see an object (such as your lure) under the water.

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