Kalin’s Crappie Grubs: Monk Wilson’s Two Trolling Techniques for Early Season Crappie
Catch ‘em high. Catch ‘em low. North Carolina crappie guru Monk Wilson outlines the trolling techniques and Kalin’s lures that he uses to take “specks” in early spring.
Millions of American anglers live for the hot crappie bite of spring.
But until crappie settle into conspicuous bedding areas for the spawn, the shifting weather and water conditions of early spring pose a daily challenge to find fish and get them to bite.
North Carolina crappie expert Monk Wilson, known almost as much for his one-stop tackle-shop-on-wheels and website (www.monkscrappie.com ) as he is for his crappie-catching expertise, employs two primary trolling methods to find fish fast and determine their bait preferences.
1) Tightline trolling, a vertical presentation frequently executed with a multi-rod spread system called “spider rigging,” and
2) Long-line trolling, a horizontal trolling system with multiple rods and lines worked principally, though not exclusively, from the back of the boat.
Monk Wilson does most of his tightline trolling in summer, fall and winter. But this vertical technique also serves him when crappie begin to transition from their cold water patterns.
“In late winter and early spring when the water is cold and before the males move up, crappie stage at the mouth of creeks,” says Wilson. “Tightlining works well when male and female crappie are positioned in the deeper water just outside the areas where their spawning migrations will take place. They will move up into the creek arms as the water warms.”
A severe cold front or other weather or water change can push crappie back out of the shallow portions of the creek arms and return them to their deep water staging areas even after a strong shallow migration has occurred. Monk may opt for the tightlining method under these conditions, too.
He executes this with multiple rods mounted in spider-rig rod holders and light jigs and Kalin’s grubs (primarily 1/32 to 1/8 ounce) suspended from ½- to one-ounce bullet sinkers, which he normally prefers over barrel/egg sinkers. He trolls with his electric motor at speeds of .5 to .6 miles per hour.
Day-in, day-out, Monk prefers “longline” trolling for spring crappie. The method allows him to work shallow or deep water with comparable effectiveness. “And, besides, when I’m fishing shallow, it provides more action than catching a fish on a 16-foot pole with three feet of line out!” he adds.
He runs his Kalin’s jig and plastic combinations a normal cast length behind the boat, controlling the depth of his presentation with a combination of jighead weight, line length, line diameter and trolling speed.
Heavier jigheads, lighter line diameters, and slower trolling speeds increase the depth of his offerings.
For shallow presentations, he lightens his jig, increases trolling speed, or shortens the distance the lure is running behind the boat depending on conditions.
Though line diameter can be a significant variable, he generally fishes with a high-visibility eight-pound monofilament such as Vicious Hi-Vis Panfish line. The eight-pound line will usually be strong enough to straighten a hook and release his jig if he encounters snags.
Jigs du jour
Wilson has made a science of trolling efficiency, and he will run as many as 22 rods on his boat when state and local regulations permit. The multiple rods and rigs enable him to dial in quickly on the fish’s lure and color preferences for the day.
The baits that do the lion’s share of the work for both his longline trolling and tightline trolling are:
- Kalin’s 2-inch Triple Threat Grub
- Kalin’s 3-inch Slim Triple Threat Grub
- Kalin’s Monk Minnow
- Kalin’s Thriple Threat Scrub
What separates the Kalin’s grubs from others in a crowded field is the suppleness of the thin plastic of the curly tails.
“You need a bait that gives good action at the slowest trolling speeds,” explains Wilson. “On most other grubs, the tails are too thick. They quit wiggling at slow speeds. But with the slim plastic on the Kalin’s tails, you get plenty of tail action to catch fish even when you get down to .6 or .5 mph or slower.
“That Kalin’s Two-inch Triple Threat Grub on a Kalin’s Triple Threat Crappie Jig with a #4 hook is ideal,” says Wilson of his mainstay combination. “You still have action even when vertical trolling at the slowest speeds!”
See more of Monk Wilson’s tips on crappie trolling and Kalin’s jig selection!