“I call it combining for crappie,” longtime Tennessee fishing guide Jim Duckworth said about his trolling approach. “I’m covering a 37-foot-wide path with every trolling pass.”

Trolling is easily Duckworth’s favorite way to catch crappie. When he trolls, he is always pulling Bandits, because they consistently produce bigger fish and he can keep them in the right depth zone.

“Plus, they always run true,” Duckworth said.

Duckworth trolls with six lines out, and he keeps eight Bandits in the water because each outside lines is equipped with a double-wire rig that has a 100 Series on the top and a 200 Series on the bottom. He has a Driftmaster trolling bar mounted across the back of his boat, with the rod holders placed strategically to produce the best spread. His outside rods, which are 16 feet long, go straight out. The middle two, which are 10 feet long, are at a 45-degree angle out and toward the back. His inside rods, which are 7 feet long, go straight up, over his motor on opposite sides, and he runs them fairly short.

Water temperature dictates trolling speed, which Duckworth controls precisely with a Power-Pole Drift Paddle and monitors with his GPS. Trolling season begins and ends for him when the water hits 65 degrees, and from 65 to 70, he trolls at 1.6 mph. From 70 to 75 degrees, he bumps it up to 2.0 or 2.1. When the water is warmer than 75 degrees he trolls at 2.5 mph. As the water begins cooling during autumn, he cycles back through the same speeds.

Duckworth lets the fish dictate color preferences. He typically begins with eight different colors rigged, and when one gets hit a couple of times, he puts that color on one or two other lines.

Duckworth admits that he was apprehensive about all the pink in Bandit’s “crappie colors” when those baits were first developed. However, he has become a huge fan of pink-heavy colors like Hotty Totty, Grenada Shad and Awesome Pink because the crappie love them and other species seem less inclined to eat them.

Before Duckworth puts out any lines, he searches major coves for concentrations of shad. Initially, he looks for seagulls and herons, which almost always point to shad. Lacking telling birdlife, he sets the Side Imaging on his Humminbird 1199 to 80 feet and uses electronics to search until he finds plenty of shad.

“If there are shad, there will be crappie,” Duckworth said. “People often think crappie just hold on brush, but they are really more like stripers most of the time. They get in the coves where the shad are and cruise, following the shad.”

With the shad located, Duckworth lets his Bandits do the fish finding. He clears the track on his GPS and starts trolling, running the boat in 15 to 20 feet of water, ideally along some kind of break. He pays attention to the paths that produce strikes and makes return passes, often in the opposite direction, and if fish strike multiple times in the same spot, he’ll drop an icon or toss out a marker buoy.

By systematically covering water and patterning locations and colors, Duckworth typically learns exactly what the crappie want and where they are as the day progresses, and by day’s end, his highly efficient method normally has produced a bunch of crappie.