The initial cost for any type of multi-rod fishing is not cheap, but it doesn’t have to break the bank either. As is the case with most new tactics, there is top-of-the-line gear, and there is gear that will work. It’s important to remember though, that regardless of the cost, the gear has to be durable. Especially in the case of spider rigging for crappie.
Here is a quick rundown of the gear needed to get started spider rigging for crappie:
- Trolling racks
- Terminal tackle
There are a multitude of different trolling racks designed for spider rigging. While some offer features others do not, they are all designed to do the same thing, hold rods in a horizontal position with the tips just above the water, allowing for adjustments for each rod.
How many rod holders – Standard rod racks hold 4 rods, and most anglers utilize 2 racks on the front of the boat. This is really dependent on state or specific lake regulations, but even if 6 rods are the maximum allowed, two racks are still the best option. If 2 rods per angler is the limit, then single rod holders may offer the best option, as two fishermen working off the same rack will be uncomfortable.
What height should they be – An 18-inch vertical post is the standard. This puts the butts of the rods right at the angler’s knees. The exceptions are boats with shorter raised decks on the nose of the boats in front of the seat bases. Many of the rod rack manufactures like Hi-Tek Stuff, PerottiBuilt and Driftmaster offer 9-inch vertical posts for boats with this configuration.
Where do I mount them – Spider-riggers use longer rods to get away from the noise caused by the boat and trolling motor. With this in mind, the racks should be placed as far forward as possible, with respect to the trolling motor’s deployment action, the width of the boat and the seat placement. The butt end of the rods should be within a few inches of an anglers knees for quick hooksets. Sit in the boat in the driveway and move the racks around to get it perfect before hitting the water.
Do I need singles or racks – Single rod holders have gained popularity among tournament anglers over the last few years, but they are not for everyone. Single rod holders were designed to eliminate transfer of motion, meaning that when a crappie hit a bait, it would only cause a reaction on one pole, as opposed to a hard hit causing the entire rack to jolt, giving the appearance that all 4 rods have a bite.
This is an advanced tactic, as intently watching 4 rod tips spread across a 90 degrees takes a lot of concentration, and a rod rack will show a good bite on the inside pole by slightly shaking the other 3, making it a matter of finding the one with the fish on the line. The exception is when fishing in states where only 2 rods are allowed per angler, in which case single rod holders are a more logical choice. Fully adjustable single rod racks start at around $60 each, which is also a factor.
Can I make my own – Many anglers getting started make or attempt their own rod racks. There are bolt-on and clamp-on rod holders for as cheap as $3 a piece, and they can be fastened to wood, PVC, and many other materials. The drawback is the lack of adjustability and low profile bases that come with prepackaged racks. It is also easy to spend more time and money building a rack that ends up less functional than one that could have been purchased. However, there are some handy fishermen with the tools and know-how to build solid DIY racks.
When considering rods, crappie anglers need to consider construction, cost, length, strength among other things. Here is a quick exercise in choosing the right rods.
Fiberglass vs. graphite – Spider rigging rods are a matter of cost and quality. Fiberglass rods will work for this technique, and many anglers who are just getting started take advantage of the lower price point, averaging around $20. Fiberglass rods are tough and inexpensive, however those are their only redeeming qualities. They are difficult to find in lengths above 12-foot, and the limberness of the tips will result in losing a few feet when pushing weights of 3/8-ounce and more.
Graphite rods are stiffer, more sensitive, lighter, and provide a lot more options. The most popular lengths are 12- or 14-footers, and the top brands cost around $40-50 apiece.
Rod strength – The best rods to use for spider-rigging depend on a few factors. If deep water (15 feet plus) will be you’re target area, keeping lines near vertical in front of you while maintaining the standard 0.3 mph will require a ½ to 1-ounce sinker. This amount of weight necessitates a legitimate trolling rod with plenty of backbone.
While the B’n’M Pro Staff Troller is the staple based on strenth, versatility and price, other solid rods are the Lew’s Wally Marshall Signature Series, the Lew’s Mr. Crappie Custom, BassPro Shop’s CrappieMaxx, and the Ozark Trolling Rods.
If shallower water is the target, or if you only intend to push lightweight jigs, you can get away with any graphite jig rods on the market.
Rod length – Here is what shocks many anglers new to spider-rigging. Unless the only depths you intend to fish are over 15-foot, 12-foot rods are the minimum length advised. If 8 to 12-foot water is the target, 14-foot rods are the best betd. When fishing extremely shallow water, 16-foot rods will garner the most bites, however they can be difficult to handle.
While crappie can be caught using shorter rods, crappie are similar to every other species. As they get older, they get smarter. Young, small crappie are less affected by boat noise, but trophy fish will scatter the second they hear a foreign sound.
Outside of fishing in extreme depths, anglers rarely reel crappie while spider-rigging. What is paramount when choosing a reel is gear strength, durability, and drag. Again, the rod, reel, and line must be able to handle every kind of fish, until you get it out of the rack and take over. The most common line size is 10-pound, and using reels that aren’t rated for your line will result in very short lifespans.
Spincast and Triggerspin Reels – There are actually some anglers and guides that use push button reels while spider-rigging. The drawback is the lack of durability and a smooth drag system, and although there are a few quality spincast reels like the Zebco Delta and Omega series, they’re expensive. Triggerspins are essentially the same reels, with the added disadvantage of possibly engaging the trigger when grabbing the rod.
Mini-reels – Miniature, open-spool reels, are considered novelties by serious anglers. The $5-$15 reels in this category lack every aforementioned feature necessary for spider-rigging. The Grizzly G-5000 is the only all-metal mini-reel that features both a star drag and a level-wind, making it the standout leader among this category, and one of very few mini-reels that will stand up to the rigors of a lot of spider-rigging.
Baitcasters – There is no question that the most durable reel on the market is a baitcaster. Anglers often are concerned about their inability to cast baitcasters and the dreaded backlash, but there is no casting in spider-rigging, and by tightening the spool tension backlash will not occur. Many guides use baitcasters due to their durability, and inexpensive, 1-ball bearing reels will get the job done.
Spinning reels – The majority of the country’s top tournament fishermen utilize spinning reels when spider-rigging. The advantages are both the cost (a $15 spinning reel will work fine) and the functionality. The drag on spinning reels are smooth and easy to adjust, line rating isn’t a problem even on very small reels, and the ability to flip the bail and drop your bait in your lap is extremely handy, especially when using live bait on long rods in shallow water.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of spider-rigging is the team aspect. Anglers sit side-by-side in the front of the boat and manage the rods, bait and net as a team. The best way to achieve this is by mounting two extra seat bases on either side of the center base already installed. Many anglers, however, develop ulcers when thinking of taking a hole saw to the deck of their rig, and rod boxes and storage compartments can get in the way. Fortunately other options exist.
The manufactured double seat stands cost more than a couple base plates and aren’t quite as convenient, but they allow you to fish with two people in the front without drilling holes.
The most popular line used throughout the Midwest and South is 10-pound, hi-vis monofilament. The stronger line allows anglers to straighten out light-wire hooks when hung, and the hi-vis line is key to seeing light bites, as well as detecting when you’re hung up.
Terminal tackle by definition is whatever you tie on the end of your line, and there is no end to the options when it comes to spider-rigging. The most commonly used bait is the double minnow rig. This rig is produced in many different variations, but on average it consists of a cross line swivel (not a 3-way) with a 6-inch leader attached to the middle eye, with a No. 2 Aberdeen crappie hook at the end. A 24-inch length of line is tied to the bottom eye of the swivel and an egg sinker is attached by running the line through the weight three times, leaving a 6-inch length where the other No. 2 Aberdeen hook is tied on. This rig is generally baited with a live minnow hooked through the lips on each hook.
Rod transportation and security
With the soaring popularity of spider-rigging and other multi-rod methods, products have emerged to help anglers transport 8 long rods while driving or motoring across the lake. The Driftmaster Tipsaver is the most popular tool utilized, featuring a two-piece, removable boat mount that attaches on the side of the front and back of the boat. The mount allows eight rods to be strapped in without worrying about lines getting tangled and rods getting broken in transport.
For traveling fishermen that are as concerned about theft as they are rod organization, The Rod Safe offers both. It is a three-piece unit that straps in 8 rods in the center and the back, and at the bow of the boat has a hinged top and key lock that easily secures and protects rod and reels.
Getting started spider-rigging can set you back a few dollars, but after initial expenses, inexpensive improvements and upgrades can be made as you go. And bringing in big stringers of crappie while the “springtime only” fishing community tolls away at the supermarket, will make it well worth it!