Shooting docks and one pole jigging may be Mike Parrott’s favorite way to catch crappie, but on the tournament trail he has had much success with spider rigging. Parrot fishes the Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters All American Tournament Trail with his partner Whitey Outlaw. Parrot has the distinction of being the only angler ever to win a Crappie Masters National Championship while fishing solo.
Outlaw and Parrott have won many tournaments and earned many accolades during their crappie fishing career. They finished the 2014 year by claiming the Crappie Masters Angler Team of the Year award (AOY). As the 2015 season winds down they are holding down the second place slot in AOY just one point behind the leaders with one event left on the schedule.
I met up with Parrott at a recent media event where he shared some of his expertise about crappie fishing, particularly spider rigging (tightlining), in the St. Johns River and Lake Monroe.
Many tournaments in Florida occur in February and covering water is often the secret to success. “If the fish have moved into shallow water you can do pretty good tightlining,” instructed Parrott. “I find the fish will suspend in random places out there in the middle of the lake, or they will be scattered real far apart.”
Like many other fishing techniques, spider rigging takes patience. “If I am tightlining I might fish a 500 yard stretch in an hour and catch two fish,” informs Parrott. “You just have to stick with it and work the water methodically and fully.”
Spider rigging in Florida can be done legally with eight poles. Parrott places 14-foot B’n’M Poles in Driftmaster Rod Holders. “You always want to fish above a crappie,” explained Parrott. “They always feed looking up. It is the way their eyes are situated on their heads. Depending on water clarity a fish might come up three or more feet to hit, but they are not going to go down to eat. Obviously, in muddy water they can’t see as far and you will have to get the bait closer to them.”
Understanding this crappie behavior Parrott begins by placing baits at different depths until a pattern is established. “Some poles are set shallow and some set deeper,” says Parrott. “We don’t want to miss the shallow fish. We don’t mark those shallow fish on sonar, so it is important to try different depths.”
All his reels are spooled with 8-pound Vicious Fishing Line. His terminal tackle is a double rig of some kind. “We usually tie a Rockport Rattler jighead on the bottom and a hook and minnow on the top drop,” explained Parrott. We will add a barrel sinker between the jig and the hook if needed to deal with wind or current flow. That weight is used to keep the line vertical in the water column as the rig is pushed over the flats.”
Parrot says there are certain advantages to the spider rigging set up. “Think about it,” said Parrott. “You can have two different colors on each pole and you can set them at different depths. That could be 16 different colors and 8 different depths. Now we don’t usually do that, but you could. Both color and depth are very important.”
Parrott is always experimenting with color. “Color preferences change from time to time,” according to Parrott. “You just have to experiment. I have favorite colors that I always like to use, but there is no exact formula that works day-to-day or lake-to-lake. Some people say they will use certain colors at certain times, but if there is a rule of thumb I never have figured it out. It just pays to swap around colors until you find what’s working best on any given day.”
Crappies use their other senses too. “Crappie fishing is more than just getting a bait where they can see it,” said Parrott. “We use the Rockport Rattler jigheads all the time. They add sound from a built-in rattle. They have a great color selection, reflecting eyes, and they add vibrations that the fish can feel. We usually put a minnow on there for smell. You are definitely increasing your odds it you appeal to all their senses.”
Parrott recalled a particular day in Florida that sold him on the Rockport Rattler jigheads. “We were fishing a tournament in Florida and had zeroed in on a bunch of fish that just would not eat anything other than a minnow. We used plain minnows on our double rigs to catch a limit the first day.”
“The second day the fish wouldn’t bite for us at all. I took one pole and put a pink Rockport Rattler on it. I didn’t put a tube on it or anything, just tipped the jig with a minnow. I caught 12 fish off that one pole and never got a bite on the other seven. We immediately started winding them up and putting Rockport Rattlers on all of them. We started catching fish on all the poles. To me that proved that the Rockport Rattler was doing something that the crappie liked.”
Parrott admits that fishing the river is a little more of a challenge. “It is tougher to spider rig in the river because you don’t have the open water. What we do is find the river channel edges. There are some stumps and brush on those edges that hold fish. We push right up to the brush. You have to consider the current and fish against it. If you fish with the current you are probably going to fast. Every year we have fished in Florida we have done pretty good in the river.”
“Last year we fished the lily pads,” revealed Parrott. “There were plenty of fish in em’, but they were not big enough. Most of our good fish came from about 18 feet of water with a ledge at about 10 feet where it dropped off. The secret is to find some brush or other structure and push up current to have a slow presentation. Usually a pink Rockport Rattler head and a colorful Midsouth Tackle plastic tail work well. The fish seem to be attracted by that rattle.“
“Just remember,” adds Parrott. “Color selection and depth is something that can change hour by hour during the day. Don’t be afraid to change colors or depth. It will definitely pay off for you.”
Mike Parrott is sponsored by Rockport Rattler, B’n’M Poles, Midsouth Tackle, Minnkota, Humminbird, TTI Blakemore, Driftmaster and Vicious Fishing Line.