By Ron Presley
This underwater shot shows Drift Paddles deployed. Changing the angle and depth of the paddles results in varying degrees of drag and speed reduction.
Aluminum boats have always been popular among crappie anglers if for no other reason than economy. Today’s aluminum boats go further than economy by offering styles and accessories that even the pro fishermen like. Their lightweight, all welded construction, choice of hull type, built-in fishing decks and convenient storage put anglers on the water in comfort and style.
Any fishing accessory you can put on a fiberglass boat can be installed successfully on aluminum boats, including those accessories needed for boat control under different fishing conditions. Any savvy angler worth their weight in crappie will tell you just how important boat control is. The control that crappie anglers need most includes setting still in an anchored position or fishing slow, even in wind or current.
The traditional answer to setting still was to tie to structure or throw out an anchor. Both methods work successfully. There are brush gripping accessories to help tie up and there are anchor designs for every type of bottom structure.
If you are spider rigging or pulling out the back, speed control is a highly important factor for catching crappie. A trolling motor will help you go faster when needed, but what do you do to slow down in wind or current? The solutions include pulling a bucket, a length of logging chain or purchasing a drift sock designed for the task.
When there is a need to be filled some creative angler comes up with an innovative commercial solution to meet it. The Power-Pole shallow water anchor was the first high-tech answer to anchoring up. Shortly after that, the Talon shallow water anchor was introduced.
Power-Pole Shallow Water Anchors
The Power-Pole is a wireless remote controlled device that hydraulically drives a spike into the lake or river bottom. Several models of Power-Poles are available in different colors and sizes. All units come with a hardware package to complete a transom installation. Buyers should be aware that different models have different pump speeds that will effect deployment time.
One of the important decisions buyers will make relates to the depth of the water they normally fish. The John Oliverio Signature Series is named after the man who conceived the Power-Pole concept. It comes in 4- and 6-foot models. The Pro Series II and the Sportsman Series II will anchor in water up to 8 feet deep. The Blade Edition gives the deepest penetration extending to 10 feet. The newer Micro Anchor comes with an 8.5-foot spike and it will work with manual spikes like the Stick-It Anchor Pin. The Micro mounts easily on any small boat or kayak and works well with light aluminum boats. The Micro will also mount on the bow.
The Xpress aluminum boat shown here uses dual Talons to create a stable crappie fishing platform.
Pro crappie angler Kevin Jones gives a good example of why aluminum boat owners might want to add a Power-Pole to their boat. “We were fishing in the lily pad stems on Kentucky Lake,” explains Jones. “It is hard to move in the thick vegetation with the pads coming up above the surface. We simply Power-Poled down and set 20 foot B’n’M Poles in the Driftmaster rod holders. We could cover 60 foot of water from that one position. We were using corks, so just setting there, even in the wind, allowed us to target some quality fish.”
Attaching Power-Poles to an aluminum boat is as easy as matching one of many adapter plates to your make and model of boat. If you prefer to mount without drilling holes in the transom there are brackets for using the same holes as the motor or jack plate.
Power-Pole Drift Paddles
Power-Pole shallow water anchors have evolved from their first model that also helps anglers slow the boat. Drift Paddles will attach to any 8 or 10 foot Power-Pole and have the capability of slowing the boat by 50 percent in windy or high current conditions.
Talons may be installed with an accessory bracket using the same holes as the motor or jack plate or may be mounted directly to the transom as shown here.
The paddles are completely adjustable with seven quick-change positions that provide different angles and levels of drag when deployed. A tapered design provides precise drift speed control. The deeper the blades are deployed the greater the resistance and the slower the boat speed. In addition to slowing the boat the angler’s presentation is made with no mechanical noise that might spook the fish.
Floridian George Parker is a tournament angler with a focus on presentation. He uses drift paddles for both spider rigging and pulling. “If you want to be successful fishing for crappie you have to concentrate on your presentation,” instructs Parker. “Often the presentation needs to be slow. I use Power-Pole Drift Paddles anytime I need to go slower.”
Parker says the paddles are especially helpful in severe wind conditions. “If it is blowing 20 MPH or more, I can stick those paddles all the way down and achieve a much slower speed and a much smoother ride. The paddles stop the bouncing and hold the bait presentation better.”
He says the easily adjusted paddles allow him to control his drift with precision. “Simply pull a spring loaded lever to adjust the paddles to the angle you want. You can set them up so you drift parallel to a bank, or follow a ridge or drop. I set the trolling motor on autopilot to keep the boat straight and forget about it. I can spend my time tending the poles instead of controlling the boat.”
The drift paddles have worked beyond Parkers expectations. “I did not dream how useful they would be until I used them. They will be on any boat that I use for crappie fishing.”
Talon Shallow Water Anchor
The Talon from Minn Kota is the newest entry into the shallow water anchor market. Instead of folding out and down to set the spike, Talon operates vertically using a two-stage deployment. The Talon is deployed by double clicking the down button on a wireless remote or by a switch on the control panel. Once the spike hits the bottom a feature called Auto Drive delivers three successive hits to drive the spike and complete the anchoring process. Its electro-mechanical design makes it similar to mounting a trolling motor and by all accounts it is an easy installation. There are no hydraulic pumps or lines, so storage space is saved for other things.
The Talon has a rough water mode on the control panel. A touch of a button will activate Auto Drive three successive times to set the spike solidly in the bottom. Talon also has a wave-absorbing feature that allows the boat to bounce on the waves without pulling the spike. In case of failure, or a spike stuck too solidly in the bottom, the Talon has a manual override bolt that will lift the talon using a socket wrench.
Bill Burnett is and avid crappie angler and owner of Big River Marine in West Memphis. He has years of experience in the marine industry where his company specializes in Xpress and Ranger aluminum high performance fishing boats.
Burnett uses a Talon on his Xpress H20 PFC to stop the boat and remain stealthy. “I’ve noticed a unique problem when fishing shallow water for crappie in heavy cover, “explained Burnett. “In the spring, the cold fronts always seem to be followed by heavy winds and high pressure which makes the crappie hold tight to the cover and makes them extremely skittish and spooky.”
Those spring cold fronts and the accompanying wind and waves makes anchoring aluminum boats a challenge because of their lighter weight. “Standard anchors are cumbersome, heavy to lift, noisy to deploy, and get your boat’s interior filthy,” comments Burnett. “I’ve come to depend on a much better solution to those anchoring problems by using a Talon from Minn Kota.”
Instead of lifting and tossing an anchor overboard, Burnett simply pushes the down button on his remote and he’s securely anchored. “The Talon helps you with the spooky fish,” adds Burnett. “It’s stealthy to deploy and helps you hold position without running the trolling motor.”
“When trolling or spider rigging for crappie in open water I use the Talon to stop me over cover, like brush piles, stake beds and tree tops, when the depth allows. The Talon keeps my boat positioned so that I can suspend my baits right on top of the fish.”
Burnett thinks all serous fishermen should have a Talon. “Whether you tournament fish or just want the most from your weekend fishing, these devices help put more fish in the boat?”
The days of pulling log chains and buckets are not dead, but their days are probably limited as high-tech solutions to slowing and anchoring make the process simpler and more convenient.