Jul 5, 2017

Trolling for Crappies- Easier Than You Think!

By: Jesse Quale

With today's technology, there are so many different ways to target panfish. Some guys are old school and think that panfish can only be caught up shallow. Others are fishing deep weedlines with slip bobbers and live bait. Still others like to pitch plastics around docks, trees and weeds, and vertical jig the main lake humps. These are all great ways to target panfish and have been very effective for many, many years. The new era of targeting panfish is to troll.

Just a few years back, Off Shore Tackle came out with the OR12 side planer inline board. In fact, Tommy Skarlis won the 2013 Crappie Masters National Championship trolling with the OR12. He says, "Most inline boards on the market are designed for targeting walleye, trout, salmon and larger species."  So new for the 2017 season, Off Shore Tackle has introduced the OR38 Awesome Crappie Board. It is designed to float, plane quickly to the side and create as little resistance in the water as possible. This makes it stealthier than the OR12. It is ideal for fishing with the light lines and rods, small spoons and cranks that crappie anglers use. The nice part about the OR38 is you can stack two, three or four boards on each side of the boat. Placing multiple boards on one side gives you the advantage of detecting a small weed that has snagged the lure. That board will fall out of the pattern when this happens. This gives you the opportunity to quickly clear the line and get back to trolling for fish. The OR38 comes factory supplied with an OR10 (yellow) line release on the bracket of the board and an OR16 (red) Pro Snap Weight Clip mounted to the tail of the board.

This past season I had a chance to fish with the OR38 Awesome Crappie Board all over the Badger State on both lakes and rivers. We also started fishing the OR38 Awesome Crappie Board last spring on the Petenwell Flowage during the crappie and white bass spawn. There we were trolling the river stretch just down below the Nekoosa Dam, in 4 to 8 feet of water over rocks. We ran downriver about a half mile, setup, and zigzagged back and forth heading upriver against the current. We would simply let out 15 to 25 feet of line, clip on the OR38 and send them out.  The new strategy brought us a mixed bag of success.

Later on in the spring, we ran down to a smaller lake in the south central part of Wisconsin, Lake Redstone. This lake is well-known for its awesome crappie fishing. Here we stacked 4 OR38 boards to a side to cover as much water as we could. We trolled both shallow and deep. Fish really seemed to be tight to structure. Out deep we trolled over the tops of trees and other submerged timber. Up shallow, we trolled along rocky shorelines and along rocky cliffs. Other times, the fish were stacked out on main lake points and flats. Here we ran #4 Hornets and #5 Shad Raps. We drove around for a few minutes and side imaged a few areas with my Humminbird, then made a few waypoints and took note of what depth the fish were at. Once we located some fish, we turned around and setup. Here, we stacked baits in different depths 20, 30 and 40 feet behind the board to get the baits in front of as many fish as possible.

Early to mid-summer we trolled the OR38 Awesome Crappie Boards out on Lake Winnebago. On this lake, we started the day trolling up and down the west shore in 4 to 10 feet of water. We were targeting walleye along sand and rock shorelines. For baits, we pulled small reef runners, #5 Hornets and #5 Shad Raps. We simply started just north of the river mouth, let out 20 to 30 feet of line, clipped on the OR38 board and trolled north, zigzagging in and out a short way off the shore, covering as much water as possible.

Later in the day, still on Lake Winnebago, we headed out and trolled across the reefs and main lake rock piles. Here we pulled crawler harnesses 20 to 40 feet behind the boards. At times, we would run a #5 split shot a couple of feet above the harness and other times we ran no weight at all. The key was to run the baits just above the rock or just below the surface of the water. We were targeting suspended fish (walleye).   

Finally, late last summer out on Castle Rock and Petenwell Flowages I had another chance to fish with the OR38 Awesome Crappie Board. I trolled a couple of main lake humps and flats. Here, I stacked 4 of the boards to a side and ran #5 flicker shads. The most effective speed was 2 to 2.3 mph. As you can tell, I like to cover as much water as possible. Most of the time, during the summer months, the fish will be suspended high in the water column. These suspended fish will also be the most active fish. 

For the last couple of years on the flowages, the fish have been very high in the water column on sunny days and down a little deeper on cloudy days. On both Castle Rock and Petenwell Flowages, I would run my baits at all different depths. I would start out with my farthest board at 20 feet, and the second board at 30 feet. My strategy is to work my way down the line with the closest board to the boat being the deepest. I then would troll over the flats or humps in many different directions and even changed the speed up or slowed it down at times. This was a very productive way to put a mixed bag of fish in the boat on any given day!


To setup the board, an angler simply needs to let out his lure line a distance behind the boat and then place the line between the rubber pads on the OR10 clip. Next, the OR16 (red) Pro Snap Weight Clip is opened up and the line is placed behind the small plastic pin, located in the middle of the release. With the OR38 properly set, the board should plane to the side in a smooth manner.  If the line doesn't trip when the fish strikes, the angler can trip the line from the front release with just a little snap of the rod. Once the board is released from the OR10 front release, the OR38 spins around but stays attached to the line because of the OR16 Snap Weight Clip.  The hooked fish starts to slide to the back of the boat, making it possible for a fish hooked on an outside board to be landed without having to clear other boards. 

The OR38 Awesome Crappie Board was designed for crappie trolling. However, the lightweight board will work great for other aggressive panfish and larger species of fish! What I really like about the OR38 is it's small, compact and will store in just about any given space without taking up too much room. Another great thing about the OR38 is you can switch the center black bracket to either the port (left) or starboard (right) side of each individual board. The OR38 is very family friendly and easy to use. As a full time guide, I love to see kids or people in general having fun in the outdoors. The new OR38 Awesome Crappie Board will make those slow days of walleye fishing, a great day for targeting crappie, white bass, bluegill and even some fat smallies! The Awesome Crappie Board can be fished with in just about any given body of water, from big lakes, all the way down to small streams. 

With Wisconsin changing the trolling laws by opening it up to virtually statewide, (NOTE: You may not be able to troll on some lakes, streams or certain areas on some certain lakes. On other lakes, the number of rods and baits may be different) it is a great technique to try when others are not working. Make sure to check with local bait shops and the current WI DNR Fishing Regulations for information on trolling the bodies of water you intend to fish! 

Best of luck on the water this upcoming season! Have a great time, be safe, and remember to take a kid fishing.