Collapse bottom bar
Crappie Panfish

Spider Rigging For Crappie

by John Neporadny Jr   |  June 3rd, 2011 42


Spider rigging for crappie looks simple enough—a bunch of fishing rods weaving a web of lines from bow to stern. A closer look at the boats of crappie pros reveals that their spider rigs are intricate systems based on exact rod positioning and specialized rod-holder designs. The pros set up their spider rigs differently depending on the situation, whether it’s fishing deep brushpiles, open-water structure, shallow vegetation, or for pushing crankbaits.

The most essential pieces of equipment for spider-rigging are the rods and holders. “The key is to make sure the rods are all the same,” says Barry Morrow, a guide on Oklahoma’s Lake Eufaula. “All the rods should be the same length, power, and action, and they should be adjusted to the same height in the rod holders, so that you are able to decipher the motion of the rod tips to detect bites. If you are using different types of rods they’re all bowed differently and respond differently to strikes, making it more difficult to interpret rod-tip and line movement.”

Preferences on rod-holder design vary among the pros, but there’s one that top anglers all agree on: Rod holders need to be stable. “When I mount a set of rod racks, I want those things not to move,” says Alabama guide Brad Whitehead. Beyond that, top spider-riggers have developed individualized setups to suit the situations they fish.


Whitehead’s Deep Brush


Probing deep brush

For spider-rigging over brushpiles on Wilson and Pickwick lakes, Whitehead prefers 12-foot rods at the bow. He places 10-foot rods across the stern for his clients because the shorter rods are easier for them to handle. Rods are spread evenly across the bow and stern for uniform coverage and easy access to the poles. “I’m a fanatic on keeping 11⁄2 feet between each rod,” says Whitehead, who also keeps each rod tip about 8 to 10 inches above the water.

He usually sets his baits at different depths, varying about 1 to 2 feet. “I want my shallowest rods to my right and left, but the deepest rods are always the two in the middle,” he says. His poles are rigged with B’n’M Capps and Coleman Minnow Rigs (with a 1-ounce weight).

Whitehead’s choice of rod holder is a four-pole Hi-Tek Stuff mount. He positions two of the mounts about 3 feet apart on the bow and stern. “Position rod racks so when you are sitting, you don’t hit your knees on the rod handles,” he says. “Make sure they’re far enough away, but not too far to where you have to bend to get the rods. You want to be able to sit up straight when you grab rods.”


Capps’ Pads


Pad fishing

Six-time national champions Ronnie Capps and Steve Coleman are renowned for their spider-rigging tactics in the lily pad stems at Reelfoot Lake. The key to their setup is a customized pole-holder system with independent mounts rather than a rack that holds multiple rods. “The rod holders cradle the poles so you have no trouble getting your hand between the forks of the holder and the rod butt. And when you grab a pole out of the holder it’s a quick reaction,” says Capps. “You’re able to get your hand in there with no problem.

“The reason for the independent holders is because I want my poles to be ultra still. With a T-bar type mount, on the other hand, if you grab one pole from a set of four, you disturb the other three rods and you can’t detect a bite. With independent holders, you can detect bites well. I also think fish bite better when a pole isn’t moving much.

Capps is constantly moving his poles off the pad stems to prevent hang-ups. He says the individually mounted holders are critical in this situation because getting hung up on one pole doesn’t disturb the others.

The Tennessee pro also prefers a rod holder with a Y-fork cradle rather than a U-shaped cradle, for better hook-sets. “If you see a bite and the line is scooting to the left, you want to set the hook to the right. But with some of the U-shaped holders there is only one way to get that pole out—straight up,” Capps says.

The depth and cover Capps fishes determines how far apart he positions 8 poles across the front of the boat. “If I’m fishing shallow and directly into spots that I expect fish to be in, I bunch poles tight,” he says. “If I’m trying to cover more area on a shallow flat, I set them farther apart.”
For pushing a single 1/16-ounce jig on 6-pound line in the lily pads, Capps uses 16-foot B’n’M jig poles (model BGJP163). “I get more bites having my baits farther from me with 16-foot poles than I do with 14-footers,” he says, also noting that 16-footers allow him to cover a wider swath of water. Extra length also keeps his jigs farther from the boat, away from trolling motor noise that could spook shallow fish.


Huckabee’s Suspenders


Riprap and breakline trolling

Oklahoma guide and tournament competitor Todd Huckabee prefers single-pole fishing whenever possible. But there are certain conditions when he resorts to spider-rigging, such as during the postspawn on his home waters of Lake Eufaula when crappies pull off the bank and suspend 2 to 6 feet deep over riprap and breaklines in the depth range of 10 to 15 feet.

Four-rod Perotti-Bilt rod holders are Huckabee’s choices for spider-rigging. “They are simple and sturdy,” he says. “When a fish hammers one pole, the other three don’t shake—you can tell which pole got the bite.” He mounts his rod holders on each side of the boat’s bow, positioning the rods about 2 feet off the floor. “I want rods set where I can reach over and set the hook quickly, without having to bend over too far,” he says.

His choices for spider-rigging poles are 11-footers with plenty of backbone. “When I get bit I can pull the fish up with that pole in between all the other poles.” he says. Huckabee sometimes varies his presentation between minnow rigs and tandem-jig rigs, but most of the time he spider-rigs with two jigs of varying colors.


Morrow’s Crank-Pushing




Pushing crankbaits

Pushing crankbaits in front of his boat has become an effective spider-rigging trick for Barry Morrow. The tournament competitor and guide rigs each 11-foot pole with a 2- to 3-ounce egg weight, glass bead, and swivel, followed by a Lindy Shadling crankbait on a 3-foot leader. When he fishes tournaments with a partner, Morrow pushes crankbaits with 8 rods, starting with 2 pointing straight out the nose of the boat and the other 6 spread about 2 feet apart on the port and starboard sides.

Morrow also uses 4-pole Perotti-Bilt holders that allow him to easily adjust the rod positions. “I like to have a rod rack that is adjustable vertically as well as horizontally,” he says. Wind and wave action usually dictate how high he positions his rods over the water. He says the lower the better, preferring to keep rod tips about 3 inches above the water.

The next time you see a spider-rigging setup, you might be able to decode their fishing situation. Or someone might be studying your boat, trying to unravel the crappie-catching web you’re weaving.


Giant Southern Crappies

A slab crappie has different connotations in various parts of the country. Anglers in some regions classify ...


Spider-Rigging and Exploitation

Sustainable FisheriesSpider-rigging, or vertical trolling with multiple poles in a fanned out fashion, typically off the...

  • Bobby McGee

    I dont know.. this is a little overkill dont you think? How about just throwing an M-80 down to the brushpile? Seems that when you find the fish and just hang over them with these rigs you can just gut the crappie population if you wanted to. I'm all for catchin fish but if I'm so desparate to eat fish I'll just take a little of that money, that would be spent on "special rod holders" ( prob 100$ apeice) and such and go BUY some fish! I'm wondering whatever happened to just enjoying time spent. Guess I'm just "Old School".

    • john

      overkill is an understatement

    • http://YAHOO LWFISHER


      • John

        The black market or up in northern wisconsin……

    • Bob

      All those rods out reminds me of the Charter Boats on Lake Michigan. Rods with huge cannon ball weights down about 100 ft, the fish hook themself. The skill is one rod in your hand.

    • Harold

      You are right on. I just like to fish and in joy , Iam go to try fishing with a fly rod on the pan fish and bass, I used to fish for trout all the time with fly rod. and did in joy it.

    • Willy

      Right there with ya.
      I never fish more than one rod. And I always best my buddies who use more.
      Which leads me to state:
      "One rod fished well is better than twenty rods fished poorly"

    • GratefulDB

      Unbelievable! You should be ashamed of yourselves for publishing that article. As stated below, I dont know what states allow that many rods for a single angler but I hope there arent many. There is nothing wrong with discussing the species' habits or your best alternatives when the bite is tough but 8 rods is just plain wrong!

    • jody gile

      old school is the way, for us it's the time with family and friends that matters the most..

  • Gene Westermeyer

    Most Informative, I have always wondered about the way the poles are spread and techniques used.

  • Joe Palmer

    Great article, very good informationI I do love to catch and release crappies and eat some.

  • Dave Cole

    I am sorry but 8 poles in the water is a bit much, maybe it is because i wasn't raised fishing this way. I can see however if all 8 pole got going at the same time there could be a bit of excitement, but than again I get that feeling every time I hook a fish.

    • Fred R Claus

      I'm with you Dave. I have found that if the fish are biting, one pole is enough for me to handle. If the fish are not biting, twenty-five poles are not enough.

  • Nick

    stupidist thing I have erver seen

  • Mathew Liesse

    Pretty sure there are laws about how many poles one can use at a time. I believe in Illinois you can only have 2 in the water per fishing licence on the boat.

  • Justin Bishop

    I hear all the time about how spider rigging isn't fair or someone going on and on about how its not fishing fact is its the most effective way to catch crappie people that arent doing it are one not smart enough or two way too cheap for all the equipment required keep throwing bobbers keeps you from catching my crappie!

    • jessica alba nude

      lol i know right

  • S Baker

    Must not be fishing in the "great" State of Ohio, where the all-knowing politicians have made it illegal to have more than 2 lines per person (and one cannot legally clean or possess fillets on or at a body of water.

    • Wayne

      ONE line in the summer here in Minnesota!!!! We can have shore lunch as long as any uncooked fish is identifible.

  • Dave Raymond

    Might as well use a net and dip for specks. Nothing about fishing, all about pushing merchandise. Crappie are schooling fish, you can't miss using a tackle shop full of rods. Wether catch and release or not, forget this type of decimation. Signed a sportsman

  • Bill Bush

    Not much sport there. Most of us fish for the pleasure it brings, not to overkill. More than two rods is a crime.

  • Bob J

    Just 2 rods per person here in Ind. Have enough trouble keeping them straight

    • Organizer

      3 rods in Indiana check u laws. but it looks like a tangled up miss if u had 6 Crappies at 1 time.

  • John G

    Maybe the only wall these guys can catch fish. Seems like to much work to me. If these guys use these tactics during a tourney I wonder how they would do with just one pole at time like the bass pros do.

  • Rob E

    Whether you fish with 1 pole or 8 poles each state has placed a limit on the number or crappie you can keep per day so at the end of the day you can only keep that many . Here in Missouri we are linited to 3 poles per angler so using 4 in a tournament doesnt bother partner fishes with the other 4 .

    • vette64772

      In Missouri you may fish a many poles as you like with a limit of 3 hooks per pole and a limit of 33 hooks in the water per person, Every pole beyond 3 has to be matked with the owner's name and complete address.

  • Randy Hooser

    Most pro's that I know would put a whuppin on you with one pole just as easy, they also follow the laws of each state as well, if you don't like fishing with 4 poles then don't, there are days when nothing works

  • Vic TAnkersley

    this is the same tactics used by guides on some of the souths best crappie lakes like Weiss Lake in Centre Al and on Eufaula Lake in Eufaula Al..This is greed fishing at it's worst. It's all about the numbers a guide can tell his clients. It has almost distroyed the population of crappie at what use to be called the "Crappie Fishing Capital of The World". I will stick to one rod and if I don't get a limit which most guides in these areas double for a fee. I will just clean what I can and go again some other day..Shame on you In Fisherman…

  • Ralph Manns

    Yes, it could lead to over-harvest, and once a big school of crappie is found it could lead to excessive action and too many hook-ups at one time.

    But, for the person who is trying to locate crappie that are spread out over a wide flat and not easily found at known brush piles, this technique is a lot faster and effective at finding a few fish than random casting with one rod.

  • k-man

    looks effective

  • k-man

    WOW!!! That really looks effective!!!!!:o

  • Dave Knoy

    Great way to fish I agree with Randy since we fish together

  • eric

    I live in Oklahoma. And we can fish like that but we dont. It makes no sense.I fish from the bank and i catch alot of crappie i dont need 5 or 6 hundred dollars worth of grear to catch them

  • RAT

    I live in Oklahoma and have found that spider rigging is a very effective way to locate crappie. With todays gas prices it's hard to go fishing and not bring home enough to make it worth the time and effort. Spider rigging is a great way to fish and I don't think it will hurt the crappie population in our area lakes. Most lakes here have a 10" length limit and a 15 fish creel limit. Just obey the laws.

  • Don

    I keep seeing different setups for lakes 1000 miles away. What I would like to see is some rigging for Washington state

  • Louie Hart

    In Pa. where only aloud 2 poles in the water at one time.

  • Organizer

    when fishing 4 Crappies i have a great time with one pole, one pole will keep u plenty busy when Crappies r hitting. could u imagine 8 Crappies at the same time KNOT CITY.

  • guest

    Let's see you catch a limit of Crappie from the bank wiht 1 pole in January. If you wil read the situations they are fishing multi pole rigs are often certain conditions. January, crappie suspended at 30' in 40 feet of water and not bunched up. A spide rig can still have a good day of fishing.

    Many of us fish for crappie 12 months out of the year, and one pole sitting on the bank will not do it unless they are in the spawn.

  • jody gile

    i don't know what the big deal is? If you use one pole or a hundred. it about fishing getting away from life for just a couple of hours, i love to fish, it's me against them, and boy do the win (sometimes…lol)

  • tim markel

    I would like to see anyone with one or two pools out fish someone spider rigging in a mid summer crappie tournament. You would not even be close.

  • JT

    You guys killing me…each to there own way of fishing. Nothing wrong with one pole or 8. There's always a new way of being effective so please don't judge anyone unless you are helping them spend the money. Actually one pole is all I use to use until I started spider rigging but now I love it… it didn't just make my catch rate Increase actually It just gave me more locations and knowledge on another way of fishing. This look easy but it really not easy as you think. As long as you keep fishing with one pole I don't have to worry about you catching the deep water slabs cause usually single pole guys are anchored or tied to a tree waiting on the crappie to bite. Sometime you have to go find him when he change patterns. It's proven winter,summer,fall,spring. Anyone is a crappie fisherman in April. You have fisherman and anglers which are you. Enjoy the outdoors and live to be happy understand people challenge themselves daily with different tasks….

  • Dave

    How fast do you push for crappie with 1/2 Oz 13ft in open water? is that right size weight? Help

back to top