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Angling for skittish crappie

Try a simple plastic device—the planer board

I GOT AN UNEXPECTED PHONE CALL from my friend David Jones to see if I would be interested in attending the inaugural BrushPile Fishing media camp at Dale Hollow Lake in March. BrushPile Fishing is an educational TV series about crappie fishing, while Jones is a crappie guide on Green River Lake. He also is the 2014 Crappie USA Classic Champion and Green River Lake record crappie holder. It didn’t take me long to accept the invitation. 

The event offered an excellent opportunity to gather content for articles about some of the most popular ways to catch crappie today. With several national champion crappie anglers and some of the best crappie guides in the business, this was a great camp with lots of great information. 

By the hot days of summer, crappie have moved out of the spawning bays, following the baitfish to deeper water and suspending in the water column. During this time, the crappie can be a little skittish in clear water as the boat approaches them. 

The new Minn Kota Ultrex trolling motor in our boat was super quiet, which helps a lot, but just the shadow of the boat can spook fish in clear water. You could be fishing all around the crappie and never get a bite. Leave it to a few serious crappie anglers to figure out how to catch the crappie they are spooking. 

My first morning was spent with Jones, using planer boards for suspended crappie. Planer boards are floating plastic boards that are pulled behind a boat, offering several advantages when longlining for crappie in clear water. 

Jones dug out several Crappie Reaper planer boards from a bag. The line is attached to the desired depth that you want your bait to run, using a couple of spring-loaded clasps on the planer board. Different lengths of line are let out on each rod to stagger the baits, and as the planer board pulls farther from the boat, you increase the amount of line let out. When set up correctly, the planer boards on the left and right form a V behind the boat. This technique keeps all your baits away from the boat. It also presents your baits up to a 60-foot spread to cover more water. This is vital when the crappie schools are scattered, following the baitfish. 

If you’re looking for a new way to catch crappie, give planer boards a try. Planer boards are effective any time the crappie is suspended. 

Jones offers lessons in using planer boards; go to and learn a great way to catch crappie, especially in clear lakes like Dale Hollow.

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