What Makes a Great Crappie Boat?

Author: Matt Foster

James Taylor said it best, “Being on a boat that’s moving through the water, it’s so clear. Everything falls into place in terms of what’s important and what’s not.” I’m not sure if Mr. Taylor was a crappie fisherman or not, but I’m sure he would have loved it.  In this article, I’m going to cover some of the items and accessories that make a great crappie boat.  So, what makes a great crappie boat? The question I posed to over 20,000 Facebook users was if they could have one thing on a boat that makes their crappie fishing experience better what it would be.  The two answers I received on a reoccurring basis was, a wide bow and reliable outboard.  I think most boat owners can agree that a reliable outboard is the single most important piece of equipment on a boat, next to a boat plug of course. A reliable outboard is a vital part of having a great boat, so you are assured to get to that “honey hole” every time, without fail.  However, I know when I was searching for the perfect crappie boat several years ago, I wanted a boat with a wide bow.  I spend 99.9% of my time spider rigging from the bow so plenty of room and comfortability played a crucial role in my decision.   

In past years, the boat market was flooded with bass boats.  It seemed as if every boat manufacture was making a boat geared towards bass fishermen.  The crappie fisherman’s time has now come.  For the purposes of this article, I will be writing about aluminum boats.  Multiple manufactures are now offering a crappie line of boats.  The aluminum crappie boat manufactures are War Eagle, Sea Ark, Xpress, Ranger, Lowe, Crestliner, Tracker, Lund, and Alumacraft to name a few.  When looking at these boats they seem to all have a few things in common.

The one thing a great crappie boat should have is plenty of storage.  I firmly believe that you can never have too much storage in a boat.  I have never been in a crappie fisherman’s boat and observed an empty storage box.  Normally all the boxes are filled with gear such as, tackle, anchors, drift socks, chains, rods, tools, extra clothing, life jackets, and first aid kits.  Even if you think you’ll never fill all the storage boxes, trust me, you will.

Depending on your style of crappie fishing, most prefer a front live-well.  This is something that I know has strayed some fishermen away from some manufactures.  My current boat, a War Eagle 961 Tomahawk, doesn’t have a front live-well.  I circumvented this by keeping a 50-quart cooler in the boat.  When I get to the spot I’m fishing for the day, I fill the cooler about half full of lake water.  I then place the cooler on the front deck of my boat to have easy access when fishing.  Doing so has a dual purpose.  It serves not only as a homemade live-well, but the extra weight in the front keeps the bow of my boat from bouncing too much in the waves.  During the winter months, the cold water keeps the fish alive until I fillet them.  However, during the summer, when the water temperature is warm, I will either add a bag of ice to the water to cool it off or plug in a battery powered aerator.  I have also seen people put the fish on ice in a cooler during the summer and that technique works pretty good too.  If tournament fishing, and you need to keep the fish alive for weigh-in, I suggest adding lake water to the cooler along with a bag of ice to keep the water cool and an aerator.  There’s nothing worse than having a fish disqualified on tournament day due to it being dead.

A few people in the survey stated their perfect crappie boat would have Power-Pole Total Boat Control poles with drift paddles.  For a long time, I would throw drift socks out to slow down my drift speed.  A few years ago, I was able to purchase a set of Power-Pole Total Boat Control poles used for an exceptional price.  They are one of the top three best things I installed on my boat for crappie fishing.  This past spring my father and I were fishing Grenada Lake in Mississippi.  If you have ever fished Grenada Lake, you know the wind can get a little out of hand there at time.  While spider rigging across the lake the wind started blowing about 15 miles per hour.  My boat speed instantly went to over two miles per hour.  With the click of a button on my lanyard, I dropped the Power-Pole drift paddles into the water and watched our speed drop back down to 0.3 miles per hour.  They are also convenient when fishing shallow water brush piles in the Spring. Once I deploy them, they hold my boat exactly where I want it until I’m done fishing.

With all the aforementioned items a great crappie boat should have, I believe a fish finder is definitely number one.  There is are several manufactures offering a plethora of different models to fit anyone’s budget.  At minimum, a crappie fisherman should spend between $100 to $150 and purchase a budget fish finder. Some of the budget models include Garmin Striker 4, Humminbird Piranhamax 4, and Lowrance Hook 2.  However, each of these manufactures also offer mid and high-end models as well.  If purchasing a side imaging fish finder, the best advice I was given years ago was, get the largest you can afford.  Having a larger screen allows you to more easily see the finer details. The fish finder game has changed drastically in the past two to three years, but that’s another article altogether. 

No matter what boat you have to fuel your addiction of crappie fishing, the options are endless to make it work for you.  The important thing is getting out and fishing. Sometimes the best addition you can make to your boat is a significant other or kid to make it the greatest crappie boat of all time.