Thirteen-time Crappie USA Classic qualifier Stokes McClellan of Huntersville, North Carolina, spends most of his time trolling with as many as a dozen rods--a great way to find crappies on the move.
Like Oklahoma crappie expert Todd Huckabee, he won't start fishing until he locates bait, but this time of year, it's pretty easy to find.
McClellan works his way in and out of creeks and large coves, keeping an eye on his depthfinder and on the surface of the water. Often, he'll spot the telltale rings left by small shad flipping on top. Although shad don't stay in one area for long, when crappies migrate with the bait, they usually find cover and stick to it until the bait moves again.
"Big crappies are definitely loners. I rarely ever catch more than one at a time when I'm trolling, but the smaller fish are much more likely to travel in schools, so if I catch one, I can probably catch a bunch," McClellan says.
He follows a basic rule: light-colored lures on bright days or in clear water and dark colors in stained water or on overcast days. He also uses even larger lures than Huckabee. "I'm after big fish, so I like larger baits like 3-inch Bass Pro Shops Triple Ripple Tail grubs and Charlie Brewer Slider grubs. Fall crappies are feeding heavily, so if you put that big bait in front of a big fish, he'll probably eat it," says McClellan.
McClellan likes to troll for the same reasons Huckabee moves quickly from one piece of cover to the next: He can work a lot of water until he finds the fish. If he sees shad throughout a long cove, he'll work his way from the back of the creek to the front, keeping an eye on his depthfinder as he eases along the shoreline. He typically uses a dozen rods and rigs, each with a different style or color of bait or at a different depth. Once he starts catching fish, he changes all of his rods to pinpoint that key depth range and uses whichever lure the fish seem to prefer.