As the spring spawn gives way to the summer heat, crappie will leave the shallows and look for deeper, cooler water. Still active, and still feeding, summer slabs will disperse over a wide area, making this season tough on papermouth anglers.
Where legal, spider rigging is the most effective technique for trolling diffuse crappie on large lakes. If you’re not familiar with this approach, we’ll offer a guide to get started as well as reviews of our favorite purpose-built gear to help you spider rig effectively.
Are you ready for spider rigging? Keep reading to find out!
Table of Contents (clickable)
Quick glance at some recommended gear for spider rigging:
Gene Larew Mo’Glos
KastKing Summer 500
Think of spider rigging as a rod multiplier: the basic idea is that by rigging more rods, you increase not only the chances of getting a bite, but also the area you fish and the range of options you can offer crappie to entice a strike.
This technique gets its name from the spider-like appearance of a boat that’s outfitted in this way.
Spider rigging isn’t just a great summer technique. Fall, winter, and spring all offer opportunities for trolling.
What makes spider rigging effective is a combination of “multipliers.” With many rods in the game, you can run your terminal tackle at a variety of depths, covering more of the water column. You can also rig a wide range of lure options, mixing and matching colors, jig styles, and live bait. Finally, you can cover a large area in a single pass.
Crappie are ambush predators, but they rarely chase prey. In fact, it’s easy to burn a lure past a slab with a retrieve that’s too fast, which should tell you something about trolling with a spider rig!
Travis and Charles Bunting, two-time national crappie champions, recommend .8 mph--that’s right, point eight--as a good speed to start at. They’ll then steer through some long “s” curves that force the inside rigs to slow down even more, while the outside rigs get faster. Where they get bites then determines the next run’s throttle position.
With that many rods in the water, and none of them in your hand, it can be tough to sense a bite. You’ll need eagle-eyed attention, and one thing that can help is to place a fair-sized bead between the tip and first guide. If a crappie takes your lure, that bead should hit the tip, and the noise will let you know.
Experienced crappie anglers know that different seasons find crappie in different positions in the water column. For instance, in spring, the crappie will look for warm water near the surface, especially on sunny afternoons. By contrast, you should look in deeper waters for winter crappie.
But “shallow” and “deep” are just guesstimates, and we like to take advantage of the versatility spider rigging offers. So in addition to varying speeds by making those “s” turns, we like to vary the depth of our terminal tackle, too. Where we get hits tells us how deep the crappie are running that day.
Spider rigging demands some specialized gear to work its magic. Do you have what it takes?
Let’s start at the business end.
Rigs for trolling crappie aren’t rocket science, and whether they run a single hook, double hook, or jig(s), they have a few common elements.
Rigs are topped with a barrel swivel so that they can spin without creating problems. They’ll also feature a weight to keep them at depth as you pull them through the water. Finally, if they feature hooks, they’ll be Aberdeen-style in sizes like #4, #2, and #1 for monster slabs.
Here are two common designs:
Whether you make your rig, or buy one like the Bullet Weights Mr. Crappie Rig pictured above, the elements of their construction are pretty standard.
Jigs, live minnows, and jigs sweetened with minnows are king.
We’ve discussed selection and rigging of minnows before. If you need a refresher, we recommend you take a look at that article.
Jig selection for spider rigging is what you’d expect for crappie. We recommend you start with small jig heads like the Gene Larew Mo’Glos in 1/32 and 1/16 ounce, and run the usual assortment of colors. Some of our favorites soft baits include the Berkley Gulp! Minnow, the Bobby Garland Slab Slay’r, and the Mr. Crappie Joker.
Each of them creates enticing action to draw crappie in for a hit.
We’ve covered the best line choices for crappie -- a must read before you trick your boat out for spider rigging!
Spider rigging is pretty specialized fishing, and with that many poles active at the same time, you’ll need sharp eyes to detect a bite. High-visibility line really helps on that front, and since you need a bit of cushion to prevent crappie tearing loose when they take the hook, we like to use Stren Original in Hi-Vis Gold in four or six-pound test.
Pretty much any reel will work for spider rigging, and you don’t need to worry about smooth casting or line capacity with this technique. A good drag and the durability to stand up to seasons on the water is about all you really need to ask for in a reel.
What will matter a lot is the price. You’re not buying one reel--you’re buying six, eight, ten, or maybe even a dozen! A few dollars here will quickly add up, so you want good--but good and cheap!
It’s a solid reel at an awesome price!
Rod seats are a critical component in a spider rigging system.
The best style allows the handle of your rods to pass beneath an inverted “U,” as this combines security with easy access. We really like the Millennium Spyder LOK and the Mr. Crappie Pro Series Rod Holder, but plenty of anglers try their hand at homemade seats!
diy spider rigging set up
Rods are the heart of spider rigging, and selecting the right ones are critical to making this technique work. Most importantly, we recommend that you run identical gear, never mixing actions, powers, and lengths. That will make it much easier to detect bites!
Check out our guide for selecting the best crappie rods for spider rigging!
For spider rigging, you need length to avoid tangles, especially while turning or when a fish is on.
And while it’s possible to use normal-length rods, we generally recommend you go with 10, 12, or 14-foot options. Anything shorter increases the risk of tangles; anything longer becomes a pain to handle. Unlike rods for casting, or rods for bigger, stronger fish, spider rigging rods don’t need exceptional guides or space-aged materials to work well.
And that’s a good thing because you want to keep costs down since you’ll be buying an armload!
Spider rigging isn’t reserved for summer, of course, but when the heat is on, it’s a great choice to catch more crappie.
And while the technique itself is simple--troll slowly--you need the right gear to make this fishing “multiplier” work for you. We hope this simple guide and gear checklist helps you get ready for summer, and we’d like to hear from you.
Please leave a comment below.