Spider Rigging and Exploitation

Spider rigging, or vertical trolling with multiple poles in a fanned out fashion, typically off the bow of the boat, has traditionally been a popular tactic to catch crappies in summer when they often inhabit open water, although its use has increased across the seasons. Creel surveys on Mississippi's popular crappie reservoirs suggest that spider-rigging has increased substantially in recent years. With an eye toward being proactive about possible increases in crappie harvest, researchers evaluated spider-rigging and single-pole fisheries—how catch rates differ between methods, whether catch rates of spider-riggers are related to the number of poles fished, and to what extent spider-rigging affects exploitation.*

The study was done on Sardis, Enid, and Grenada lakes, three Mississippi waters that are renowned for producing numbers of slab crappies. These reservoirs, in addition to Arkabutla, lie within a region dubbed the "Arc of Slabs" in In-Fisherman magazine. Over 2,200 crappie anglers making up over 1,218 crappie parties (628 pole fishing and 590 spider-rigging) were surveyed. Average trip lengths were 2.8 hours and 3.7 hours for pole anglers and spider-riggers, respectively. In spring, 90 percent of crappie anglers were polers; in summer 85 percent were spider-riggers.

Overall, spider-riggers had higher catch and harvest rates than polers, although patterns weren't consistent across the three test reservoirs. Spider-riggers caught just over 3 crappies per hour and harvested 1.72 per hour. Catch rate and harvest of polers was 1.18 and 0.86 fish per hour. For both groups, catch rates peaked in spring. Average weights of crappies caught also peaked in spring, with the smallest fish caught in summer and early fall. Weights didn't differ between groups at Grenada, while average weights were greater for polers than for spider-riggers at Sardis and Enid.

The effect of the number of poles used in spider-rigging on catch rates and harvest was studied at Sardis Lake. Catch rates by spider-riggers was related to the number of rods fished, although the relationship flattened as the number of rods increased. Catch rate and harvest were variable among spider-riggers, although in general the harvest rate by one spider-rigger fishing 3 poles was about the same as obtained by one poler (1.15 crappies per hour). When harvest was low, the number of poles didn't increase harvest rate.

The researchers conclude that crappie harvest should increase as the proportion of spider-riggers in a fishery increases, the number of poles used by spider-riggers increases, or both. Simulations predicted that in a fishery with a 50:50 mix of spider-riggers and polers, exploitation is about 1.3 times higher than in a single-pole-only fishery. If 100 percent of crappie anglers were spider-riggers, exploitation sees a 1.7-times increase.

Since 2007, the study reservoirs have been managed with a bag limit of 20 crappies and a 12-inch minimum length limit. Sardis and Enid lakes have a 5-pole-per-angler limit, while anglers are allowed only 3 poles at Grenada to sustain the trophy fishery. At a 50:50 ratio of spider-riggers to polers, harvest should remain sustainable. The researchers suggest, however, that as spider-rigging continues to increase in these waters, it can become a concern because crappie fisheries are mostly consumptive, which can lead to overexploitation.

Meals, K. O., Dunn, A. W., and L. E. Miranda. 2012. Trolling may intensify exploitation in crappie fisheries. N. Am. J. Fish. Mgmt. 32:325-332.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You


Sensational New Softbaits for Bass

Steve Quinn - April 22, 2019

Steve Quinn talks new softbaits for bass from Berkley.


Using Crankbaits For Smallmouth Bass

Matt Straw - January 31, 2016

Crankin' is almost a necessity for finding bass on the Great Lakes from summer through fall.


Topwater Lure Secrets for Bass

Jim Edlund - April 26, 2018

These secrets will put more and bigger bass in your boat!

See More Recommendations

Trending Stories

Boats & Motors

2- Vs. 4-Cycle Outboard Motors

Dan Johnson - April 16, 2018

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a...


All About Catfish

Rob Neumann

Catfish are among the most popular groups of fish with over 7 million catfish anglers...


Catfish Pole Rigs

Richard Peterson with In-Fisherman - April 28, 2016

Pole lines illustrate the paradox of catfishing. At a time when excellent rods, reels, and...

See More Stories

More Panfish


Dock Shooting Crappies

Matt Straw - July 03, 2018

Catch those weary crappie with this technique!


Balance Lures for Big Panfish

Cory Schmidt - March 07, 2019

Balanced jigging lures for big panfish may be the least understood category of ice lures, yet...


Bluegill Management Strategies

Dr. Hal Schramm - March 12, 2018

Until a few years ago, the management strategy for good bluegill fishing—meaning good...

See More Panfish

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.