Tiny Boat Rigging for Crappie

Ron Presley

Thousands of crappie anglers get their start in small boats rigged for crappie fishing. Flat bottom aluminum John Boats have long been a popular choice for affordable access to many prime fishing waters. The newest craze is kayaks and canoes that are generally easier to transport. Some crappie anglers chose a small boat because they are inexpensive, while others choose them because of their maneuverability and ease of use. Either way, they make a good crappie fishing platform.

Kayaks and other small craft can be rigged for serious crappie fishing.
Kayaks and other small craft can be rigged for serious crappie fishing.

The key factor in all tiny boat crappie fishing relates to where you set and where you fish. It is very important in a small boat to have tackle management in the effective area. You need to be able to reach things from the seat. Your pliers, leader material, hooks, lures, sinkers and bobbers need a place to be conveniently stored. In reality, storage for these items is more than convenience; it is a must for efficient fishing.

One of the most effective tackle management tools are the web storage systems from Tackle Webs (http://www.tacklewebs.com). The product comes in various configurations that can be attach with bungee cords, Velcro or permanently screwed down. A stretchy web-like mesh material allows users to see what’s inside and when attached to a canoe or kayak it makes use of previously unused space.

Adapting any tiny boat to traditional crappie fishing techniques like spider rigging and longlining requires the installation of rod holders. “In small boats you do your fishing sitting in one seat,” acknowledged David Baynard, owner and designer of Driftmaster Rod Holders. “Kayaks are all the rage now and they can be rigged for some serious crappie fishing.”
“You need to place rod holders near you,” advised Baynard. “Driftmaster offers many different configurations of mounting bases that allow kayak crappie anglers to place single stem rod holders where they want them and use the same spider rigging and longlining techniques as big boat anglers.”
Another option is a trolling bar for kayaks. “Our model #T-1000 places 2 or more rod holders in easy reach,” continued Baynard. “That model is strong enough to hold a depth finder, landing net or other gear. It is also adjustable to move the trolling bar closer to you or further away if needed.”

Corky Krause has added about every imaginable crappie tool to his homemade strip canoe.
Corky Krause has added about every imaginable crappie tool to his homemade strip canoe.

Donald “Corky” Krause is a recreational crappie angler. He tells the story of how he was setting in the Atlanta Airport reading about building wood strip canoes. The notion caught his fancy and he has now built five. Like a fly-fisherman enjoys catching fish on the flies that he ties, Corky enjoys catching crappie from the boats that he builds.
When the spawn is on and the fish are shallow Corky’s strip canoe will take him there. “Fishing out of a small boat is a lot of fun,” discloses Corky. “You can get to places you can’t get with a bigger boat. I can go back in some pretty skinny water. The boat has no keel on it so if I get in a place that is tight and narrow it will slip on itself. It will turn around very easily.”
Corky spider rigs and longlines just like the big boys from his homemade canoes. He installs different configurations of rod holders on different boats. “On one boat I have rod holders all the way down the left side of the boat,” explained Corky. “I can deploy a drift sock from the middle of the canoe and slowly drift fish while pulling up to six rods.”

Florida angler, Howard “Woody” Underwood, recently fished the Kayak Division of the Crappie USA Tournament Trail from his crappie fishing equipped Ascend Kayak.
Florida angler, Howard “Woody” Underwood, recently fished the Kayak Division of the Crappie USA Tournament Trail from his crappie fishing equipped Ascend Kayak.

“On another boat I have an aluminum bar with rod holders. It clamps on to the boat about 3 feet in front of me when I am seated. I can put a 16-foot rod on each side and a 14-foot in the middle and 2 shorts in the back. I’m deploying six lines at the same time. I do very well with that setup.”
He uses modern technology to help him find fish and then he catches them the old fashion way. “I have a Side Scan Humminbird that I set on 60 feet to each side” said Corky. “I’ll find a large bunch of fish and switch it over to down view to determine the depth where the crappie are suspended. If they are at 8 feet, for example, I will rig my slip bobber to hold a minnow at 7 feet. You always want to be above them. They just won’t go down.”

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Corky’s wood strip canoe is powered with a 2 HP air cooled Honda. “With one person in the boat it will run 10 MPH,” informed Corky. “It will run about 15 miles on a quart of gas. I also have a Minn Kota variable speed trolling motor. I like to troll somewhere between .8 and 1.0 mph. I have a handheld GPS mounted in the boat. I can turn it on and adjust my direction and my speed easily.”
“I am usually trolling with 1/32 ounce jigheads,” revealed Corky. “I like curly tail jigs from Grizzly Jig Company in various color combinations. We make some of the combinations by cutting a white tail off one jig and gluing it to the body of another color. The 1/32 head is not a ball head; it is more of a fish head. I like to paint them different colors with fingernail polish.”

Krause powers his strip canoe with a small outboard rigged with “red neck” steering. Not the small cable running along the side and then up to a steering stick beside the seat.
Krause powers his strip canoe with a small outboard rigged with “red neck” steering. Not the small cable running along the side and then up to a steering stick beside the seat.

FleFlyWade Leffel is another recreational angler that is keen on small boat fishing. As an angler he is always looking for ways to improve his fishing platform. For him it starts with basics.
“I think one of the main things you need to have on your canoe or your kayak is a leash on your paddle,” advised Leffel. “That way if you drop it overboard you just reach out and bring it back. I use a leash that looks like an old spiral phone cord. It is a curly, stretchy type cord. Simply hook one end to the boat and then use Velcro to wrap the other end around the handle. It doesn’t hinder paddling and you will never lose your paddle.”
Boat control is another important element of fishing. Leffel created an anchor trolley to help him anchor and control the boat from the seated position in his kayak. “I attached a ring on the front and the back of the boat and run a rope through the rings. I used a quick-connect chain link to connect the ropes into a continuous loop. I can tie my anchor rope to the quick-connect link and deploy it from my seat. I can position the anchor anywhere I want by pulling on the rope, without ever leaving my seat.”
“The other thing I always want onboard is a small dry box,” continued Leffel. “I can put my billfold in there, my cell phone, anything I want to keep dry. I always tie the box to the boat so that if it does happen to turn over I won’t lose it.”
Rigging a tiny boat for crappie fishing can pay big dividends. They are easily transported, quiet on the water, easy to maneuver and very adaptable to crappie fishing techniques. The future is bright for small crappie craft and the anglers that fish from them.

Crappie Masters