Newcomers to crappie fishing often hear about tight-lining and long-lining when crappie fishermen in the Carolinas discuss trolling techniques.
Both involve multiple rods and rod holders and give boats a water bug-like appearance when viewed from above, but what’s the difference and how do you choose which one to use?
The benefit of tight-lining is absolute depth control. Because the line is vertical in the water column with heavier weight used to keep the line at close to 90 degrees when moving, the angler can dial in the depth of the bait.
In order to keep line and baits at precise depths, tight-line trollers cannot move faster than about .5 mph without whipping the lines back behind the boat. Tight-line trolling works best when the boat is following a known line -- such as the edge of a creek or river channel -- and the angler is targeting the drop-off and structure related to it. It’s well known that crappie use contour lines when traveling from place to place, so tight-lining along a contour line is a great way to intercept fish.
Long-lining also shines when fish are in transition. It also works better when crappie are relating to roving schools of baitfish than when specifically relating to structure. In long-lining, the weight of the jig is used as one of the factors in determining depth. The heavier the weight, the deeper the jig will run. Other factors include boat speed and the amount and diameter of line used.
Long-liners may follow a contour line but most likely would be trolling the expanse of a flat. This allows the angler to cover more water as the average boat speed is twice that of tight lining.