Steve Jeffers (right) fishing with Allen Reed in Kentucky. The fall colors indicate one of the prime times to pinpoint
crappie in shallow water. Fish can be caught year-round, but fall and spring are the best times for the approach.
Unique SpiderScoping Approach Targets Shallow Crappie
by Greg McCain
For years, Steve Jeffers has enjoyed what he calls the relaxing elements of spider-rigging for crappie. For the tournament competitor from Wabash, Indiana, the multi-rod approach produced plenty of fish in that time.
Fast forward to more recent years, as the spider-rigging game has evolved with the introduction of live-imaging sonar (LIS). Add another element – shallow water – and Jeffers continues to perfect a presentation that pinpoints crappie that can be unpredictable, skittish, and hard to catch at times. He calls it SpiderScoping.
While many anglers use LIS in deeper water, Jeffers said he frequently finds himself scanning shallow flats for fish and brushpiles, especially when crappie congregate on those flats chasing baitfish in the fall and spring.
“I’m fishing 10 feet or less all the way down to about three,” he said.
Jeffers acknowledges that times and places exist when a one-pole approach might be more successful, but the combination of the proven fish-catching potential of spider rigging and the fishing-finding features of LIS makes the shallow-water approach an option for Jeffers whether he is tournament fishing or looking for a meal.
Jeffers said he first discovered the presentation almost by accident during a tournament in 2020. Fishing a heavily pressured area, he said the crappie has been “kicked off the premiere spots” and retreated to small bits of shallow, isolated cover nearby. Jeffers and his partner benefited by targeting these fish on their way to a good tournament finish.
“I like spider rigging,” he said. “I like the concept of having, between you and your partner, 12 baits in the water versus two guys who are just livescoping and (one-pole) dipping. Of course, they are targeting specific fish, and that has proved to be a very successful method of crappie fishing as well.
“Sometimes it becomes personal preference and your intent. If I’m on a meat run, I’d much rather have 12 baits out there. If the fish are roaming on the flats and not holding tight to the brushpiles, that’s not a bad time to spider rig and use the (Garmin) LiveScope to find them.”
Jeffers, fishing with plastics maker Allen Reed (Big Diddy Baits) at Kentucky’s Green River Lake, demonstrated his spider-rigging, shallow-water, LIS approach on the flats that abound there. Even on an early October date when many anglers were still pursuing fish in deeper water on the main lake, Jeffers found plenty of willing crappie as he eased from one brushpile to another.
“As you approach you can see the fish in the brushpile,” he said. “You can ease in there, and if you see some fish that you want to catch, whether it’s eaters or tournament fish, you can set the spotlock or put the Talons or PowerPoles down and put that bait down in that crappie’s face and catch them.”
“This technique will work anywhere and everywhere that you find crappie.” ~ Indiana crappie pro Steve Jeffers
The first stop on the outing started in water about eight feet deep, and the first brushpile lit up with multiple fish. With a spread of 16’ rods deployed from the front, Jeffers maneuvered his boat and targeted multiple fish on the cover, resulting in a double of keeper-sized crappie.
For over an hour, Jeffers zig-zagged through the cove, which was loaded with both visible and submerged brush. Not every piece of cover held fish, but another potential holding spot for crappie was usually just a few yards away and easily found with a quick LIS scan.
Using double-hook minnow rigs eased tight against the cover, Jeffers and Reed picked off perhaps a dozen fish. The water depth read less than four feet on the graph when Jeffers turned the boat around and headed out of the cove.
“The shallow water, some people stay away from it, and sometimes it’s not the place to be,” Jeffers said. “But there’s a lot of fish still there at certain times of the year. You just have to make your presentation a little slower. You have to be conscientious about banging in the boat so that there’s not a lot of vibration and noise. In that shallow water, they are a lot easier to spook than if they’re in 20 feet of water.”
Another consideration that is a bit unusual is landing the fish, which presents its own set of problems. With a short length of line out and a 16’ rod, Jeffers said he often has to “kick the bail” and let out line so that the fish is not swinging through the air.
“You have to let out enough line and get that fish back to you and into the net,” Jeffers said.
For spider rigging, Jeffers favors a rod “with plenty of backbone but a sensitive tip. I want to be able to see that bite.”
He uses eight- or 10-lb. hi-vis mono for his main line. Jeffers builds his own minnow rigs with 8-pound test clear mono, adding “beads and blades” for flash and vibration and connects them to the main line with a snap.
“You can use hair jigs, plastics, tip them with minnows, straight shiners,” Jeffers said, mentioning Reed’s line of plastics and also Crappie Magnet. “They all work at times.”
Regardless of the lure choice, Jeffers said the spider-rigging, shallow-water, LIS approach can be effective at about any time of year and on just about any lake.
“September, October can be very good, and it can be very effective at all times of the year but especially when the fish are congregating on those flats,” he said. “This technique will work anywhere and everywhere that you find crappie.”
Greg McCain is a retired educator and freelance writer from prime crappie-fishing territory in northwest Alabama. His regular stories appear on the ACC Crappie Stix blog, in Georgia Outdoors News, and on the Alabama B.A.S.S. Nation website in addition to his contributions to CrappieNow.