Rigging a Crappie Boat Rigging Pole Holders on Sides and Back

by John Neporadny Jr.


Side trolling with holders on the side of the boat lets a pair of fishermen have a wide coverage path as they move through the water.

Back in my guiding days, whenever we needed to troll I used a primitive system of having my clients hold their rods in the back of the boat while I idled along with the outboard motor.
Today’s pole holders allow crappie anglers to troll hands-free with multiple poles placed along the sides or back of the boat. Three crappie fishing veterans who rely on pole holders for fast trolling and crankbaiting from the sides or back of the boat are Crappie Masters competitor Kent Driscoll and guides John Harrison and Brad Whitehead.

 When Harrison wants his clients to pull crankbaits on Grenada Lake in Mississippi, he moves them to the back of the boat where he has a three pedestal seat setup on his War Eagle 2170 Black Hawk aluminum boat and trolls with his Minnkota electric steer trolling motor and iPilot system. He places poles of various lengths (two 8-footers, two 12-footers, two 16-footers and two 18s or two 20s) in an 8-foot Driftmaster T-5100 Troll Master bar rail equipped with eight Li’l Pro Rod Holders. The Troll Master has 12-inch vertical stems which makes it tall enough for the poles to clear the top of the outboard.
The T-bar is attached to the rear deck of the boat with two 3-inch square stainless flush base mounts and eight 1/4-inch stainless screws. “You can install that in just about 5 minutes,” Harrison says. “It just has those four screws for each side.”

Driscoll favors using pole holders on the sides and back of his boat for trolling crankbaits. He places four poles on the sides of the boat and four more poles in the back.
His War Eagle Predator is equipped with 6-foot rails on each side which allows Driscoll to attach Driftmaster Li’l Pro Rod Holders to the rails. Although designed for spider rigging, the Li’l Pro holders are also ideal for side trolling because of the device’s U-shaped front.


Longline trolling from the back of the boat is a great way to cover water and present multiple baits.

On the rear deck, Driscoll installs a Driftmaster T-250 Series T-Bar, which includes four Li’l Pro Rod Holders. The T-bar comes with a 3-inch square stainless base mount and four 1/4-inch screws for securing to the back deck. Driscoll mounts the T-bar dead center in front of his outboard motor and right next to the transom. “That way it gets the pole tips away from the motor as far as they will go,” he said.
Installing the T-bar requires only a few tools: a drill for drilling the base mount holes; a screwdriver for the base mount screws and a vice grip for tightening the bar’s wing nut.
When longlining crankbaits Brad Whitehead trolls strictly with his outboard motor and keeps his poles in the back of the boat. Whitehead avoids pulling crankbaits with his trolling motor because he believes electric motors can only keep up the speed of 1.7 or 1.8 mph for two or three hours before the battery wears down. So he relies on his outboard to keep his crankbaits running at an effective speed all day long. “It doesn’t burn your trolling motor down that way,” Whitehead says.
The Alabama guide relies on Hi-Tek Stuff Elite Series Rod Holders for mounting on the rear deck of his War Eagle 754 aluminum boat. He positions a 4-holder setup on each side of the outboard. The setup includes a 24-inch T-bar and the four rod holders, riser post, 5-inch base plate and stainless steel screws for mounting the base plate.

The Hi-Tek rod holders can be easily installed with a drill and screwdriver. “You just drill your pilot holes and sink your screws in and that is it,” Whitehead says.
Although Whitehead never pulls crankbaits from the sides of his boat, he has helped other crappie anglers set up their boats for side trolling. He notes Hi-Tek Stuff offers a variety of holders that can be attached to the gunnels or mounted into the gunnels for side pulling.
Whitehead does rely on the side-trolling method perfected by fellow guide Roger Gant. Side-trolling gives everyone the same chance to catch fish, especially in smaller boats or when you are fishing with more than two people. In this situation, no one is fishing behind someone else. “You are all sitting sideways and all are being able to fish fresh water,” Whitehead says.
His boat is rigged with a 24-volt hand-controlled MotorGuide trolling motor that he mounts on the side. “You want to put that trolling motor within 60 inches of the back of the boat,” Whitehead says. He has experimented with mounting the trolling motor in other spots on the side of the boat but was unable to control the boat as well from those other locations.
War Eagle designs a bracket for mounting trolling motors on the side of the boat, but Whitehead suggests anyone can have a customized bracket made for their boat. “They can just go to a local fabrication or welding shop and have one built for them,” he says.
Whitehead side-trolls with 8-, 9- and 10-foot B’n’M Poles so he and his clients don’t need the same rod holders used for the long spider rigging poles. His War Eagle boat is set up with a rail system and short v-shaped holders that slip into a track at various positions along the side of the boat. The v-shaped holders allow Whitehead to secure the tip end of the poles in the holders and his clients can keep the butt end of the poles in their laps or hold onto the poles if they prefer.
For more information on pole holders for the sides and back deck of your boat, visit the web sites of Driftmaster (www.driftmaster.com), Hi-Tek Stuff (www.hitekstuff.com) and Tite-Lok (www.titelock.com).