Spider Rigging and Minnow Jigging
Dr. John Woods 05.26.15
Fishing has never been a static sport. By that I mean we have sure come a long way from the ubiquitous cane pole, some kite string, and a hook. Forget digging some worms alongside the creek bed or trying to catch some minnows in a bucket. Everything from rods, reels, fishing line, artificial baits galore, modern fishing boats with near supersonic power, angling electronics, and all the other state-of-the-art gear and gadgets have vastly changed how we pursue the sport of fishing.
Another new fishing tactic quickly gaining in popularity all over lakes in the country is the relatively new format known as “spider rigging.” The history of this new fishing style is a mystery to me, but I certainly recall from my childhood over 50 years ago seeing crappie fishermen hanging multiple poles off the sides of their boat. My dad used to do this back in the 60’s by using “C” clamps to hang poles from the boat.
From that has evolved a unique science of spider rigging involving some high tech gear in terms of fishing pole holding mounts and brackets complete with a wide range of easily adjustable positions to place up to eight crappie poles at just the right angle over the water.
The “spider” part of the rigging setup is the look of the multiple poles projecting out in the front of the boat from the bow. From the casual observer away from the boat these rods tend to appear as legs of a spider, hence the name.
The real fishing tactic unique to the spider rig is that each rod can be set up with one or two hook sets in tandem allowing for the use of different types or colors or sizes of crappie jigs being then set at different depths all from the same set of rod holders. Many spider crappie anglers also add minnows to their jigs for the double whammy effect.
This setup allows the angler a better chance of determining many aspects of crappie fishing success, namely what depth are the fish biting at and what jig are they hitting. As most crappie anglers know from experience, these fish can be very particular about the color of jigs they will hit.
This is often mostly determined by the color clarity of the water. If dingy, then you will likely need a brighter colored jig like a hot pink, orange or chartreuse. If the lake water is really clear, then black, blues, red, and white can be winners. If you just want to see the total spectrum of crappie jig colors, then shop the aisles of a big box fishing supply store to see the wide variety that is available. They are usually fairly inexpensive, so buy many and try out all kinds of combinations on your spider rig set ups. Don’t forget to try some of the jigs with the sparkling, shiny tinsel wound into the jig head. These really attract the crappie.
Spider rigging pole set ups vary, too. I have seen single poles with a “T” top bar that has 3-4 pole holders either welded in place or with various kinds of slider adjustments to change the set ups on demand. Another popular set up is multiple single poles each with a highly adjustable screw-tightening knob at the bottom of the pole mount and another type of adjustment at the top with the pole holding “Y” bracket.
These hold each separate pole upright but can easily be pushed or pulled in basically any 360 degree motion the angler wants. So each rod can be rotated left or right or up and down (forward or back) against the friction of the tension screw/bolt and knob in the fixture. It is harder to describe than use.
The spider rigging span then can be set rather wide from the bow of the boat or closer together as you choose. Use care though not to group them too close together because of the greater likelihood of tangling lines when retrieving fish or adding new minnows to the jigs that have been robbed by a quick crappie bite.
Speaking of which, if you are a solo fisherman with 6-8 crappie poles set out in a spider rig, you are going to have your hands full watching and keeping up with crappie biting action, especially if the fast action spawn bite has turned on. For this reason you may see many spider rigging anglers’ boats set up with two pedestal swivel seats up front for two fishermen to sit side-by-side. Even then the action can still be fast and furious.
We have tried a variety of good quality crappie poles in length from 10 feet to 18 feet long. In my own estimation the 16-foot poles seem to work out best. The really long 18-footers are just a little too long and limp at the end to hoist a really big slab easily to the net. And this may sound strange, but the tips of these super long poles can be difficult to see against the bright sun reflecting on the water that far out from the boat. It can be hard enough to keep an eye on eight pole tips as it is.
Trust me, the minute you look away across the lake, a crappie will hit your minnow and jig. If you are not right on top of grabbing the rod to give it a firm jerk on the tip, then that fish is likely to be gone in a flash. Just think what will happen if you get fish on 2-3-4 poles at a time. It can happen.
What else? Have a long handled net at your feet and ready to go, too. When you get a big crappie slab on the hook, don’t try to hoist it to the boat. Raise the rod tip up high and keep the fish just in the water by releasing a little line. Use the pole net to bring the fish in to the boat.
Now another whole article could easily be written on the use of the newest of the electronics to aid in crappie fishing. These new devices go way beyond just being a fish finder. Today these units incorporate a GPS to lock in the waypoints of the fishing spots as they are caught. At the same time you can monitor the fishing depth, water temperature, and compass reading of the area you are fishing.
Then later on that hour, day, week or month if you choose, you can hit the GPS unit to display the exact pathway you followed previously. The unit can be tied into a new age trolling motor, too, to guide you along the exact same waypoint pattern you fished before. Amazing. Will the fish still be there? Who knows, but it certainly gives you a good place to start.
Spider rigging is an exciting new way to crappie fish, no doubt about that. Initially it can be expensive to set your boat up to go this route, but the rigging can easily be put in a “stand down” mode if you choose to go back to some old fashioned single pole fishing up in the flooded timber where a spider rig would not work. For sure, spider rigging gives you new options for crappie fishing.