There’s nothing like a good fish fry on a summer afternoon. Bringing home a limit of panfish like bluegill or perch is a great way to get the job done right.
This time of year, big panfish are on the hunt for big meals and artificial lures are a good way to take advantage of this. In the summer, panfish metabolism kicks into high gear and they seek meaty prey, such as worms, adult insects, small fish and other big portions.
Here are three of my favorite lures to use on summer panfish when I want to go home with a cooler full of fillets for the weekend.
Can’t Beat Soft Plastics
Grubs make up the juvenile stage of a wide variety of insect species and tend to be a favorite meal for all panfish. Small soft plastics that offer a lot of action on the retrieve and feature wiggly appendages will offer big bluegill, sunfish and crappie a presentation they can’t resist. I like Bass Assassin’s Shad Assassin for this task. They feature a stout, torpedo-like body that narrows into the tail section, offering an ideal imitation for big panfish to strike. Typically, I’ll fix these to a 1/16 or 1/32 oz jighead and work them along weedlines or through bedding areas. Bonus Tip: If you’re finding that a fast retrieve with plastics aren’t getting the job done, switch to a slow, steady retrieve, or even suspend your plastic under a bobber at a fixed depth and move it slowly through the zone.
Pedal to the Metal
Small minnows and fry (juvenile fish) are common fare for big panfish, which means metallic lures like inline spinners and small spoons are great options. Mepps, a popular brand for inline spinners, offers an Ultra Lite inline spinner kit, which is the perfect size for big bluegill, sunfish and crappie. The tiny spinning blades and reflective metallic bodies these lures feature catch sunlight, creating the illusion of smaller fish on the move. Bonus Tip: If panfish are actively feeding, try tying on a spinner that features maribou hair to add a little something extra.
Look for Hard Lures
No panfish lure collection is complete without a good amount of miniature poppers, crankbaits and stickbaits. A small popper twitched over a school of feeding fish is almost guaranteed to trigger reaction or defensive strikes from panfish who are surprised or even annoyed by the lure’s noise. If they’re not feeling a popper, try running a tiny crankbait straight through the school to draw reaction strikes. Rebel, well-known for its creature-imitating hardbaits, offers a Classic Critters Kit, which features a variety of hard panfish lures. Bonus Tip: I’ve never failed when using Rebel’s Crickhopper—a small cricket lure—on the surface to mimic a cricket in distress.