Wisconsin fishing guide and tackle company owner Tony Puccio (seriouswalleye.com) hammers prespawn crappies by trolling jigs behind four mini planer boards—a smaller version of what walleye anglers use to spread lines for greater coverage. Puccio’s tactic is an inexpensive alternative to spider rigging. And since these small planers have little resistance, you, and any young anglers along, can hold a rod and watch the board for a strike. Here’s how.
Hotspots: On natural lakes, sun-warmed northern shorelines are the first to attract prespawn crappies. Troll parallel to shorelines where they spawn. Warming trends draw crappies closer to the bank; cold fronts push them farther from it. In reservoirs, prespawn crappies flock to coves and suspend between the creek channel and the bank. Troll the area in a grid pattern until you start getting bites. Then make repeated passes over the productive water.
Low & Slow: Trolling at 0.7 mph with an electric motor is the ideal speed for prespawn crappies. “A 1⁄16-ounce jig gets down about 7 feet and a ⅛-ounce jig about 12 feet,” says Puccio. Drop a ⅛-ounce jig into the water and let out 30 feet of line. Clip a Mini Planer to the line, then let out more line until the board swims 20 feet from the side of the boat. Next, let out a board with a 1⁄16-ounce jig 10 feet from the same side of the boat. Run this setup off both gunnels with the rods placed in rod holders.
Crappie Tackle: Puccio uses Mini Planers from Off Shore Tackle. Any 6½- to 7½-foot medium-action spinning or spincasting rod will do. He recommends 8-pound FireLine affixed to an 18-inch, 6-pound-test fluorocarbon leader via a black No. 12 swivel.
Fish On!: When a crappie nabs a jig, the board slides backward. Sweep the rod back gently and reel slowly. Stop reeling when the board comes within reach; detach it and continue the fight. When a strike happens on an outside board, let out line to the corresponding inside board so it slides back. This prevents tangling.
Balanced Meal:The lines are rigged with Puccio’s own 1⁄16- and ⅛-ounce Slo-Poke jigs, dressed with a 1-inch white or yellow tube. He tips each jig’s wide-gap hook with a 1- to 1½-inch fathead minnow.