By Tim Huffman
March 4, 2011
Springtime has many ups and downs. Most problems are caused by wind, rain and floods. However, crappie are on the move so you need a technique that puts you on the move, too. Longlining can help you find and catch scattered crappie.
Crappie movements begin in late winter when the fish start making periodic runs to shallower water. Warming water triggers this movement. Crappie continue to move out of winter homes into creek channels and bays. When water temperatures get right they will do their spawning in prime spots but those places may be different from lake to lake, depending upon water clarity, habitat and other factors.
The advantages of longlining include covering large flats, coves and long stretches of water. A channel ledge is a prime example. You can also work edges of tree lines, grass beds and other covers. Baits stay in the water so the technique is a good search tool along with being a good way to catch fish when the right area is found.
The disadvantages are few but shouldn’t be overlocked. First, when fish are holding tight to cover like a brush pile or set of stumps vertical presentations are better than longlining. Also, if people see you catch fish they may get on the spot while you are making a turn to come back. It’s a bad technique when fish are finicky and want a bait presented slowly or stopped. Tournament fishermen have proven that on a typical lake with cover the bigger fish are caught by slow trolling or vertical jigging although fast trollers often catch more fish.
Racks and holders are required for serious longlining. When two people are in the boat holders must be positioned in the front and back.
When you’re fishing by yourself with a standard trolling motor you need pole holders in the front of the boat. A newer remote controlled or self-guiding motor allows you to fish from the back. Your boat, trolling motor and preferences will determine where you’re located in the boat.
The front deck fisherman will have poles sticking out the side with 12-, 14- and 16-foot poles being most efficient because they get baits away from the boat. The average weekend fisherman should start with 8- and 12-foot poles for easier handling.
Poles in the back of the boat can be 6 to 10 feet with the shortest poles toward the middle of the boat. Curly tail baits are often chosen for the tail action created by the moving boat. Sometimes tipping with a minnow is required.
If you have GPS it can be good for maintaining optimum speeds and to repeat successful trolling runs.
Start by rigging poles and putting poles into holders but not into the water. Get everything, including the landing net, in place. Position the boat, turn on the trolling motor and cast baits into the water by casting each one with a line length of about 40 feet. Keeping all lines at a constant length helps control depth.
Line size, line length, jig weight and boat speed determines the depth of the baits. Once line size, line length and baits sizes are chosen then bait depth is primarily a result of boat speed. Start your trolling at about 0.9 miles per hour and then adjust faster or slower as you search for the right combination to trigger fish.
Suppose it’s early pre-spawn and fish are still in transition. Select a 10- to 12-foot flat next to a creek channel. Move along keeping baits 7 to 10 feet deep. If a brush pile or other obstruction is viewed on the screen you can speed up causing the baits to rise in the water. If you catch a couple of fish from the brush you can mark the spot and troll back across it.
Tip of the Month
When longlining you still need to set the hook as quickly as possible. The boat is moving so it only takes a short, quick snap to set the hook and then maintain pressure while you reel it in.