Perch Pa-TROLL

This technique, perfected on the Red River, is ultra-productive for crappie across the state.

Have you ever stubbornly refused to change lures or techniques while suffering through a drubbing by one of your fishing buddies? Richard Lindsey has. This crappie tournament pro from Sibley started fishing competitively in 1989, and he showed up at every tournament for 5 years with one pole. It had worked so well for him back home that he just knew he could beat all those other guys with it.

“They were out there trolling with seven or eight poles at a time,” he recalled, “and there I was dunking my little jig with my one pole. The law of averages definitely wasn’t in my favor. That’s when I realized I had to change my techniques. When in Rome… .”

What Lindsey realized is that the guys trolling with eight poles were catching upwards of 80 fish a day while he was only catching 20. It doesn’t take a math major to see that catching 80 fish compared to 20 gives an angler a greater chance of having seven slabs big enough to push the scale down to the winning weight.

“I also saw something else,” Lindsey added. “Not only were those guys out there trolling getting a better chance of catching seven big ones, they also seemed to always just generally catch bigger fish.

“I eventually wised up and dedicated myself to learning how to troll just so I could compete, and what I learned is that this technique is just as dangerous in Louisiana as it is anywhere in the nation.”

Lindsey eventually started experimenting with trolling for crappie on Pool 5 of the Red River near Bossier City. He discovered that a method he called slow trolling, fishing eight rods with jigs in a spider rig while slowly maneuvering the boat, worked extremely well. But what he really wanted to check out was a technique he saw used time and again to win all those tournaments he had been fishing.

“Some of the largest stringers of crappie ever caught in those tournaments were caught by anglers who were trolling crankbaits and Rat-L-Traps, and I wanted to try that on the river,” said Lindsey. “There was a lot of timber still standing in the oxbows when I first started trying it, and I stayed hung a lot, but I soon figured out that I could get on the edge of a timberline with deep water nearby and catch some monster crappie.”

Lindsey shared the technique with his good friend Homer Humphreys from Minden, and the two of them have been perfecting the technique on the Red River ever since. Humphreys recalled the first day he saw Lindsey pulling crankbaits for crappie.

“I was out in Pool 5 guiding for bass in the middle of the summer, and I came across Richard fishing down the middle of Ninock,” Humphreys reminisced. “I asked him what in the world he was doing, but he was so busy yanking on those big slabs that he didn’t have much time to talk. I saw he had these tiny little Rat-L-Traps hanging out the side of his boat, and son, when he got bit, it was unreal what he was catching.”

While there are some subtle differences between the ways Lindsey and Humphreys troll for crappie, the basics of their presentation are the same. Each angler looks for long stretches of thick cover that have a distinct drop-off very close to the edge of the cover. Some of the best scenarios on the Red River that meet this criteria are grass lines, sand bars, stump lines, timber lines, underwater points and rock jetties or revetments.

Humphreys particularly pointed out the grass line in the White House oxbow lake, the sandbar running through Ninock and the stump lines in Ninock.

As far as the rocks go, Humphreys said none really stands out as being better than the rest. In fact, there are so many rocks in Pool 5 that anglers could troll on them all day and never fish all of them.

Lindsey’s expertise on the Red River is trolling the tree lines and sand bars. The sandbars are particularly interesting because they offer so much open water, but Lindsay says his primary trolling targets are the numerous timber edges in the oxbow lakes.

“When they finished the lock-and-dam project, the river rose about 9 feet in Pool 5,” he said. “What we have now are old sandbars that top off about 9-feet deep. I like to troll the tops of those, but my best areas are where the timber grew out on a high bank that may be only 5- or 6-feet deep.

“These timber lines have a distinct drop right outside the edge that goes down to approximately 14 feet, then runs out in about a 15-foot flat before it drops off another 2 feet or so. That little flat there between the first drop and the second drop is an awesome place to troll.”

Lindsey said these little flats used to be loaded with natural brush like button willows that were growing on the edge of the secondary bank that got covered with water. The problem, though, is that much of this natural cover has been lost over the years. That’s why Lindsey takes the time to replenish his hottest spots with man-made brushpiles.

The great thing about trolling this kind of structure/cover combination is that it will produce giant crappie all year long. Humphreys and Lindsey both guide for crappie on the river, and they both spend about half their time trolling no matter what time of year they’re fishing.

“Like the old saying,” Humphreys said, “they’re either going to be deep, shallow or somewhere in between. You can catch them trolling anytime they’re deep or somewhere in between. You can even troll during the middle of the spawn since they don’t all spawn at the same time. You can troll off the edges of the cover and catch crappie that are coming and going.”

Lindsey further explained that it would be possible to catch big crappie trolling through the spawn because the larger female fish tend to hang out in 12 to 14 feet of water until they’re ready to move in to spawn.

“Most of the fish we catch in really shallow water during spring are the males,” he said. “While they’re up there doing their duty, though, the females are out there in the deeper water. They’ll run in and spawn then come right back out.

“Put down the trolling pole if you want to go in there and catch the males. If you want to keep catching big fish, though, keep pulling those cranks with the long pole.”

Lindsey and Humphreys both prefer to troll small lipless crankbaits. Each has pulled some of the small crappie crankbaits like the Norman Crappie Crankbait and the Wally Marshall Crappie Crank, but both find themselves returning to the Trap time and time again.

“I don’t pull the big ones, though,” Lindsey said. “I only pull the 1/8- and 1/4-ounce traps because they are far more attractive to crappie than the bigger models. My most productive color is chrome/blue, which represents a shad, but I also throw some of the red crawfish colors in early spring. My third choice would be a perch color, which works well in the fall.”

Humphreys said he relies heavily on Lindsey’s favorite colors, but he has found a funky color that sometimes catches crappie when nothing else will.

“I troll a tiny Trap about 70 percent of the time,” Humphreys said. “That chrome/blue is hard to beat if it’s sunny, but when the clouds come around, I do better on some of the gold and other darker colors. The funky color that works well is a chartreuse and pink. It’s a lot like the electric chicken color that is getting so popular. That color will catch them on the bright days almost just as well as the chrome/blue one.”

Humphreys positions the long pole with the crankbait between his boat and the cover, and he makes sure to position his boat close enough to the cover so that any fish hanging out right at the edge can see his crankbait when it comes by.

The thinking mind of an angler never stops working, though. That’s why Humphreys utilizes another pole called a drop pole out the other side of his boat.

“I normally rig up a jig that I drop below a pole that’s sticking out the other side of the boat,” he said. “That way I get the best of both worlds with a crankbait on one side and a jig on the other.”

It is extremely important to figure out what size weight to use on the jig, as it will have a tendency to swing up and away from the deeper fish as the boat is moving. Humphreys has used everything from a 3/16- to a 3/4-ounce weight to hold the plastic down in the deeper strike zone.

He favors Crappie Getter, Bass Assassin and Stanley Wedge Tail jigs for the Red River with chartreuse/pink being one of his most productive colors.

“It’s amazing how many fish you can locate and catch when you’re fishing like this,” Humphreys said. “You can be trolling along and hauling water then all of a sudden you’ll get in a little area and whack a big crappie on the crankbait and pick up several more fish on the drop line.”

Lindsey actually prefers to troll with four different rods, and he favors trolling in deeper water than Humphreys. He has discovered that the most essential part of trolling for crappie is learning what it takes to keep the Rat-L-Trap in the strike zone.

“I look for 15 to 25 feet of water for trolling crankbaits,” he said. “Over the years I’ve learned that I have to pull out 250 feet of line to get the Traps to run 14 to 17 feet deep. You’ll eventually learn how much line to let out and how fast to troll to get to certain depths, but most of the time it’s just a matter of catching a fish and repeating the same amount of line out and the same boat speed to get back in the zone.”

Lindsey figures that estimating how much line he has out is good enough for him, but he knows of anglers who spool their line through a line counter right in front of their reel so they get a precise reading on the feet of line they have out.

“I just kind of guess,” he admitted. “I can get a pretty good idea of where my Trap is running, and I just kind of make adjustments on the fly. If I think it’s running too deep, I pull in some line. I let more line out if I need it to go deeper. It’s the same principle as a crankbait running deeper on a longer cast than it does on a short cast.”

Lindsey tries not to adjust the speed of his boat very much because moving too fast will cause the Rat-L-Trap to pull through the water more like a stick than a live baitfish. If you over-vibrate the Trap, it will actually quit wiggling. The wiggle and sound is what makes these baits so attractive to crappie, so anything that takes away from that should be avoided.

Both anglers also credit an electronic unit called a Biosonix for much of their success. The Biosonix has a speaker that is dropped into the water that emits various sounds created by shad and baitfish. Each said that turning on their units actually could create bites where other people weren’t getting any.

“I turn it on the entire time I’m trolling,” said Humphreys. “I usually add a little weight just above the speaker to keep it down while my boat is moving. The important thing is to position the speaker so that it’s just above the depth the fish are holding because crappie tend to feed up rather than down.”

Humphreys explained that one of the ways the Biosonix creates bites is that it makes the fish think they just missed out on an easy meal right before his crankbait comes through the zone through which the speaker just passed. Humphreys sets his on Shad Active, which makes a fish think he missed a meal then BOOM, there’s a crankbait right in its face.

Lindsey cautioned that anglers shouldn’t run out and buy a bunch of gear and think that they are experts overnight. It takes a lot of time on the water to get this trolling technique down, but the effort is well worth it once it’s mastered.

“You’re going to do a lot of pulling and a lot of hanging before you learn what it takes,” he said. “You’ve got to be selective in your areas, selective with your boat speed, selective with your equipment. Everything plays an important part in trolling crankbaits for crappie.

“Learn from your mistakes, though, and build your confidence by learning what not to do. I don’t claim to know it all, but I do claim that trolling crankbaits for crappie is a heck of a technique. Learn how to do it right, and you’ll take your crappie fishing to another level.”

About Chris Ginn 778 Articles
Chris Ginn has been covering hunting and fishing in Louisiana since 1998. He lives with his wife Jennifer and children Matthew and Rebecca along the Bogue Chitto River in rural Washington Parish. His blog can be found at