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The Art of Spider-Rigging

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   Spider-rigging (slow vertical trolling) is becoming more and more popular among tournament pros and weekend anglers. Many tournaments and classics has been won by using this technique, and is proven to be the most productive method for putting good numbers of crappie in your livewell.
   The term "spider-rigging" comes from the way the boat is rigged, with poles sticking out from all sides of the boat looking like a spider. This set-up allows the anglers to cover alot of water at various depths and quickly search for potential crappie hangouts and finding schools of crappie. Once the fish is found, this deadly technique allows the anglers to present the baits thoroughly around dropoffs, brush piles, and other similar cover.


   Almost any boat can be used for spider-rigging, but make sure that it suits your style of fishing and comfort, although the bigger the boat, the better. The smaller boats' biggest enemy is the wind and waves, which would make it difficult to maneuver the boat and may cause your poles and baits to bounce up and down. The bigger aluminum or fiberglass boats provide more room and safety. There are many other things to consider when rigging your boat:
**Seating: There are three seating options for spider-rigging. You can fish alone in front, you and a partner in front and back, or you and a partner in the front. There are many advantages to having both partners on the front of the boat. Both of you can present your baits around the same cover, taking turns with the trolling motor controls. When one hooks a fish the other can grab the landing net, and one can watch the other's poles while the other unhooks the fish or baits the hooks. The only time we use the front/back seating is in strong windy conditions when its harder to control the boat and the back is more stable.
**Trolling Motor: It is very important to have a good quality trolling motor with variable speeds, which is vital when slow trolling over structures. Since the trolling motor runs constantly while spider-rigging, the batteries can drain alot quicker. We use the
Minn Kota trolling motor simply because they are quiet as to not spooking the fish, and can run up to 5 times longer on a single battery charge.  Troll as slowly as possible over cover. When fish are aggressive or when trolling with crankbaits on back of the boat, adjust to faster speeds.
**Locators: A good quality locator will help show you details of fish, cover and depths. We depend heavily on 
Humminbird fishfinders for spider-rigging because they show incredibly wide areas and clearer details under the boat. Always watch your locator very closely, and when you come upon a potential crappie hotspot, mark your spot and fish the area thoroughly.
**Pole holders: Using quality pole holders on a rack is required to fish with multi-pole techniques. The key is to hold the poles at the same height and close together so you can see the bites much easier. We use a pair of 
Driftmaster T-250-HC system with the new Gun Slinger rod holders on the front. With the Driftmaster rod holders, we can quickly lift the poles straight up for an instant hookset and they last a lifetime.
**Landing nets: It's good to have a landing net close by and easy to reach. Fish tend to run to the sides when they are hooked and can tangle up with the other lines, so by quickly reaching in with a landing net will help save you time and perhaps netting the big slabs will prevent breaking your lines and poles.


Poles: Long poles are critical when trolling in front of the boat. They should be long enough to keep the lines away from the trolling motor and baits away from the boat to avoid spooking the fish. However, you can use smaller rods on the sides and back of the boat when trolling.
We use 12' Jigging Poles and 14'
B'n'M Trolling Poles for slow
trolling. They are strong enough to use heavier weights for windy conditions and for swinging the bigger fish into the boat, yet very sensitive to detect light bites. They are also limber enough to absorb the shock from waves and prevent the baits from bouncing up and down with the boat. We paint our pole tips with bright orange paint to help us detect the light bites easier from 14 feet away, and the color orange is easier to see in all water and weather conditions. 
Reels: Any reel will do, but most trolling anglers use either spinning or baitcasting reels. We use spinning reels, since they have bigger handles to easily grab and reel. They are also light and give a "balanced" feel when holding our poles.


There are many different ways to rig for slow trolling. We use a "Double Jig or Minnow Rig" in shallower water, and we also use the famous "Capps and Coleman Rig" in depths more than 5 feet. 
The Double jig/minnow Rig consists of a spooled 6 or 8-pound line tied to the top of a size #6 or #8 3-way swivel. Tie a 6-pound leader 12" long to the side eye of the swivel with a 1/32 or a 1/16 oz. jig or #2 size minnow hook. Then tie a 30" leader to the bottom eye of the swivel. Attach a 1/8 oz. jig or another minnow hook 18" below the swivel with a palomar knot and tie a bell weight, No-Snagg or a drop-shot sinker to the end of the line.
The Capps and Coleman rig can be spooled with a 8 or 10-pound line tied to the top or a size #6 or #8 3-way swivel. Then tie a 6-pound line about 12" long to the side eye of the swivel with a 1/32 or 1/16 oz. jig or #2 minnow hook. Then tie on about a 4 foot length leader to the bottom eye of the swivel. An 1/2 oz. egg sinker is then tied on about 18" below the swivel, and another 1/32 or 1/16 oz jig or minnow hook is tied about 12" below the sinker. In windy conditions, use a heavier 3/4 oz. egg sinker to prevent the rig from "bouncing" with the waves.

Minnows are favored and used by most spider-rigging fishermen. Nothing looks more natural with live smell, action and flash to crappie than minnows. When hooking a minnow, always hook them through the lips so they can swim naturally and live longer while slow trolling. However, jigs can also be very productive when tipped with other live bait such as
Grubco's Wax Worms, Mealy Worms or Spikes. 
We use a variety of baits while trolling, using a double-jig combo, double-minnow combo, or a jig/minnow combo with different colors to find out what the crappie prefer for that day. The jigs that we have the most success with for trolling are the Swim Fin Grubs and the Tassel Tail Grubs from the
Culprit Crappie Baits series. These grubs have a life-like kicking tail for subtle waves of action even at very slow speeds. Culprit Crappie Baits series also have the Paddle Tail and the Curl Tail Grubs that we use when the water is really murky. These grubs give out the vibration to help the crappie to locate the offerings.
No matter what rig you use, it never hurts to add live bait or other scents to the minnow or jig, especially when the fishing is tough. We like to tip our jigs with a minnow, but since we started adding Grubco worms to the minnows and jigs, our catch ratio increased
even more. While trolling with multiple poles, give the crappie a smorgasbord by adding worms to some of your rigs and minnows to the others to let them decide what they want to eat. 


Boat control is the single most important element for spider-rigging. The key to successful boat controlling is speed. The best way to tell what your speed limit is by watching the lines. The lines should go back around a 15-degree angle while moving forward. With this speed, you can still cover alot of water and is slow enough to give the fish a chance to see and attack. Going slower will cause your hooks to tangle with the leaders.
When the winds are blowing, its best to face the wind so you can have complete control of the boat and speed. You may have to run the trolling motor faster to keep up with the wind but still watch your lines to maintain your boat speed. The winds, however, help with boat control when fishing over brush piles, dropoffs, and other cover. When you come to a good spot, step off the pedal and let the wind ease you back so you can keep presenting your baits in and out of the cover. It also helps when getting a bite, the wind will ease you back while you unhook the fish so you can troll right back into the cover again. Remember, the wind is your brakes and helps you reverse.


- Always keep your poles at the same height and evenly spaced apart. You will know immediately when you get a bite and the pole tip is out of position. Also keep your pole tips no more than 12" above water. This helps prevent the winds from blowing your lines around and tangling with other lines.
-With each pole as you're trolling set the baits at different depths.  For example, on one pole set the bait just a foot off the bottom.  The next pole, set it another foot or two higher than the first, and so on.  Once you catch fish, adjust all the poles to around the same depth and baits.
- Don't be afraid to "bump" your baits into ledges, stumps, brush piles, etc.., that's when a lot of bites occur. When you get hung up on an object, just back up and shake the sinkers and they will usually come loose.
- ALWAYS watch your lines and pole tips for bites, and maintain your boat speed so that your lines are at a 15-degree angle.
- Check with your
State's fishing regulations for number of poles allowed per angler. Some states allows 2 per angler, while another may allow 4 per angler. Fishing with a partner will double the number of poles for spider-rigging. Trolling with just 4 poles (2 per angler) can be just as effective as with a total of 8 poles.
- Studying a map and knowing the seasonal patterns of crappie can help you eliminate a lot of water, and concentrate on trolling in areas likely to hold crappie.

   Get the right equipment, rig your boat, and practice spider-rigging. Once you gain experience and catch lots of fish, you may never go back to your other technique again!

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