Why dangle one minnow in front of a crappie’s nose when you can jiggle a whole school of them?
That’s the idea behind the spider rig, a system that gets crappie to bite at Beaver Lake all year long. A spider rig uses four to eight rods fished at the same time, usually fanned out along the bow of a boat.
Spawning time for crappie
The crappie spawn has started at lakes across Northwest Arkansas, according to angler reports.
Crappie move into shallow water to spawn when the water temperature climbs into the 60s. They can be caught around bushes or wood cover along gravel shorelines.
Minnows or small jigs work well from a foot to 10 feet deep. Fish them with or without a bobber.
Check the regulations for the lake you’re fishing. At Beaver Lake, crappie must be 10 inches or longer to keep. The daily limit is 15.
Source: Staff report
The set-up looks like the eight legs of a spider, especially when Rance Carter of Rogers rigs up his eight-rod system. A morning on the lake left no doubt a spider rig puts crappie in the boat. Carter and Bob Nelson of Bentonville swung 30 crappie into Carter’s boat. That’s two limits of crappie, one for each angler.
Crappie bit so fast the first fish was in the live well before Carter had all eight rods in place.
“That happens a lot. They’ll bite before you get them all out,” said Carter, a fishing guide at Beaver Lake. Carter started guiding after retiring from a 23-year career in the U.S. Army, and after learning the nuances of spider rigging.
Spider riggers in Mississippi and Louisiana were his teachers.
“Then I read a lot of books, did a lot of research,” he said.
On this trip, Carter spent about 10 minutes rigging the eight rods and placing them in holders in a semi-circle around the bow of his boat. A golden sunrise warmed Nelson and Carter while the two took seats side by side behind the array of rods.
It didn’t take long for the long spider-rig poles to bend. Carter swung the first crappie aboard, then another. Both fish measured over the 10-inch length limit for Beaver Lake. It takes some know-how to rig the rods. After that, the fishing is simple.
“There’s no casting. All you have to do is set the hook and get ’em in the boat,” Carter coached.
Rods are rigged with small jigs or minnows, or a combination of both.
“A jig and a minnow combination is my go-to rig 90 percent of the time,” Carter said.
A jig or bait is fished vertically on a tight line below a one-half-ounce sinker. No bobber is used.
Reels are spooled with 10-pound-test line. That’s heavy in the world of crappie fishing, but Carter likes it for when the occasional catfish or striped bass bites. Crappie don’t mind the thicker line, he said.
Carter’s depth-finder screen blinked with crappie about 10 feet deep over 20 feet of water, so bait and jigs dangled 10 feet deep. He fishes deeper, 18 to 25 feet, during winter or shallower than 10 feet during the crappie spawn.
He creeps the boat along, slow-trolling across a flat or hump at less than 1 mph. He mostly fishes the south end of the lake. Occasionally he’ll fish the clearer, north end of the reservoir.
“In clear water you want to fish slower and deeper,” he said.
Spider rigging covers a lot of water. Nelson and Carter routinely had two fish on at once, including crappie up to 14 inches long. Whoops and hollers bounced off the bluffs when the pair scored a triple.
By midmorning, Carter’s aerated livewell was packed with crappie. Time for a fish count to ensure they didn’t get over the daily limit of 15 apiece. Carter counted 28. It didn’t take long to get the final two.
All were caught from a single area about 40 yards off shore. No need to travel miles and work several spots on this trip.
As a guide, Carter likes spider rigging because it’s easy for his clients. Adults and kids can get in on the fish-catching excitement.
Carter used his bass boat on this trip, but he has a pontoon boat for taking families and groups. When the Army veteran has a platoon of guests on board, the catching can be so fast all he and a deckhand do is take the fish off the hooks and re-bait.
It’s game-on fishing party.
Sports on 05/01/2018