Crappie Ranger

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Crappie Ranger

Crappie fishing is something I have wanted to do since I retired. While loading my Ranger after bass fishing, I met two crappie fishermen a couple of times while they were loading their boat. I talked to them briefly both times and told them I would like to try crappie fishing, but did not know how to begin. They told me it was not too difficult, but I never pursued it.

One day, I met some new neighbors who are building a house near ours. Jay told me he was a crappie fisherman. I told him I really wanted to learn how but had never worked on it in earnest. Jay said he did not mind showing me how to do it.

Jay graciously offered to take me fishing when time allowed. The day I got to go with him, he had his fishing buddy Jim with him also. Jim pushes in the front while Jay long lines out the rear. Jay calls that "Combo Trolling". It seems to work very well. I learned a lot that day. Especially how to coordinate all the tasks required to make this work out as a fun fishing trip and not a tangled mess of lines and poles.

The next day, Jim and I talked because Jim remembered me from talking to me at the boat ramp a few times. My CRS keeps me from remembering things like that. I found out from Jim that he and Jay are the two crappie fishermen I had met at the boat ramp earlier in the year. It is really is a small world!

Anyway, I visited Jay a few times while he was preparing his property for the house. Jay told me about . He regularly posts fishing reports for nearby Lake Oconee and includes videos. His handle is Hotwater on the forum. After several visits with Jay, fishing with Jim and Jay, reading on the website and watching Jay's videos, I decided to rig my Ranger with rod holders for crappie fishing. I know this is blasphemy to most bass fishermen, but I only own one boat.

I felt I could fabricate my own rod holders since purchasing new was very expensive. So, this is how I did it.

I got the idea from the rod holders on Jay's boat. They can be purchased at . I made mine to the size I felt would work for me. I did compare one to Jay's and they are very similar in size.

I needed some steel rod to make the holders and some square steel tubing to make the stands. I used 9/32" steel music wire since I knew it would be strong enough for the holders. I also had some 1" square steel tubing in some old scrap that I had to extract and clean up to make the stands. I purchased the music wire and some angle iron and flat iron on line from . The bases were made from some aluminum I purchased from Ebay.

I first made a wire bender so I could make smooth, repeatable bends in the music wire.

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Music wire is very stiff and can be brittle if bent too sharply. Under the bending bar is a pulley I made on the lathe to keep the bend radii consistent.

A little oil on the wire and the bender worked great.

The longer pieces required three bends. The hook was bent the same way as the front support hooks.

I made marks to indicate where to place the wire in the bender for the next bends.

The next bend is made perpendicular to the first bend. So, I used a makeshift square to hold the piece while it was bent. I made a mark on the bender to indicate how far to bend the wire each time.

I used a welding magnet to hold the end hook while I tack welded it.

Next I took apart some screens that I had salvaged to get the 1" square tubing for the stands.

Then I turned some 5/8" bolt heads so they would be a press fit into the end of the tubing.

I also turned some 5/8" nuts about half way down to fit inside the tubing so they could be welded to the ends of the tubing and center the bolts correctly. I sanded all the tubing to clean off rust for painting with Rustoleum Appliance Epoxy paint.

I then welded all the stands together and painted them. I made two stands to hold four holders each and five stands to hold three holders each. Two holders were made with a removable top arm so the trolling motor can be launched. They are held on with a 1/4" PTO pin.

The aluminum bar is 2" wide by 5/8" thick. I made each mount 3" long with a tapped hole for the 5/8" support bolt.

I drilled and counter sunk four holes in the corners of the mounts. The mounts were then mounted to the boat with #12 stainless wood screws.

The hooks were covered with some 9/32" vacuum tubing I bought from Amazon. It was a tight fit, but a little WD-40 worked wonders. I had to split and punch a hole in the front hook covers. Then I used some heat shrink to cover the split section.

I welded some 1" x 1-1/4" tabs to the center of each holder so they could be bolted to a piece of 1" angle iron. It took a while to make all these small parts and clean them up where they are smooth enough.

My wife asked me if I was going to drill holes in my nice Ranger boat to mount the holders. I replied, of course I am. This boat only has to please me while I have it and this pleases me.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how and where to mount the holders. I wanted to avoid moving them later. I finally mounted the two four position holders on the aft sides along with two three position holders on transom each side of the engine. Then I mounted the other three position holders on the bow.

I did make some modifications after a couple of trips. My brother and I decided we needed the two four position holders on the bow and we had too many holders at the stern. One of the four position holders had to have the removable arm at the trolling motor. It took a little cutting and welding to make the changes.

Now the stern has four three position holders which will be plenty. I left the center bow mount attached to the boat since there are mounting holes in the fiberglass and the mounts look just fine installed.

We also learned that we had to have two wrenches to adjust the holder positions. However, by tack welding the mounting bolt heads on each holder together, only one wrench is needed to adjust them. I still need to weld the ones on the stern.

I also purchased a long handled net. Then I added a holder to keep it out of the way while we are fishing.

I also purchased some tie material from Walmart that Jay suggested. It works well to keep the rods together for transport.

Now I am collecting trolling rods and reels. Jay sold me some extra rods he had to get me started. I put the six Shimano IX1000 spinning reels I had bought years ago on them. One of the rods was a 12' rod that the tip had broken off making it 11'-3". I took one of the other rods that was 12' and shortened the handle end to make it into a 11'-3" rod to match. I use those two rods and two 16' Ozarks out the sides in the rear for long lining. Or, once I get some more reels, I can add the two 14' rods Jay sold me at either the bow or stern.

Then I bought eight new 16' Ozark Signature Series trolling rods on sale and 8 new Shimano IX1000 spinning reels recently.

At Christmas, I found 8' Crappie Maxx Pro rods on sale and bought four of them to use out the transom. They have the length and backbone required to bring fish up to avoid tangles while trolling.

Now I need two more IX1000 reels to go on two of the rods from Jay and I will have a full set needed to "Combo Troll". That is Jay's term for pushing out the front of the boat while also long lining out the rear.

Jim took me fishing recently and I brought home part of the catch. ZZ did not go but she approves of having fish to lick. Jim is a wealth of knowledge too. I learned a lot from fishing with him that day.

This is one of the reasons I like to hunt and fish.

The views are spectacular!