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The “Spider Rig” Highlights PA Crappie Camp

May 23, 2013
By Larry Claypool - OVO Editor , Ohio Valley Outdoors

There were a few reasons Dan Dannenmueller's boat caught a lot attention on Shenango River Lake. It wasn't just the fancy, colorful Ranger boat wrapped with sponsor logos - it was the unique 'spider rig' setup on the bow of his boat. And he was catching fish too - his specialty, crappie.

It was a nice spring day of fishing at Shenango in mid-May. It helped that the weather cooperated with temperatures in the mid-70s. It also helped that pro angler Dannenmueller, and his Crappie NOW Magazine partner, T.J. Stallings, knew exactly what it took to catch crappie on this PA lake.

The duo and myself were fishing Shenango as part of the PA Crappie Camp, which brought together regional and national outdoor writers and fishing experts from several parts of the country. For this event three different western PA lakes were covered in three days. Pymatuning Lake and Conneaut Lake were the other waters fished. Campers stayed a cabins located in Pymatuning State Park. Local fishing writer and expert Darl Black was in charge of the camp.

Article Photos

Dan Dannenmueller (left) and the author man the bow of the Ranger boat with a spider trolling rig featuring 14-foot BnM Poles, fishing for crappie.

The event was sponsored by the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Visit Mercer County PA, Pymatuning State Park, TTI-Blakemore, BnM Poles, Bobby Garland Crappie Baits, Garmin and Gamma Lines.

The advantage for the Dannenmueller and Stallings team (who hail from Alabama) was the spider trolling rig, something new to folks in western Pennsylvania. It was a new way of fishing for crappie for me too.

The spider rig, with ultra-light spinning rods, has been made popular by crappie fishermen in the south and just making it's way north. In PA, since three lines in the water are permitted for each fisherman, we had six legs (rods) in the water.

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The advantage for the Dannenmueller and Stallings team (who hail from Alabama) was the spider trolling rig, something new to folks in western Pennsylvania.

Each rod, 14-footers in this case, dropped a line from the front of the boat (covering 180 degrees) with jigs tipped with minnows near the bottom and another about 30 inches up from that. We targeted a trolling speed of .3-.4 mph. The jigs of choice were Road Runner lures by Blakemore with Bobby Garland Crappie Baits (Dannenmueller's sponsors). The Tru Turn hooks were also tipped with a Stumpy Steve's fish bait attractant.

That combination netted the most fish of all the Crappie Camp boats at Shenango this day. Our morning session was successful with around 45 crappie. Most of those fish were small, but we caught a handful of keepers. The action was on and off in the stained water, as we searched for fish along a submerged roadbed and cover.

Before we put any lines in the water, Dannenmueller did a thorough search of the area (lake bed) we wanted to fish with his fishfinder. Crappie love to hangout in underwater structure. "A valuable tool for crappie fishing," said Dannenmueller of his GPS fishfinder. "Before we fish in any tournament we generally don't put a line in the water on the first day (of pre-fishing)."

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The fishing for slabs picked up during the afternoon session for Dannenmueller's boat. Outdoor writer Vic Attardo (PA) fished with the crappie experts during that span. Dannenmueller found a better stretch of the roadbed later in the day (further west of the marina) and the wind picked up some, which helped catch more, and bigger, fish. Those big crappie, in the 15-inch range, were used for photographs at the end of the day by some members of the media.

During the afternoon session I fished for bass and with Dale Black and Mark McQuown. The rip-rap located west of the Recreation Area provided no fish, after three nice largemouth were taken there in the morning. I did catch a small channel catfish on a Joe's Flies spinner.

Dale Black is owner of Gamma Lines, of Oil City, PA. McQuown, an accomplished bass fisherman, is Regional Sales Manager for Garmin.

Camp Notes:

Dan Dannenmueller is a two-time (2011 and 2012) Crappie Masters National Team Angler of the Year. Visit the Crappie NOW Magazine (online only) at: See more information about Dannenmueller on his Facebook page or website:

T.J. Stallings, fishing tackle guru and Crappie NOW Magazine co-publisher, is one of the most respected fishing tackle experts in the world. Besides being a great fisherman, photographer and writer, Stallings is the marketing director for TTI-Blakemore and social media expert. Read more about Stallings on his blogspot:

Dannenmueller on using the spider rig method during crappie tournaments, "It's the most consistent method used. It provides the most money winnings, time-in and time-out. And you get bigger fish."

Other fishing experts that took part were: pro angler Lou Consoli (the owner of SkippyFISH Bait Company from PA), pro angler Russ Bailey (host of Midwest Crappie TV and BnM Poles Pro Staffer from Ohio) and Jeff Samsel (freelance writer from Georgia). Several local anglers offered their assistance during the event, including: Jim Hall, Hooker, Ernie Pate, Chub Hornstein, Dan Wielobob, Dave Richter and Bryan Stuyvesant.

Tourist information about the Pymatuning Lake and Conneaut Lake area is available at: or call 800-332-2338. For information about the Shenango River Lake region, visit: or call 800-637-2370.

For in-depth fishing reports all year on the Northwest PA region, including Crawford and Mercer counties, visit their website at: or Darl Black's blogspot at:



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