By John Neporadny Jr
The first boat my Dad and I owned together was a 16-foot aluminum Bass Tracker that we used for both bass and crappie fishing.
It suited our style of crappie fishing since we usually dipped jigs in shallow timber or cast to brush piles in deeper water. However the boat’s layout would be considered inadequate for the diverse tactics pro crappie anglers rely on today when fishing competitively.
The popularity of spider rigging and team crappie tournaments has compelled aluminum boat manufacturers to design their boats with a front deck seating arrangement for one or two seats. Many of today’s aluminum crappie boats have two or three pedestal seat base plates on the front deck for multiple seating options.
Some new boats now have three pedestals across the front to provide for a single fisherman or two fishing side-by-side. This boat is a G3 Eagle Talon.
The two pedestal seat holes on the front deck make an ideal arrangement for side-by-side spider rigging with two anglers, but the three-hole setup allows anglers to switch to other tactics easier. TJ Stallings, veteran crappie angler and TTI/Blakemore Fishing Group marketing/public relations specialist, likes to spider rig and pitch for crappie so he prefers the three-hole setup on the front deck of his G3 Eagle 176V boat. “There are times when I want to use a flipping seat for pitching to brush and banks and that center seat option is nice rather than sitting on one side of the boat,” Stallings says.
Tournament competitor Kent Driscoll believes the three-pedestal base on his War Eagle Predator 1860 helps balance the load in the front of the boat whether he is spider rigging by himself or with a partner. “With an aluminum boat, especially if it doesn’t have the deep-v, you sit up in the water more and if you are by yourself and you are not sitting in the middle of the boat it will lean a little to one side,” Driscoll says. “So when the rods are in your holders the tips of the rods on one side could be lower than the ones on the other side.”
Other companies offering three seat base layouts are Xpress Boats (Hyper-lift and Xplorer crappie series boats), Ranger Boats (Tournament RT188C model) and Triton Boats (C TX and XC series). Grenada Lake guide and tournament competitor John Harrison runs a War Eagle 2170 Black Hawk that comes standard with the two seat base but he had War Eagle custom design his boat with the three-hole arrangement.
Pole holder placement is the next crucial step in setting up your aluminum boat for today’s specialized crappie fishing tactics. Stallings notes some anglers make the mistake of worrying about knee room when trying to determine the distance they should place their holders from the seats. He believes reach should be the key to pole holder placement. “A lot of people want plenty of leg room but then when they are leaning forward in their seat they are making the front of the boat go down an inch or two,” Stallings says. “If you have to lean too far forward you are making the crappie feel the weight of the jig before you pick up the pole.”
Harrison and Driscoll rely on a simple formula for determining the right distance to place between pole holders and seats. “I want it to where if I put my elbows on my knees my hand will touch my poles straight in front of me,” Harrison says. “That way I don’t have to reach way out to get a pole or the poles aren’t shoved right up under me.”
The elbow on the knee measuring system allows Driscoll to snatch up his rods for a quick hookset. “It is kind of like grabbing a fly out of the air,” Driscoll says. “You have to snatch that rod real quick.”
Driscoll favors the Driftmaster T-275-J Crappie Stalker System with individual pole holders rather than a T-bar system for his spider rigging. “The benefit of that is when I reach up to grab my rod out of the single versus the T-bar is that I don’t shake any of the other poles,” he says.
The individual holders also allow him to adjust and turn poles without disturbing the others. “That’s really important when fishing in the springtime in shallow water for spawning crappie,” he says.
With his pole holders placed around the front deck in 30-degree segments, Driscoll estimates the tips of each pole are about 30 to 36 inches apart out over the water. He secures the bases of the pole holders with 2-inch self-tapping stainless steel screws.
Definitely not a February photo, but a great example of seat placement and having the single stem Driftmaster holders in easy position to grab a pole. The boat is a War Eagle.
Harrison also relies on an individual stem system with his Driftmaster Gun Slingers pole holders. However he secures his pole holder bases with nuts and bolts. “That is better than putting a screw in them,” he says. “When you have a screw in them over time when you push the holders back and forth the screws will pull out.” Removing the front console on his War Eagle Black Hawk allowed Harrison to reach under the front deck to tighten the bolts for his pole holder bases.
The Driftmaster T-250-H T-bar system is Stallings’ choice for the front deck of his G3 boat. He estimates that the base plate of his T-bar system is about 2 feet from the gunnel of the boat. Stallings said the stainless wood screws and deck plates provided by Driftmaster worked well for him in securing the pole holder system to the front deck of his boat.
With more options available today, crappie anglers can set up the front deck of their aluminum boat with an ideal seating/pole holder layout for both spider rigging and single pole fishing.