Spider-rigging for crappie is a great way to catch slabs like this one. Photo Ken McBroom
Fishing The Spider Rig
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 by spider rigging. 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 spider rigging continues to evolve there are some common crappie rigging 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 this crappie fishing rigging 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 spider rigging. Crappie anglers will say they stroll, push, long line, tight line, slow troll and fast troll. You can also stay put hovering over a brush pile with the spider-rigging technique, 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 FOR SPIDER RIGGING
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 rigging 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 FOR SPIDER RIG
There are several different terminal crappie rigs for spider-rigging, but I will explain the most common crappie fishing rig for this technique. The Capps and Coleman rig was named after six-time national champions Ronnie Capps and Steve Coleman and probably the most utilized crappie fishing rig in spider-rigging. The Capps and Coleman is very simple but super effective when spider-rigging for crappie. 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 Companyreally 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 five 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 are'nt’t as line shy as other species. When you hang up, this set-up allows you to straighten the hook and keeps your crappie fishing rig intact saving you money and time. The Aberdeen hook is easy to bend back into shape and gets you back to crappie fishing quickly and is just part of becoming super efficient which is paramount when spider-rigging. At the end of the bottom leader attach a #2 Aberdeen hook.
The second trick to this crappie 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 for crappie 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 for crappie is a very versatile way to fish for crappie. It might take a while to master spider rigging for crappie, but I hope these few tips can get you started and help you catch more crappie.
Spider Rigging for Crappie
3 SPIDER RIGGING SETUPS
There are many ways to rig your spider rigging setup to catch crappie. The spider rigging setup you choose to use will be determined by water temperature, water clarity, water depth as well as personal preference. Personal preference usually comes down to the spider rigging setup you have the most confidence in to catch crappie. Here is a list of 3 spider rigging setups for you to try on your next spider rigging crappie adventure.
DOUBLE MINNOW RIG FOR SPIDER RIGGING
The double minnow rig is my favorite when the water is cold for sure but you can use this crappie rigging throughout the season with great results. If you want to perfect a single spider rigging setup this would be crappie rig of choice for many anglers. It is simple yet very effective and performs best when the water is cold or when the crappie just are not biting very good. The double minnow rig can usually get you a few bites because it is live bait. For more information on when to use and how to tie the double rig check this out http://www.ramblingangler.com/crappie/doublejigrig.html
DOUBLE JIG RIG FOR SPIDER RIGGING
The double jig rig can be rigged the same as the double minnow rig but using jigs. Crappie will hit a jig very well and many anglers only use jigs. It takes some practice but when mastered many crappie anglers claim they can catch more crappie with a jig than with a minnow. This could be just because your jig is in the water more time because of the need to dip the minnows and put them on your double minnow rig and when you have it on your spider rigging setup with double hooks on each rod you will be dipping a lot of minnows in a day’s time when you can just put your double jig rig back down to the crappie after throwing your catch in the live well.
BOBBERS FOR SPIDER RIGGING
When the crappie moves up shallow a bobber can keep your minnow or jig at a depth that can keep you from hanging up so bad in the brush and stumps where the crappie live. If you are fishing in 6 foot of water and your spider rigging setup with a bobber is set at 4 foot deep it will help you slowly troll through the shallows without fighting hang-ups. Crappie always look up to feed and will come up out of the brush to take your jig or minnow rig. Oftentimes a single hook rig is best in shallow water because the top hook might be out of the water. The double minnow rig or double jig rig setup works best in deeper water with scattered fish or hovering over a brush pile in 10-20 foot of water, or deeper.
Give these spider rigging setups a try this season and have fun out there catching more crappie