By John Neporadny Jr.
Preferences on rod holder design vary with each crappie pro, but they do concur on one important aspect. When they mount a set of rod racks they don’t want the holders to move.
So the key to putting together a good spider rigging system is acquiring heavy-duty, stable racks that will prevent rod vibration. “Some of the pole holders have little rods for the shaft and if you are in wind when the rods are bouncing and your whole rack is bouncing it is hard to detect a bite,” says Paul Alpers, a veteran tournament angler and former president of the Crappiemasters tournament trail. So he suggests finding a rack with a thick shaft that will keep the rods stable even in rough water.
Alpers notes crappie pole holders have come a long way from the early days when he and other spider rig pioneers designed homemade versions from PVC or metal pipes and 2 x 4 boards. “We had metal pipes with holes drilled through them and we would have a wing nut on them to hold the rod holders,” Alpers recalls. “These companies now have really mastered the rod holders.”
The Missouri angler favors Tite-Lok rod holders because he can hand tighten the holder with a wing nut. “Most of the rod holders have so many adjustments that have to have wrenches to get them to set right for your poles,” Alpers says. “Tite-Lok has one adjustment where you unscrew the nut and you can twist the holder to the right or left.”
Driftmaster CEO David Baynard suggests his company’s pole holders can also be hand tightened, but some anglers still prefer tightening their holders with wrenches. “Each angler has his own technique and you can’t talk them out of it,” Baynard says. “So whether or not they need a wrench, some of them are still going to use a wrench and say that they need one.”
The popularity of the Driftmaster T-250 Series T-Bars exemplifies that dependable, easy-to-use pole holder system crappie anglers want today. “The consumers are buying the rack systems that are easily removable,” says Baynard. His company also offers a portable spider rig setup called the Crow Foot Mounting System that allows anglers to install their rod racks without drilling into the deck of a bass boat. The seat pin for the boat seat serves as the bolt to secure this system to the front deck.
A close look at the boats of the crappie pros reveals that their spider rigs are intricate systems based on exact rod positioning and stable, specialized rod holder designs. The pros set up their spider rigs differently depending on the situation whether it’s fishing deep brush piles, open-water structure or shallow vegetation, or for pushing crankbaits.
“The basic concept of rigging your boat for spider rigging is simply to be able to bring your rods closer to you and make your fishing area real efficient to where you don’t have to move a long ways to get a rod,” Baynard says. He emphasizes the efficiency of a pole holder system to prevent the eight rods spread out on the front deck from turning into a tangled mess.
Baynard suggests most anglers want their poles about 22 to 24 inches off the floor when mounting their racks to the front deck. He believes 16 or 18 inches is an ideal pole height to mount racks on the gunnels or to the back deck specifically for long lining or pulling crankbaits.
The key to spider rigging is trying to cover as wide of a swath of water as possible, so when positioning rod holders Alpers suggests setting up the holders so the poles will be spread 2 to 3 feet apart. He also advises placing the holders far enough away to prevent anglers from banging into the rods with their knees.
Installing pole holder systems is pretty simple. Baynard recommends using the base of the rack as a drill plate for drilling the pilot hole in the deck. Once the hole is drilled it’s just a matter of screwing in the base. “The hardest part is placement,” Baynard says. “We tell people to get in their boat with a fishing rod and put the thing together and make sure the position of it is right where they want it.”
The height of the poles has already been determined by the racks you have chosen so now you want to make sure the holders and poles are clear of the path of the trolling motor and don’t obstruct your view of the electronics. Baynard also suggests positioning the holders a safe distance from your chairs for knee clearance but close enough to reach the poles in a hurry.
The crappie pros want a fast hook set which they can achieve by positioning the poles closer to them. Baynard notes the Crappie Stalker system with a 6-inch offset brings the rods closer without sacrificing knee clearance. With the offset adjusting to a 45-degree angle, the poles lie in a position that allows the anglers to sit more upright in their chairs to prevent backaches and they can achieve faster hook sets since the pole is 6 inches closer to them.
Spider-rigged boats are common sights in the South, but the technique has spread to other parts of the country in recent years. “Some of the Northern states are increasing their rod limits from two to three so that is going to open the doors to this type of fishing,” says Baynard.
This expansion into new territories will probably also open the door to more pole holder and rack innovations.