John's Journal...


The Depths Driscoll Runs Crankbaits

Click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: Kent Driscoll of Cordova, Tennessee, has enjoyed fishing for crappie for 30 years. He's fished in crappie tournaments for 10 years, winning numbers of local tournaments, several one-day tournaments and finishing third in 2000 and fourth in 2002 at the North American Crappie Classic. Each spring and summer, Driscoll fishes the Crappie USA Circuit, Crappiemasters and the new Crappie Angler's Association, using a wide variety of tactics that produce crappie all year long. Let's learn how Driscoll finds and catches crappie.

Question: Kent, the depth at which a lure runs is not only determined by the size of the crankbait, the size of the line and the amount of line let out behind the boat. The speed at which the boat's moving also plays a major role in how deep the crankbaits run. How are you determining the speed of the boat and adjusting that speed to fish different depths?

Click to enlargeDriscoll: I've found that the ideal speed to troll crankbaits for crappie in the summer months is 1.7 miles an hour to 1.8 miles an hour. I obtain this speed by trolling with my 50 horsepower Mercury motor and not using my trolling motor. I determine the speed of my boat by using my GPS receiver. No speedometer I know of will give trolling speeds down to 1/10 of a mile per hour. However, the GPS receiver will break the speed down to those small increments. I've learned that if I'm trolling at 2 miles an hour or faster, the crappie have to be really aggressive and really hungry to chase down a bait that fast. If I'm trolling the crankbaits at speeds slower than 1.5 or 1.6 miles per hour, then I don't get the action or the wiggle out of the crankbait that seems to attract the crappie. Therefore, I've found that 1.7 miles per hour or 1.8 miles per hour seems to be the best speed to produce the most crappie when I'm trolling crankbaits.

Click to enlargeAnother device that I use to maintain the speed on my big motor when I'm trolling is a trolling plane. Most crappie fishermen, especially in the South, are not familiar with a trolling plane, because this is a device primarily used in the North by walleye fishermen to slow down the speed at which they troll. The trolling plane is a flat piece of square aluminum that fits on the foot of your outboard and can be adjusted so that it blocks the prop wash in front of the propeller.

I use a four-stroke outboard motor, which is highly fuel-efficient and is extremely quiet. It's also very low on emissions.I use the Happy Troller trolling plate, an all-aluminum plate that's extremely durable. I have modified this trolling plate by using a grinder to add two slots in the plate, which allows me to have three different angles on the trolling plate. Most trolling plates have only one slot, which makes the trolling plate hold at a 90-degree angle to the propeller. But the way I've modified my trolling plate, I can raise it up two more notches to increase the angle so that I can gain a little more speed by having the prop wash hit the trolling plate at a greater angle than 90 degrees. The advantage to having those two extra notches on the trolling plate is I can adjust the speed of the boat depending on whether I'm trolling into the wind or with the wind and it allows me to adjust my speed to the force of the wind.

Click to enlargeOn an extremely windy day when I'm trolling into the wind, I want to adjust the trolling plate up so that the motor gives me more thrust to combat the wind yet maintain my speed at 1.7 to 1.8 miles per hour. When there's no wind or very little wind, I can adjust my trolling plate down so that it blocks the prop wash and slows the boat down. Another advantage to the trolling plate is it prevents me from having to rev the motor up to a faster speed, which creates more turbulence in the water that spook the crappie.

These are the techniques I use to keep my crankbaits continuously trolling at the same rate of speed in different water depths to cover a wide area when I'm trying to find and catch crappie.

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Day 1: More Crankbaiting for Crappie
Day 2: The Depths Driscoll Runs Crankbaits
Day 3: How Driscoll Decides What Lures to Troll
Day 4: How Driscoll Trolls Minnows and Jigs
Day 5: How to Find Crappie on a New Lake



Entry 293, Day 2