John's Journal...

Fish the Right Depth for Crappie

Day 2: Kent Driscoll’s Trolling Tactic for Crappie

Editor’s Note: To catch crappie at any time of the year, you need to find the right depth to fish for them. Over the years, I’ve learned that fishing at the correct depth influences whether or not you catch more crappie more so than the kind, the sized and/or the color of bait you use. Last summer sweat streamed down my face as though I stood under a hot shower. My skin started turning the color of a red cherry, and the air I breathed felt as though it came from a blower under a hot Franklin wood-burning stove. I couldn’t believe Kent Driscoll of Cumming, Georgia, an avid crappie tournament angler, and I had caught so many crappie, particularly big ones, in that kind of weather. The air temperature had reached over 100 degrees, and no wind blew.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewMost anglers who troll for crappie either drift with the wind or use their trolling motors. However, Driscoll has found that he can troll faster and find and catch more crappie by using his outboard engine and putting a heavy weight on the end of each of his lines to get his lines down deeper. “I’ll put out six 16-1/2-foot B ’n’ M slow-trolling rods off the front of my boat and six more off the back, if I have a friend fishing with me, each with a Cabela’s Depth Master II trolling reel with a line-counter, 14-pound-test line, a 6-ounce weight and either jigs, live minnows or just tipped with live minnows on every pole,” Driscoll explains. “The line counting feature allows me to know the exact amount of line I have out on each reel.” Driscoll ties the weight onto the end of the line. About 18-inches up from the weight, he makes a 3-inch loop and attaches a hook with a minnow on it or a crappie jig. Then he moves-up 18 inches more above the first jig or minnow on the line and repeats the same process. “Once I complete the second rig, I go up another 18 inches on the line, make a 3-inch loop and attach either a hook and a minnow or a crappie jig to the loop in the line,” Driscoll mentions. “Using this technique, my jigs and/or minnows will troll through 6 feet of water. By setting each pole at a different depth, I can fish every foot of the water from 13-feet deep up to within a foot of the surface. I use my big engine to troll with, so I can cover more water quicker. I like to troll at between 1 mph up to 2mph, and my favorite trolling speed is about 1.2 mph.”

Pinpointing The Thermocline

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewIdentifying the location of the thermocline also will help you find the most-productive water depth for catching crappie. According to Driscoll, most of the time during the hot summer months, the crappie will hold within a foot above or below the thermocline. “You can determine the thermocline’s position by watching your depth finder and noticing at what depth you see most of the fish holding.” Driscoll, like most crappie fishermen I know, agrees that a crappie will move up from 6 inches to as much as 1-2 feet to take bait. But a crappie won’t see or bite bait that passes under it. For this reason, even if you locate the bait fish and a large school of crappie, if you don’t keep your jigs or minnows at the same depth where the crappie feed or slightly above these crappie, you won’t catch the fish.

On the day I fished with Driscoll, we took crappie all morning using Driscoll’s speed-controlled hot weather crappie-fishing tactics. We caught more and bigger crappie than most bank-bound springtime crappie fishermen ever catch. And, once again, I relearned what I’d heard from so many outdoors voices in the past, “Knowing the correct depth to fish is the key to catching crappie.”

Crappie: How To Catch Them Spring and SummerTo learn more about crappie and how to fish for them from the masters of the sport, click here for “Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and Summer, a new eBook from Amazon’s Kindle by John E. Phillips. Or, you can go to and type-in the name of the book to find it. You can also download a free Kindle app that enables you to read the book on your iPad, computer or SmartPhone.

Tomorrow: How to Catch Extremely-Shallow Crappie

Check back each day this week for more about "Fish the Right Depth for Crappie"

Day 1: How Kent Driscoll Uses GPS to Find Open-Water Crappie
Day 2: Kent Driscoll’s Trolling Tactic for Crappie
Day 3: How to Catch Extremely-Shallow Crappie
Day 4: Locating Open-Water Crappie
Day 5: Gathering Spots for Crappie

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Entry 671, Day 2