Spider-rigging for crappie is a great way to catch slabs like this one. Photo Ken McBroom
When the spawn is over and the summer sun warms the water temps into the 70’s crappie move out of the shallows and prowl the depths in search of cooler water and the baitfish that school there for the same reason. Most crappie anglers focus on early spring and spawning crappie but crappie can be caught throughout the summer with a little work and patience. One of the best ways to catch summertime suspended crappie is with a spider rig. Spider-rigging for crappie has been around for a long time, but this great technique is really gaining more and more attention because it works and while it continues to evolve there are some common rigs and techniques that I will explain here.
Spider-rigging looks like a difficult task and it can be for the beginner, but with a little practice it can be mastered. With spider-rigging several poles from 10 to 16 feet in length are placed in a series of rod holders fanned across the bow of the boat. The poles are positioned just above the water line and looks much like a spiders legs, hence the name. Crappie anglers will say they stroll, push, longline, tight line, slow troll and fast troll. You can also stay put hovering over a brush pile with the spider-rig, but no matter what you do with this setup, it’s still spider-rigging as long as you fan the poles from the bow of the boat. In a course of a trip I might perform all of these different maneuvers depending on the situation.
WHAT’S WITH THE LONG POLES
People have asked me about the long poles we use to spider rig and if you have ever seen a boat that is spider-rigging you know that this is a legitimate question but one that is simple to answer. There are two excellent reasons to use long poles when spider-rigging. The first and most important reason is to keep your line out of the trolling motor. This will be the first aha moment for a beginner that don’t think they need to use such long poles. The second reason is to get your baits as far away from the boat as possible so that you don’t scare the crappie. I prefer 10 foot rods just because they are a lot easier to work with especially if you fish alone. I have used 14 foot rods and did OK, but it gets pretty awkward pulling up a crappie through all the other rigs. I have never used 16 foot rods, but many crappie anglers do.
The reels are probably the least important part of the spider rig set up. You can use spin-cast reels, spinning reels or even bait-caster reels. Usually the reel gets little use unless you are fishing deep then it only takes a few cranks to get the crappie to the surface so you can net them. A net is very important when spider-rigging. You can pull most crappie up and swing them into the boat to unhook them, but when you hook into a slab you want a long reach net so you can reach out to where the crappie is. The best rule of thumb for a net is at least as long as your longest pole. There are several companies producing spider rig nets some are fixed length while others telescope out to 12 or 13 feet. This is another reason I like 10 foot rods so I don’t need such a long net that can be hard to handle alone, especially if the day is long and the bite is good.
CAPPS & COLEMAN RIG
There are several different terminal rigs for spider-rigging but I will explain the most common rig for this technique. The Capps and Coleman rigs were named after six-time national champions Ronnie Capps and Steve Coleman and probably the most utilized rig in spider-rigging.
The Capps and Coleman rig is very simple, but super effective when spider-rigging. Starting with your main line attach a 3-way swivel. The standard 3-way swivel will work, but a T-Turn 3-way swivel made by the Thunder Mist lure company really helps keep your leader from tangling with the main line. Off the bottom loop of your Thunder Mist T-Turn, attach a leader of the same type line used for your main line. This bottom leader should be at least 24 inches in length. You need to use at least 10 pound test line with this rig and I will explain later.
Once you have your bottom leader attached to the bottom of your 3-way swivel run the end of the leader through an egg sinker and slide it up the leader to about 8 inches from the swivel. Now loop the end of the leader two or three times through the hole in the egg sinker to hold it in place. You can attach a straight swivel below the sinker with a bead. This allows the sinker to freely slide up and down the leader as well as adding a bit more protection from line twist. I prefer the extra swivel over looping the line myself. The sinker size can be varied from 1/4oz to 1oz depending on the depth and speed you're fishing.
There are a couple tricks to an effective Capps and Coleman rig the first being the type of hooks you use. The best hook for this rig is a #2 Aberdeen hook. The Aberdeen hook is a light wire hook that is easy to bend when pulled. This is why 10 pound test minimum is important and even heavier. Crappie aren’t as line shy as other species. When you hang up, this set-up allows you to straighten the hook and keeps your rig intact saving you money and time. The Aberdeen hook is easy to bend back into shape and get back to fishing quickly and is just part of becoming super efficient which is paramount when spider-rigging. So at the end of the bottom leader attach a #2 Aberdeen hook.
The second trick to this rig is to use heavier line for your side leader and I have even seen guys use a cheap heavy mono for their side leader and they told me the cheap stuff is stiffer and helps keep the line from tangling back on the rig. I am planning to try this to see if it helps, but with the Thunder Mist T-Turn swivel tangles are rare even though it looks like it’s going to every time you pull it out of the water. A #2 Aberdeen hook gets attached to the side leader as well.
Spider-rigging is a great way to catch a lot of crappie and the technique can be modified many ways to fit the situation like replacing the hooks and minnows with jigs or jigs with minnows or even crankbaits. Spider-rigging is such a versatile way to fish for crappie that it takes a while to master it, but I hope these few tips can get you started and help you catch more of those suspended slabs.