The best, most productive crappie rigs tend to be the simplest. Setups like a minnow-tipped Aberdeen hook under a split shot and float, or a lone jig or mini crankbait, contain few components, which means there is a minimum of knots that could unravel, leaders to fray or terminal tackle to fail—all things that result in a lost fish.
On top of that, simple rigs are easier to make and easier to fish, plus there’s less hardware to interfere with a natural-looking presentation. Where and whenever possible, I always subscribe to the “Keep-It-Simple, Sutton” strategy and I recommend that others do, too.
In certain situations, however, more complex crappie rigs provide benefits knowledgeable anglers can use to their advantage. These include the specialty rigs described in the following pages, all of which have applications that make them invaluable at the right time and in the right place.
Application: This double-bait rig is being used by an increasing number of savvy crappie anglers. The technique has been dubbed, quite logically, “stacking,” and it works well year-round on finicky crappies that refuse other offerings.
Components: One size 4 or 6 StandOut Walleye Finesse Hook; one 1/16-ounce Road Runner or similar chin-spinner; an appropriately sized soft plastic to dress the StandOut hook.
Rigging: 1. To make a stacking rig, start by attaching the StandOut hook to the main line, according to package directions, leaving 24 to 36 inches of tag line hanging below the hook. 2. Tie the jig to the terminal end end. You can use just about any type of jig you please, but my favorite is a 1/16-ounce Road Runner with a Bleeding Bait hook and Turbo Tail body. 3. Now add your preferred dressing to the StandOut hook. A second Turbo Tail body often works well, but don’t hesitate to try something else. A 21/2-inch Gulp! Minnow or FoodSource 3-inch Swirl Tail Grub are good choices, but if the fish seem to be extremely finicky, lip-hook a live minnow on the StandOut and/or the jig head.
Details: The great thing about this rig is that you can fish it in nearly any situation where you’d normally want to swim a jig. Bring it past suspended fish, or crappies staging near a hump or point, with a slow, straight retrieve. Or, work it to the boat with an undulating lift-drop presentation. Either way, the stacking rig is designed to turn lookers into biters.
Anglers are always looking for a good deal on tackle, a fact that’s even more important in today’s economy. That doesn’t mean they want the cheapest, though. Rather, they need gear that represents the best bang for their buck.
Shimano’s new Volteaus rods are in that category. Their three-composite unifiber construction offers light weight and sensitivity. Combined with contoured cork handles and stainless guide frames, it adds up to a Good Buy. Freshwater spinning and casting versions range from ultra-light to heavy powers, and lengths from 5 to 9 feet, for $39.99 to $49.99.
Tailwater Tandem Rig
Application: River crappies that move upstream in search of spawning sites in late winter or early spring often congregate near wing dams, riprap and other rock structures. They’re drawn to these areas by the presence of threadfin shad and other forage species that gather to feed on even smaller organisms, and the tandem rig is ideal for probing the fast-moving waters that surround them.
Components: One size 8 three-way swivel; one floating jig head with a size 2 hook; one 1/16- to 1/4-ounce blade bait such as the Heddon Sonar or Reef Runner Cicada; one 11/2-inch soft plastic curlytail grub or crappie tube.
Rigging: 1. Tie the three-way swivel to the main line. Many anglers use 10- to 30-pound braid for the main line because of the extra abrasion resistance and sensitivity it provides. 2. Attach a 6-inch leader of 10-pound braid between the floating head and one of the three-way’s open eyes. 3. Tie one end of a 24-inch length of the same braid to the remaining eye on the three-way; the other end to the round-bend snap or split ring on the blade bait. Some blades have multiple line attachment holes. Typically, connecting the line to the far-forward hole produces a tighter wiggle; the rear attachment point, a wide, slower wobble. 4. Complete the rig by dressing the floating head with the grub or tube.
Details: Cast the Tandem Rig near rock structures, such as wing dams and riprap banks. If you allow it to sit on the bottom, the floating head will dance in the current away from your main line.
When you jig the blade bait, however, the floating head moves in an exaggerated fashion. Jig aggressively to draw attention, then switch to more subdued twitches to entice strikes.
Mullins And Lucius’ Trolling Rig
Application: Arkansas crappie pros Chris Mullins and Ricky Lucius troll this specialized double-tube rig year-round. “We fish it spring, summer, fall and winter to catch crappies up to 3 pounds and more,” says Mullins. “By adjusting the size of the sinker, and the size and length of the lines, it can be adapted to almost any situation imaginable—from a calm day spent fishing shallow water to trolling over deep-water structure in the wind.”
Components: One size 6 or 8 three-way swivel; one size
8 or 10 barrel swivel; one 1/4- to 3/4-ounce egg sinker; two
1/0 Aberdeen hooks; two Southern Pro Umbrella Crappie Tubes; one Kipper Enterprises No-Knot Fas-Snap; and nylon monofilament leaders that are 18, 15 and 12 inches long. Use 4-, 6- or 8-pound line, depending on water clarity.
Rigging: 1. Tie the 18-inch leader to one eye of the three-way swivel. 2. Run the open end of the leader through the egg sinker (sinker size depends on water depth and wind conditions), and attach it to the barrel swivel. 3. Tie the 15-inch leader to the remaining eye of the barrel swivel, then attach one of the 1/0 Aberdeen hooks to the leader’s open end. 4. Tie the other Aberdeen hook to the 12-inch leader, then attach this leader’s open end to one of the remaining eyes of the three-way. 5. Thread an Umbrella Tube onto each hook, making sure the nose covers the hook eye. 6. The Fas-Snap, tied to the main line, facilitates quick change-out of pre-tied rigs when you want to swap sinker size or lure color. Snap it to the remaining eye of the three-way.
Details: Mullins and Lucius fish these rigs on 12-, 14- or 16-foot B’n’M Capps & Coleman Series trolling rods, mounting up to eight poles, where permitted, on Drift-master T-Bars at the bow of the boat. They slow-troll around stumps and other cover, and in extremely shallow water, shorten the leaders between the hooks and the three-way swivel as necessary.
The Umbrella tubes feature a fairly short body with a large, flared skirt.
Coleman And Capps’ Double-Crank Rig
Application: When fishing lakes that stratify in the summer, Tennessee crappie pros Steve Coleman and Ronnie Capps get their lures into the fish-rich area near the thermocline using a double-crankbait rig they’ve refined during their many years of competitive fishing.
Components: One JSR07 Rapala Jointed Shad Rap crankbait; one Bandit 200 or 300 series crankbait; two size 6 or 8 three-way swivels (the anglers prefer Eagle Claw Crossline snaps); one 4- to 6-ounce bank or bell sinker; and four 10-pound nylon monofilament leaders—one 4-inch, two 30-inch and one 36-inch.
Rigging: 1. Tie the 36-inch leader between the two swivels, using an in-line eye on each swivel. 2. Tie the 4-inch leader onto the sinker, then attach its open end to the trailing in-line eye of the bottom swivel. 3. Attach a separate 30-inch leader to each crankbait. 4. Tie the Bandit’s leader to the dropper eye of the bottom swivel, and the Rapala’s leader to the top swivel’s dropper eye. Finally, tie the main line to the remaining in-line eye of the top swivel. The completed rig will have the sinker at the very bottom with the two crankbaits trailing behind the rig on separate leaders.
Details: Because the lures have different dive curves and are separated by three feet along the leader, they do not tangle, according to Coleman, even at brisk trolling speeds.
“Our experience shows it’s best to troll at a speed of 1.5 to 2 mph, or just fast enough so tip of the pole vibrates,” he says. “It’s a matter of covering more real estate than the other guys. We typically fish these rigs on four to six 12- or 14-foot B’n’M Pro Staff Trolling Rods set in holders at the front of the boat. This allows us to follow channels and other structure on using our GPS when trolling, and with all the poles at the front of the boat, we can make quick, tight turns when necessary. The crankbaits produce reaction strikes, and at this speed the crappies hook themselves when they hit.”
Customized Crappie Lures
Sometimes adding just a little bit more to your presentation is all it takes to turn sniffers into biters. Here are a couple of ideas from Oklahoma crappie guide Todd Huckabee and Scott Stecher of Reef Runner lures. They’re simple ways to add another dimension to your crappie presentations.
Huckabee often casts a Bomber Fat Free Shad or Fat Free Guppy crankbait to catch crappies feeding on threadfin shad near riprap and rocky cover. But to give the lure that extra bit of pizzazz, he modifies it by removing the rear treble and placing a crappie-size soft plastic tube on the hook’s shank. Then, he re-rigs the hook onto the crank. “The skirt works just like the feathers on some topwater lures,” he says, “giving the lure more flash.”
Stecher recommends a similar custom job for his crappie-catching Cicada blade bait. “I bite the head off a soft-plastic curlytail grub, leaving only two or three rings of plastic above the tail,” he says. “Then, I add this to the double-hook at the rear of the Cicada’s blade. Just skin-hook it on one point, then slide it up between the shanks. The tail slows the lure’s fall and adds attractive motion and color. Scent-impregnated grubs increase the effectiveness even more.”