Tips For Longlining For Crappie

Crappie fishing

Tips For Longlining For Crappie

How To Longline For Crappie

I got a post from social media that ask me if I had any tips for longlining for crappie. The post listed several questions and I tried to answer them as best I could. I was fortunate to be invited to a Brushpile Fishing media camp and that is where this article was created. I was able to get some tips on longline for crappie with some of the best crappie anglers in the business and came away from the trip with great information about longlining for crappie. We stayed with Denny Wilbert at Cedar Hill Marina.

  1. What water temps are ideal for longlining?
  2. What temp do you start longlining
  3. Do you have one lure on, or two?
  4. What’s the typical weight size used?
  5. What speed do you typically run?
  6. What do you do to account for the wind?
  7. Do you go faster with the wind?
  8. Do you use heavier weights? 

When To Start Longlining For Crappie

I start longlining in spring when the water temps hit the 50’s. The crappie are on the move and beginning to eat more with the increase in water temperature. Longlining is ideal for suspended crappie and those crappie that are moving in schools in search of the baitfish. I don’t longline in the winter. So often the crappie are buried up in cover and need some persuasion to even eat your bait. I like to spider rig or single pole in the winter.


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Size Lure To Use Longlining For Crappie

As for size lure to use there is so many variations. When longlining out the back of the boat you can run all the same weights. You can use varying lengths of rods to get the baits separated or you can use varying weights. This gets the baits riding in different parts of the water column preventing the lines from coming in contact and tangling. Different line sizes, amount of line let out, double jig, size jig and other variations are available to the angler to keep some spread on the baits. I’ve even used a crankbait on the front rod to get it deeper than the back 2 or 3.

I will also use a heavy egg sinker on the front rod. Always put the pole that runs shallowest in the back rod holder. Progressively set the deeper poles in the holders going forward. If you’re consistently getting bites at a certain depth, you can move the heavier baits up or down in the water column by the amount of line you let out. The difference in weight will still keep them separated. I only use one side on my spider rig holders but if you have both sides in you can use both sides to separate the baits and spread them out. I usually fish alone so I just use the one side with 4 holders.

Longline From Front or Back Of Boat

You can longline for crappie from the front of the boat or back. Longlining from the front of the boat is really fast-moving spider-rigging. Some call it tight-lining or pushing for crappie. Longlining from the front of the boat is a great way to cover water with several baits. While I have longlined or pushed from the front of the boat as well as the back when there is someone else fishing with me. The front rods are situated in a spread just like spider-rigging. Heavy egg sinkers are a great way to keep your front lines straight down.

The back rods are staggered. Different lengths of crappie rods keep the lines from tangling. It also allows you to cover a wider swath of the water column. Usually when longlining for crappie the fish are scattered and chasing baitfish. For this reason, it is beneficial to cover as wide an area as possible to intercept those crappies that are spread out and not relating to any kind of cover.

What Speed When You Longline For Crappie

The speed is whatever the crappie tells you it is. Generally, .7 to 1.1 is the range but if the crappie isn’t biting at that speed I have trolled cranks as high as 2.2 mph and started catching crappie. Longlining works so well because you get those crappie that are eating and you can catch a lot that aren’t. This is by generating a reaction strike. When a bait goes whizzing by the crappie it will instinctively lash out at it. If you are catching crappie with the hook consistently outside the mouth, then you know it’s a reaction strike. The first instinct is to slow down because you think they can’t catch it or whatever then you stop getting bites because it was the speed that was making them strike.

HINT: When making a turn keep track of the pole you get a bite on. If it is the outside rods then you need to speed up a little. If you’re getting bites on the inside rods, they run slower in a turn, then you need to slow down a little.

Longlining Tips For Crappie In The Wind

In the wind you have to watch your speed carefully increasing trolling motor speed against the wind and decreasing speed with the wind. Having a GPS unit with speed is important too. Most people do have GPS now but if you are using the old school wheel spinner then your speed will be off sometimes by a lot. The current and drift speed can alter the speed with these. With a GPS unit, it doesn’t care about the current or if you’re on the water. This gives you the most accurate speed. As long as you are moving within the speed range it shouldn’t matter about the weight. It should be the same.

When there is some pretty good chop or boat traffic waves, I’ve added an egg sinker to my lines. Sometimes as much as 1 oz. The big weight will cause your rod tip to give with each up and down motion of the boat. This helps keep your bait from violently jerking up and then falling down with the rocking of the boat. Never stay home on windy days. You might wish you had after you get out there, but I have had some great days fishing on some really windy days. One suggestion would be to find a couple of good coves that are protected from the wind. Even if the fishing is marginal, you will have someplace to go and be more comfortable and safe out there.

One lure Or Two For Longlining For Crappie?

Long-lining for crappie has become ever more popular in the crappie fishing world and so have the techniques. On this trip to Dale Hollow Lake, we use planer boards, double jigs, and single jig rigs. The great thing was we caught lots of good crappie with all techniques. The two nice crappies in this article’s image were both over 2 pounds, and we caught several like them. After using heavy sinkers to keep the jigs down and planer boards to get the jigs out of the path of the boat, It surprised me when Dean handed me a BnM pole rigged with a single jig to long line with. I think it was a 1/32 oz jighead. We trolled these jigs in open water on a long cast plus a few pulls, and we caught just as many crappie as the other techniques.

I would say that the choice is yours when it comes to the long lining technique for crappie. Like so many things in fishing, there is never a shortage of tips, techniques and tactics for longlining for crappieand the same holds true with long lining for crappie. Personally, I like to go with the single crappie jig and I use my own hand-tied squirrel tail jigs. Sometimes I will use two jigs mainly to get the jigs a little deeper. I prefer to use a jig as opposed to just a sinker. This gives me a chance to catch crappie on the second jig.

What Speed Do You Run When Long Lining For Crappie

When long lining for crappie speed does matter. I like to run as fast as I can when longlining for crappie because I can cover more water. When you locate the schools of crappie you can isolate the area and longline that area all day long picking up crappie by longlining. Sometimes the crappie will be set up over the top of the cover, but sometimes they are cruising in pods searching for baitfish. Or they are following them. Either way the faster you can move the more often you are likely to put your baits in front of crappie.

Having said all that, no matter how fast you would like to longline for crappie the crappie will tell you how fast you have to go to catch them. I usually find that .9 to 1.2 is the optimum speed on most days when longlining with jigs. When using crankbaits I have found, through personal observation, that a fast troll often gets more bites. This speed triggers a reaction from the crappie as the bait streaks by the crappie’s face. I’ve caught crappie when long lining with crankbaits at 2.2 mph and they would not bite any slower than that on certain days.

I started long lining with crankbaits many years ago. I trolled slow and actually tried to get as slow as my small kicker motor would get me and even drug an anchor bag trying to get slower. Then one day I started to notice that I was catching crappie when I would turn. Every time it was on the outside rod. I was trolling for crappie at 1.2 mph and knew that when turning that outside line would increase in speed and that was when I was getting a bite. So I sped up and started catching crappie and not just when I turned. This is when I started experimenting with faster speeds and learned that slow wasn’t always better.

Tips For Fishing Planer Boards for Crappie

I got an unexpected phone call from my friend David Jones. He wanted to see if I would be interested in chasing some crappie with planer boards. David Jones is a crappie guide on Green River Lake give David a call at 1-270-634-2675 or visit his website at He is also the 2014 Crappie USA Classic Champion and Green River Lake record crappie holder. It didn’t take long to accept the invitation.

David informed me that we would be longlining with planer boards to catch suspended crappie. It would be an excellent opportunity to gather content for an article. An article about a lesser-known or used tactic for catching more crappie. I knew this was going to be a great trip to learn from one of the best crappie anglers in Kentucky if not the country.

By this time of year, crappie have moved out of the spawning bays. They follow the baitfish to deeper water and suspend in the water column. By now the crappie can be a little skittish as the boat approaches them, especially in clear water. The new Minn Kota Ultrex is super quiet and that helps a lot, but just the shadow of the boat can spook fish in clear water. You could be fishing all around the crappie and never get a bite. Leave it to a few serious crappie anglers to figure out how to catch the crappie they are spooking. Her Planer boards.

David informed me the night before that we would be using planer boards for suspended crappie. David dug out several Offshore Tackle planer boards from a bag. The great thing about the Offshore Tackle Planer Boards is that you can set each one to run left or right. Depending on which side of the boat you set them on. With a couple of spring-loaded clasps on the planer board, the line is attached to the desired depth that you want your bait to run. Different lengths of line are let out on each rod. This staggers the baits. The planer board pulls further from the boat as you increase the amount of line let out.

When set up correctly, the planer boards on the left and right form a V behind the boat. This technique keeps all your baits away from the boat. It also presents your baits up to a 60-foot spread, or more, to cover more water. This is vital when the crappie schools are scattered, following the baitfish.

Tips For Longlining For Crappie With Planer Boards

There are several ways to determine the best depth to fish when longlining for crappie with planer boards. One way is just trial and error. This is the way I do it for the most part and while it works it does take a little time to get it tuned in for all lines. By running each line at a different depth, you will find that one will get more bites than the others. You can then set all rods to that depth to target those active fish. I will usually run one line shallower or deeper, just to keep them honest.

If you’re serious about longlining for crappie with planer boards there are a couple of tips that can help you determine where to set your lines. To run at a certain depth. There are apps that tell you how much line to let out for a specific crankbait or jig size to put it at a certain depth in the water column. One great app is the Precision Trolling Data App. It has many of the most popular crankbaits listed and even compensates for line size and more. This app takes all of the guesswork out of trolling depth for crappie.

Another great tool for long lining with planer boards is line-counter reels. With a line-counter reel, you know precisely how much line you have out on each rod. By keeping a consistent amount of line out you can keep your baits in front of the fish. When using planer boards all you must do is let out the prescribed amount of line for the depth you want your bait to run. Then attach the planer board. By keeping the lines the same on both sides of the boat you can maintain a clean spread and keep your planer boarding smooth and efficient.

Planer Boards are a great way to troll crankbaits. Crankbaits are a popular presentation here on Kentucky Lake in the summer. A great tip for longlining for crappie is to Mix up the spread with a few running jigs and a few running crankbaits. This will help put more crappie in the boat. The best color will vary with the day so run a few different colors to see what the crappie wants that day.

If you are running crankbaits, with or without planer boards, there is a little tool that you should consider for your tackle box. It is the Offshore Tackle Crankbait Tuner. When trolling for crappie with crankbaits at speeds often above 1 mph a true running crankbait is mandatory. A crankbait that isn’t running straight will fail to reach its depth potential as well as possibly tangling in your other lines.

The crankbait tuner is a tool that gently repositions the eye on the crankbait to get it running perfectly. So often we try to bend the eye with a set of pliers and end up over bending it. Too many of these corrections and the eye will break right off. The crankbait tuner eliminates this and saves those valuable crankbaits from the trash bin.

If your lake is seeing a little more pressure and you want to catch some of those finicky crappie, give planer boards a try. They take more effort and there’s a slight learning curve. But they might pay off for you and help you catch more fish.


I hope you got something out of these tips for longlining for crappie, enjoy the great video below of how to longline for crappie.

If you have more tips for longlining for crappie please feel free to share in the comments. I am by no means an expert but I do it often throughout the year.

Long Lining for Crappie on Lake Crescent in Florida

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Wade Fishing For Crappie

About Ken McBroom 307 Articles
Ken McBroom is an accomplished outdoor writer and photographer. Growing up in Lynchburg Tennessee allowed him many opportunities afield as a boy and young man. Later in life, after Desert Storm, Ken’s wanderlust took him to Alaska to live and work and experience the last frontier. Married now with two beautiful children, Ken now calls Kentucky home where he continues to communicate our American outdoor traditions and the lifestyle it offers.

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