Go Fishing and Catch Big Crappie With Long-Line Trolling

Brad Chappell attends to his long-line trolling spread. Courtesy photo.

Long-line trolling is one of the best ways to find and catch crappie quickly, says Brad Chappell, a Mississippi crappie guide and competitive angler. Long-lining covers water and is especially good at catching suspending crappie. Here’s a closer look at Chappell’s approach to long-line trolling.

Brad Chappell with big crappie.
Brad Chappell with proof long-line trolling catching big crappie. Photo courtesy Brad Chappell.

Extra Tip: For information on Chappell’s guiding, visit bradchappellguideservice.com. Listen to him co-host The Crappie Connection podcast on iTunes or watch it on YouTube here.

What is Long-Line Troll Fishing?

Long-line trolling involves pulling jigs and soft-plastics via a rod spread positioned at the back of the boat. Chappell trolls baits roughly 60 to 80 out after making a “really good, long cast.”

Chappell does long-line trolling between 1.0 to 1.3 miles-per-hour (mph). The brisk pace is one reason the technique shines for covering water and locating scattered or suspended crappie. Not to mention triggering bites from big, aggressive fish.

Long-line trolling works well for pre-spawn and post-spawn crappie; however, it can be effective throughout the year under the right conditions.

Bobby Garland Stroll'R - 2-1/2'' - Red Horse Minnow
Bobby Garland Stroll'R - 2-1/2'' - Red
Horse Minnow

Extra tip: “I will use this technique wherever fish are suspending. They might be in shallows, might be in deep water,” Chappell said, also saying he can run fishing jigs anywhere from three to 18 feet deep.

How to Rig for Crappie Fish Trolling With the Spread

“My number one bait is the Bobby Garland Stroll’R,” Chappell said. “It’s my bread and butter and game-winner. The backside of the tail has a little nob on the back of it, and it kicks off more vibration. Plus, the color selection Bobby Garland has is second to none.”

Rigged fishing bait 2.5” Bobby Garland Stroll’R
The 2.5” Bobby Garland Stroll’R is
Chappell’s favorite bait for long-line
Photo courtesy Brad Chappell.

Chappell rigs the 2.5” Stroll’ R on a bladed jig, like a TTI-Blakemore Road Runner. Willow-leaf blades are preferred most days as they run the best at 1 to 1.3 mph.

Road Runner Pro 2.0 Head Jigheads
Road Runner Pro 2.0 Head Jigheads
with willow-leaf blade

He uses 1/24-, 1/16- and 1/8-ounce jigs most often, but 1/4- and 1/32 also come into play.

He ties fishing jigs to 6-pound Bass Pro Shops’ Crappie Maxx super Vis Fishing Line. Chappell alternates high-vis line within the trolling spread. Different colors make it easier to fix line tangles. The High-vis line also helps Chappell track a jig’s action while maneuvering the boat when trolling.

Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Carbonlite 2.0 Spinning Reel
Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Carbonlite
2.0 Spinning Reel

Chappell trolls jigs on eight Denali Rods, including the Pryme Panfish series. He outfits his rigs with a Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Carbonlite 2.0 Spinning Reel.

He will stagger rods from shortest to longest on port and starboard sides. A typical side would see 9’, 12’, 15’, and 18’ models. He secures rods in rail-mounted Driftmaster T-Bars Rigging rod holders.

Extra tip: Chappell positions the pole tips down, 8 to 12 inches above the water. High tips encourage wind drag, raising baits, and interfering with depth control.

Where is the Best Crappie Fishing?

Before trolling, Chappell scans areas using his Garmin fishfinder. Looking for shad. “If I scan an area and see shad spread apart, it tells me the shad feel safe, and nothing is feeding on them. That’s an area where I don’t stop,” Chappell explained. “Tightly balled shad are afraid. Something is feeding on them.”

Driftmaster T-Bars Spider Rigging Rod Holders
A long-line trolling spread using
Driftmaster T-Bar Spider Rigging Rod
Photo courtesy Brad Chappell.

Feeding crappie will be underneath the shad. With this depth zone identified, Chappell begins long-lining, positioning jigs to target the highest, most active crappie.

The areas where Chappell finds shad and crappie is dependent on a time of year. For post-spawn crappie, he scans where creek mouths enter a river system or main lake.

Come summer, Chappell catches heaps of crappie relating to stream and creek channels running through reservoirs. These old river channels funnel fish movements like a highway and are prime for long-line tactics.

Extra tip: Depth precision when long-lining with fishing jigs is influenced by jig weight, trolling speed, water current, and more.

Keeping notes is an excellent idea to dial-in the method. As a starting point, when trolling at one mph, a 1/32-ounce jig runs between 2 to 4 feet, a 1/16-ounce jig 6 to 8 feet, and a 1/8-ounce jig 8 to 10 feet. Tandem jigs on the same line increase running depth.

The Trolling Depth, Speed and Other Details

Angler setting up his fishing rods to troll for crappie
Brad Chappell attends to his long-line trolling spread. Photo courtesy Brad

Using multiple fishing rods allows for jig weight, Stroll’R color, and speed experimentation. For instance, Chappell begins trolling various bright to dark-colored soft plastic baits throughout his trolling spread. He then fine-tunes bait colors based on what jigs the crappie bite.

Manipulating the boat is another crucial detail. When executing a slow, gradual turn, Chappell will tune into the following situations; a bite on a rod on the outside of the turn is a clue for Chappell to speed up, as these baits are moving the fastest whereas a bite on the inside turn tells him to go deeper and slow down.

“I like to wiggle the boat, barely coming to the right and the left,” Chappell said. “This makes the fishing baits rise and fall, speed-up, and slow down. Twisting, the boat gets more of a reaction strike.”

Extra Tip: Chappell says his Garmin Force Trolling Motor with remote is essential for controlling speed and boat position from the back of the boat. A press of a button is all it takes to fine-tune his trolling pass while helping a client land a fish or another typical guide service duty.

Brad Chappell's Final Thought

“With this technique, as long as anglers can pick a pole up, they can catch fish,” Chappell said. “It’s good for young to old, experienced and inexperienced.”

Give long-line trolling for crappie a try this season. And, don’t be surprised if it becomes your new favorite way to catch them.

Extra tip: “When you get a bite, keep the pole straight in the air, keep the retrieve steady and keep the pole steady. Crappie hooked 60 to 80 feet behind the boat naturally come up to the water surface. If the pole’s straight up, you can guide him between other lines and reel him straight in,” Chappell said. He also warns that pumping the pole up and down often causes a jig to come unbuttoned.