Fish behavior is never a guarantee. Yet when it comes to panfish–small freshwater species like crappie, bluegill, or perch–planning your tactics based on their increased feeding activity following the spawn season will be a big factor in reeling in big numbers on your next warm weather outing.
Not all weedlines are created equal, but they all possess common traits that let anglers know where to fish. For instance, some lakes have a large span of shallow water called a flat, prior to drop-offs of 20 or 30 feet. It’s the flats between five and ten feet where you’ll want to seek panfish, especially if the weeds aren’t that dense and are located on the drop-off breakline. If the drop is too steep or too sudden, though, it won’t hold as many fish. Instead, look for gradual breaks, move along the weedline until you locate a reliable area, and then focus your efforts there until the action slows.
Jig Your Way to Success
When you locate a drop-off along the weeds, drifting or trolling tiny marabou jigs, panfish tube baits or jigs tipped with live bait are the way to go. The best sizes to use are 1/32 and 1/16 ounce. Be mindful of your trolling speed, as these jigs will work best when trolled three to eight feet. You’ll know when you’ve got it right when you feel the tell-tale tap of a panfish strike on the rod tip or your line. Then, all you need is a quick lift on the rod to set the hook fight the fish to the boat.
Small panfish jigs can be partnered with a float or bobber to produce results. The float helps control the jig’s depth and lets you go with a larger jig if you want—in the 1/8 ounce range, even. The float also acts as a strike indicator. Set the hook when the float disappears and have at it. With this presentation, anglers can drift or troll along the weedline and drag the rig along behind you. You’ll find it works best when the weeds are fairly thick and you need to keep the lure above the thickest of the weeds, but still in the strike zone. To do this, set your float anywhere from two to five feet above the jig, and make sure the jig stays above the weeds.
A bit faster and more aggressive than jigs, small spinners like Beetle Spins or Mimic Minnows are favorites in the panfish angling realm. They work well when trolled or drifted very slowly, around one mile per hour. Again, be sure to focus on the weedline and once you find a hotspot, stick around until the action dies down.
Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources