Side Pulling

By: Matt Foster

I thought I had fished for crappie using just about every technique out there. That was until I read a few posts on Facebook from Brad Whitehead and Joel Harris about side pulling. It immediately piqued my interest and I had to learn about this technique. I reached out to both Whitehead and Harris to figure out how to use this technique and be successful while doing so. Hopefully, this article will give you some insight as to what goes into side pulling for crappie.

First off, I was interested to learn where side pulling came from. Whitehead explained, “It’s a technique that was discovered here on Pickwick Lake by the master of side pulling Roger Gant. I give him credit, but I have modified I few things over the years that help my fishing and my clients.” Harris has also tweaked the original technique as well to best suit his fishing style.

I was also interested in how to set a boat up for side pulling. Whitehead said he uses nine rods with two baits on each rod. The rods are laid on the side rail of the boat. Harris said, “The trolling motor is mounted on the side of the boat to provide a controlled drift. The boat is controlled by the trolling motor to allow it to drift sideways through the water.” Whitehead explained, “Think of it as a controlled drift with always knowing how deep your lures are in the water column. Both Whitehead and Harris side pull from a 754VS War Eagle Boat. Whitehead explained that this boat was “Designed by us side pullers down to the smallest details. The trolling motor is mounted on the side that gives everyone in the boat equal water to fish or fresh water to fish!” Harris said that “Being comfortable is a must and anyone looking at getting into side pulling would need at least a 17′ boat.” Harris uses Millennium Marine seats so everyone in his boat can sit comfortably while fishing.

Next, I inquired about their rod setup and jig selection. Both Whitehead and Harris use 10-foot long B’n’M The Difference rods. These rods offer the right amount of strength, sensitivity, and action for an exact bait presentation when pulling from the side of the boat. This rod features an IM6 graphite blank for additional stiffness and sensitivity and a Portuguese cork handle and high-quality guides with ceramic inserts for smooth line flow. Whitehead said he uses, “a 1/2 ounce egg sinker along with 1/4 ounce TeeZur jighead paired with a Charlie Brewer Double-Action Minnow, Crappie Magnet Slab Curly’s, and 1/4 ounce homemade hair jigs with Vicious fishing line.” Harris stated that he uses “Two 1/4 ounce Eye Hole Jigs and a Crappie Magnet Slab Bites paired with a Charlie Brewer Slider 2 1/8″ minnow or a crazy tail with Gamma 100% fluorocarbon.” Both Whitehead and Harris use bait caster reels, making it easier to count bait down to the fish.

Brad Whitehead

Next, I asked about boat speed. Whitehead stated, “My average speed is one mile per hour. The colder the water, the slower I go. For example, in fifty-degree water, I will run .03 miles per hour and in seventy-degree water, I will run one mile per hour..” Harris said, “I try to pull on average one mile per hour, but will sometimes pull as slow as 0.7 miles per hour. I asked Harris how he knew how deep he was fishing. Harris said, “It all comes from experience.” Harris said, “For example, if I’m fishing twenty feet of water, I will put out forty-foot of line and my jigs will be right at the bottom running one mile per hour.” Harris also explained, “If fish are suspended, I will run two 1/8 ounce jigs and with thirty-foot of line out the jigs will be around 11′-12′ deep at one mile per hour.” I asked Harris if there was a chart that he used to figure all this out and he said, “It just all comes from experience and time on the water.”

Joel Harris

Harris said, “Side pulling is a big thing on Pickwick Lake, Kentucky Lake, and growing on other lakes.” According to Whitehead, the best time of the year to side pull is from January to May and September to November.

As always, a huge thank you to Brad and Joel for taking time out of their day to answer my questions. If anyone is interested in learning more about the art of side pulling, I urge you to contact Whitehead or Harris and set up a guided fishing trip!

Brad Whitehead– (256) 483-0834

Joel Harris– (662) 424-2551