Crappie Boats - The Ultimate Guide | Great Days Outdoors

Crappie Boats – The Ultimate Guide

If I want to know the qualities of any fishing product, I’ll talk to the people who use those items to earn their livings. They’ll choose dependable, comfortable, safe and efficient products that withstand the test of time. Then I’ll want to interview the person or the company to learn how they’ll build this quality product with what to make it in high demand. I’ve interviewed people who earn their livings from crappie fishing in order to create the ultimate guides to crappie boats.


Best Crappie Boat Features

Tony Adams has crappie fished on Lake Eufaula, Alabama, for about 40 years and guides 70-100 days each year on his off days. Today, on Adams’  21-1/2 foot 2170 Blackhawk, built on a V hull, he has a V Max 150 Yamaha four stroke engine because, “Yamahas are very dependable.” 



After studying boat reviews from various sources, Adams named the War Eagle 2170 Blackhawk as his dream boat. One of the features Adams particularly liked was the T-Lock/Cap Rail that, “Wraps around the boat. On this track system, I can put various accessories like a grab bar, cup holders, rod holders, a hand trolling motor bracket, a foot trolling motor bracket and 10+ other accessories. My console has the Humminbird Helix 12, and there’s a Humminbird Helix 9 on the front deck. I have the Humminbird MEGA Live (forward-facing sonar) and a Minn Kota Ulterra trolling motor with Spot-Lock self-pulling on my Blackhawk too.” 


crappie boats

While catching crappie more than 70-100+ days per year, Tony Adams says, “I feel like I’m driving a Cadillac when I’m in my Blackhawk.”


Since getting his Blackhawk, Adams says his customers love it and have named it the most-comfortable ride ever. Due to its design, the Blackhawk cuts through choppy water and doesn’t bounce around his clients.  “I like the way this Blackhawk’s configured with its three pedestal inserts, enabling me to set seats up like I prefer. My livewell’s in front of the console. I’ll sit in the middle of the boat to put minnows on my usual two to three customers’ rods (I can fish up to five people) and land fish from both sides of the boat. There’s storage under the back seats for equipment and rod storage for 16-20 rods.” 



If Adams’ customers want to fish in the rain, he doesn’t hesitate to take them because the Blackhawk’s built for bad weather and waves and still produces a comfortable ride.  


Non-Destructible Crappie Boats to Fish a Rough Environment

Billy Blakely, the chief fishing guide at Blue Bank Resort on Tennessee’s Reelfoot Lake, uses War Eagle boats and rents out 38 War Eagle boats to anglers. “I’ve been using War Eagle Boats since 1998, and today I’m fishing out of a 2170 Blackhawk. Reelfoot Lake’s earthquake in 1812 split the earth. A forest of trees fell into the hole that’s now Reelfoot’s bottom that’s great habitat for crappie but rough on boats. Reelfoot has a reputation of tearing-up boats and motors.  

“Our rental boats – mainly 648 and 754 models – take beatings every year. However, some of these 20-year-old War Eagles still look brand-new, don’t rot like wooden boats and feature exceptional stability. Our Reelfoot boats run every day all year for duck, crappie, bass, catfish and bluegill seasons. Our boats feature insulated livewells that hold 50-60 crappie, and we can store 16, 16-foot, B‘n’M crappie rods in each rod locker. We like War Eagles because they’re safe in storms, offer room to carry the needed fishing supplies and tackle and still allow our clients to move around in the boats.”   


Side-Pulling War Eagle Boats

War Eagle builds a boat that enables crappiers to fish one of the newest crappie techniques – side pulling. Instead of having the trolling motor in the front or the back of the boat, the angler attaches his trolling motor to the side of the boat and pulls the boat sideways, as it drifts with the wind and/or the current. To learn the benefits of side-pulling crappie-fishing boats, I talked with Brad Whitehead of Muscle Shoals, Ala., well-known crappie guide who’s used War Eagle boats for many years. 


war eagle boats

This unusual-looking War Eagle boat features side pulling, giving the anglers the ability to have their jigs or minnows pulled through fresh water for 600-700 yards.


“In a side-pulling War Eagle, everything inside the boat’s positioned differently than on other crappie-fishing boats,” Whitehead explains. “The side-pulling boats have the chairs positioned in the middle of the boat and facing the side of the boat. The livewell and the depth finder are in the center of the boat, and the electric motor is on the side of the boat, instead of the boat’s stern. The boat’s operator and his customers don’t have to stand-up or move to reach tackle or rods.”

Whitehead also mentions that three anglers can cover abundant water side-pulling jigs or minnows. The guide can see his rods and his two customers’ rods. Customers’ bait is pulled through fresh water that no other bait hasn’t come through yet. Whitehead emphasizes that customers from ages 6 to 89 don’t need much fishing skill to successfully catch crappie side-pulling.

“With side pulling, we want the wind, the current or the trolling motor to push the boat,” Whitehead says. “This technique uses short B‘n’M crappie rods – 8-10 feet long. Three anglers can make a drift lasting 600 – 700 yards to catch open-water and structure-oriented crappie.”    


Mike Ward Builds War Eagle Boats 

Why are so-many tournament crappiers, guides, pleasure crappie fishermen and hunters choosing War Eagle boats? I talked with Mike Ward, War Eagle’s president, about what makes these boats so popular, durable and useable as two-season boats. 

“My grandfather M.H. (Chick) Ward and his brother Bill were blacksmiths by trade as had been my ancestors for many years,” Ward reports. “They built flat-bottomed cypress boats. In 1945, they convinced the U. S. Department of War to let them buy some heavy-gauge aircraft aluminum that had been used to build WW II airplanes. My ancestors built rough and tough aluminum johnboats one-third the weight of steel with two-thirds of steel’s strength, providing a lighter yet stronger alternative to wooden boats.”


crappie boats

Brad Whitehead, pictured here, has learned that using a side-pulling boat enables he and his clients to catch more crappie quicker than when they’re spider rigging or vertical fishing for crappie.


Ward’s grandad’s philosophy was, “Build the boat right the first time, and you’ll never worry about it in the future.” The Wards made sure their boats kept their integrity, and that the boats always would get anglers back safely. If this grade of aluminum could take bullets, the Wards knew these boats wouldn’t have a problem with the environments that duck hunters and crappie fishermen experienced. 

“Our boats have a 1/4-inch center keel that takes most of the impact when the boats are running across the water,” Ward explains. “That feature protects the boat’s bottom from rocks, stumps, logs and limbs. We put the most strength and bump resistance in the boat’s keel and use 5052-H32 aluminum to have the right mix of alloy and temper in the aluminum.” 

Today’s War Eagle brand started in 1992 with the 436 and 542 size boats. War Eagle gradually has moved up to larger boats in scale and size. Ward reports that, “Since our customer is probably a two-sport outdoorsman – duck hunting and fishing from his War Eagle – our goal always has been to build a boat for people who want to use their boats all year long.” 

War Eagle Boats Specifics:

  • a) The Boats’ V – The 860 18-foot boat has about a 12-degree V, and the Blackhawk series starts with an 18-inch V in the boat’s bottom, moving up to a 22-degree V in the 21- to 23-foot Blackhawks. The deeper the V, the more lift you’ll get out of the boat. The boat splits the waves at the front of the boat, carries the lift all the way to the boat’s back and produces a much-smoother ride with not much of the boat touching the surface of the water.
  • b) The Chine’s Turn-Down – War Eagle boats also have a turn-down on the boat’s chine. As a boat climbs a wave and reaches the boat’s chine, the boat turns back, tapers and increases a much-more stable turning ability of the boat. Many aluminum boats will slide sideways when they’re turned. With this chine, the person driving can put the boat where he wants it and not have a rough ride. Another advantage that the chine has is that when you’re crossing a wake, some boats get squirrely – resulting in not as much control as War Eagles have. The War Eagle chine has a self-correcting valve when you cross waves that causes the boat to sit-down more level.
  • c) War Eagle Attacks the Crappie Market – “We wanted to find an underserved fishing market,” Mike Ward says. “We searched for knowledgeable people who knew what crappie fishermen needed in a boat. These people included well-known outdoorsmen like Tommy Akin, Jonathan Harrison and Ryan Carter and guides like Billy Blakely, Brad Whitehead and Tony Adams. These guys could tell us where pedestal stool bases and equipment storage were needed, and where other features should be added.” 



The Bear Creek Watershed in northwest Alabama produces some fine crappie for side pullers who fish with Brad Whitehead.


Recently, War Eagle Boats has brought in Tucker Ward, the fourth generation of the family. “We’re really proud to be a U. S. family-owned business serving the fishing markets,” Mike Ward emphasizes. “We also build different types of American-made accessories that can be mounted on our T-Lock/Cap Rail. You can learn more about War Eagles and our many different designs by checking us out on the web. If you’ll call us at 870-367-1554, you won’t get an answering machine. You’ll get a live person who can talk to you about what you want in a boat, and what we can do to fit your needs and wants. Our sales-department people have been with us for years and can answer most any question you may have about our boats. You’re also welcome to visit our boat plant in Monticello, Arkansas.” 


Consider These Options For Crappie Boats

What’s the best: 

  • Material for Crappie Boats – Due to the tough conditions of places where crappiers fish, most anglers prefer aluminum boats, like War Eagle’s. As Mike Ward explains, “If this grade of aluminum could take bullets in WWII, our family knew these boats wouldn’t have a problem with the environments that duck hunters and crappie fishermen experienced.” Also Billy Blakely says, “War Eagle’s aluminum boats don’t rot like woods boars and are exceptionally stable.”
  • Size of a Crappie Boat – The size you need is based on whether you’re guiding 2-5 people, or if you’re renting a smaller War Eagle for fun fishing, like those at Reelfoot Lake.
  • Crappie Boats’ Steering Options – Few folks fish for crappie today without trolling motors to hold their boats steady in the water. Many crappiers choose center-console boats to use with their trolling motors. Brad Whitehead fishes the side-pulling tactic for crappie, and he has a War Eagle with a side console.
  • Crappie Boats’ Set-Up – Anglers must consider the boat set-up that works best with their style of fishing. Accessories for crappie boats are plentiful. Tony Adams enjoys his War Eagle Blackhawk because of its T-Lock/Cap Rail that can hold 15 or so accessories to make his crappie fishing easier.

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