All A-Board

The crappie train has left the conventional station, and I'm aboard.

To be honest, I’m like the excited kid looking out the railcar window in wonder whenever I get to the boat ramp on a crappie lake. There's a whole new world out there, and I can't wait to explore it.

The tried and true approach of catching crappies over brushpiles or pulling them from flooded timber will never go out of style on a lot of lakes and rivers.

That's the freight train approach ... rolling along from station to station to pick up a little more cargo. It will eventually get you where you are going, but it might be a long trip.

What stokes my engine these days is more of a passenger train approach to crappie fishing.

On many bodies of water, only a fraction of the overall population is relating to structure. For every slab that's hanging out in the brush, there are a dozen roaming the open water.

Trolling with planer boards is a great way to explore the crappie countryside and meet up with fish that live off the beaten path. It's all about getting your lures in front of more crappies and taking the game to the fish rather than waiting for the fish to come to you.

If you've used planer boards in pursuit of other species like walleyes, salmon or trout, it's only a matter of tweaking that presentation for crappies.

If you're new to the planer board approach, you can set yourself up nicely with a modest investment of two Off Shore OR-12 boards equipped with Tattle Flags and a pair of the OR-34 mini boards.

Rig your lines with anything you think the crappies might like, from small crankbaits like the Berkley Flicker Shad and Salmo Hornets to other lures like Road Runners, Beetle Spins or even jigs.

Send the OR-12 boards out wide with the smaller, OR-34 boards closer to the boat. The larger boards are a little more buoyant and easier to deploy, and they displace more water, which allows them to run more parallel to the boat. The smaller OR-34s won't go out as far, but they're easy to read and perfect for covering the area between your outside boards and any flat lines in your spread. They also offer less resistance that sometimes makes the difference on light-biting fish or crappies that like to swim along with the bait.

Once you've set your spread, you will be able to cover a wide swath of water while you experiment with depths and lure choices until you find what works best.

Fishing planer boards for crappies is an interactive and fun approach that reaches fish many anglers never come close to. It can be a way to target larger fish, as well as more fish. For me, it paid off in a big way when Kyle Steinfeldt and I won the Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters National Championship in Grenada, Mississippi.

I'm all aboard.


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