- Sep 29, 2022
The Best Artificial Lures and Presentations for Early Autumn Panfish
Casting the right panfish lures to the right kinds of places can produce fun and highly dependable fall fishing action.
Casting the right panfish lures to the right kinds of places can produce fun and highly dependable fall fishing action.
Want easy fishing and fast summer fishing action for multiple species? Slip bobbers open excellent opportunities for mixed panfish catches.
What you never know with summer panfishing is what species will be at the end of the line when a slip bobber darts out sight. More certain – assuming decent location choices – is the notion that you will get to watch your bobber go under several times. Slip bobber fishing is a highly dependable way to tap into summer panfish fishing action, and it is an easy style of fishing that is fun for the entire family.
Anglers commonly associate most panfishing pursuits with spring and early summer and stop targeting bluegills, perch, crappie and other panfish species once mid-summer hits and the fish become less plentiful around shallow, shoreline cover. Those fish seldom move far, though. Most just slide a bit deeper to a weedline, brushpile or slight break, to the deep end of a dock, out a point or to the deep edge of a riprap bank.
Learn the secrets of 3 highly successful anglers who are especially adept and catching crappie and other panfish through the ice.
Although hundreds of miles separate the favored hard-water fishing haunts of avid anglers Nicole Stone, Doug Sikora and Ryan Suffron, it seems the geography is the only distinguishing difference among the three’s passion for catching crappie and other panfish through the ice.
Learn how crappies, bluegills and perch move as winter progresses and discover the best ice fishing strategies for capitalizing on that understanding.
The progression of winter delivers changes beneath the ice, and as conditions change, fish must move to new spots and alter their behavior. Finding ice fishing success through mid-winter begins with considering the transformation that is taking place and adjusting accordingly with locations and strategies.
Fish Ed and Destination Fish host Jon Thelen spends much of his awake time on the ice throughout winter, whether scouting, filming or testing lures, so he has an outstanding sense of how fish behavior changes as ice season progresses. In Minnesota, where Thelen does the most fishing, changes in panfishing scenarios become noteworthy late in December and early in January.
Bobby Garland’s Itty Bit lures provide highly dependable summer action from several kinds of fish and lend themselves to a variety of presentations.
“This one must be a bass,” my son, Nathaniel, called out as fish he was battling surged against his ultralight gear. I paddled my kayak nearer to get a better look and photos. “Actually, it’s a giant bream!” he said when he got the fish in sight.
A few minutes later he slid his hand beneath a pound-plus shellcracker (officially, a redear sunfish), lifted it into the kayak, and the tried to figure out the best way to get a grip around the fish’s big body. We got some pictures before he returned it to the water and then returned to casting a tiny bait toward shoreline cover to see what else he could catch.
I had been telling Nathaniel about Bobby Garland’s new Itty Bit Slab Hunt’R and showing him photos of bluegills, yellow perch, largemouth bass and more – even including another big shellcracker that I’d caught from a different spot on the same lake a week prior. Finally, he was getting to see for himself and was enjoying the fast action. His big shellcracker was one about 50 fish of a handful of species we caught in a few hours of casting Itty Bits from kayaks that afternoon.
Here’s what you need to know about an easy and dependable way to catch fish during spring from ponds, lakes and streams throughout the country.
Whether you are beginning to learn how to fish with a float for bluegills and other panfish or a seasoned angler who has the technique dialed to a science, you simply cannot beat the feelings of anticipation and relaxation of fishing with a Thill float and live bait.
Float fishing with live bait has been a choice of anglers dating back to the 1800s. It is one of the earliest direct line-to-pole techniques thought of, and has withstood the test of time while remaining a popular choice among many anglers of various skill levels around the world.
Crappies tend to gravitate toward deep structure in the winter months, and an excellent stronghold for them is manmade docks, which are prevalent on several bodies of water throughout the South and Midwest. These docks offer ample cover for winter crappie fishing and offer easy opportunities to simply drop small plastic lures down to them without the need for an expensive boat and accessories.
Why are docks good crappie holding structure in the winter? Man made docks often feature posts that root them to the lake or river floor and provide structure for crappie to relate to. Also, most docks have boat owners who like to fish, so it’s no science figuring out that they occasionally toss brush and other structure pieces out by their slips, along the points and other various spots along the docks.
• This is the most important part of fishing docks, because if you aren’t around the crappie – how will you catch them?
• Try to identify docks with enough depth under them. Crappie tend to gravitate deeper over structure in the winter. A good rule of thumb is to find docks that maintain a depth of over 10 feet under them. You can find the depth by counting down a jig head to get approximate measurements.
• Look at a map or use Google Earth to find docks in a creek arm or adjacent to deep water. These typically hold the highest amounts of crappie.
• Most important rule: Always have permission to fish the docks you are on, ask the owner or marina in charge before stepping foot on a dock.
Once you have found an appropriate dock you can begin to look at the slips inside and around the dock to survey for any brush or structure laying underneath. A good tip is to find old docks that aren’t frequented and be aware of any indicators of sunken brush such as pieces of wood or pipes lying around the slips.
For this presentation you don’t necessarily need specialized equipment, just a short medium light action rod, light line and a small capacity spinning reel. Winter crappie fishing doesn’t have to be difficult.
Lurenet team pick: 6-foot medium light action rod, 1000 size spinning reel, 6- to 8-pound test line
For lures you can use a large variety of plastics, but I will narrow it down to the best three available.
1. Bobby Garland Baby Shad w/ Bobby Garland 1/16 oz. MoGlo Jig head • Colors: (Clear water – Monkey Milk, Threadfin Shad, Blue Ice) (Stained water – Lights out, Devils Grin, Black Hot Pink)
2. Bobby Garland 2” Slab Slayer w/ Bobby Garland 1/16 oz. MoGlo Jig head • Colors: (Clear water – Double Silver Rainbow, Blue Ice, Eclipse) (Stained water – Bone White Chart., Junebug Pearl Chart., Cajun Cricket)
3. Bobby Garland Slab Hunter w/ Bobby Garland 1/8 oz. MoGlo Jig head • Colors: (Clear water – Live Minnow, Threadfin Shad, Coppernose) (Stained water – Bluegrass, Cajun Cricket, Bone White Chart.)
These three options are primary picks for the dock fishing technique because they have a very subtle action, and when dropping straight down to suspended fish you need as real looking of an imitation as possible.
The first two picks are small options that appeal to crappie of all sizes, but the third pick is built for going after giant slab crappie that pass over smaller baits.
Now that you have identified the right dock to fish and gathered up the proper lures, it’s time to actually start winter crappie fishing! The technique used to dock fish is just like any standard brushpile fishing from a boat. You simply want to identify where to drop down and let your bait fall to the bottom. Once it is on the bottom, lift slightly and hold the bait steady to detect any bites. If the lure sits for a period of time with no bites slowly, begin to pull it up. I like to implore a few cranks of the reel handle and hold the bait steady at multiple zones in the water column. Often crappie will sit in a certain zone all over the dock.
Below are a few tips on finding the right places on the dock to drop your baits down. • Inside corners of slips (typical place for brush to be dropped)
• Outside corners of slips • Along walkways (look for signs of brush or cover)
• Under boat lifts
• Dock posts These are simple places to find on all docks, but always be creative and check multiple areas.
Almost anywhere that casts shade can be a primary spot for winter crappie fishing! Also, be sure to try multiple colors. I listed several above, but crappie are notorious sight feeders and love bright color patterns so don’t be afraid to try a wide variety. Often times bright patterns work well even in clear water, especially under the shade of docks.
Ready to go hit some docks? You find all the lures, jigs and accessories you need at Lurenet.com.
Be sure to use code MERRY15 for an extra 15 percent off your order!
By Jeff Samsel
Fly-fishermen know. Whether they are targeting brown trout, stream smallmouths or farm pond bluegills, fly-rodding anglers know that from mid-summer to late fall, displaced terrestrial insects provide important forage for gamefish cruising near the shore, making hopper patterns and other “terrestrial” flies outstanding options.
Spin-fishermen often overlook this fun way to fish, but in truth, what a terrestrial insect fly pattern can do, a Rebel Crickhopper can do better! Crickhoppers and Bighoppers (larger Crickhoppers) offer a natural profile and colors, just like a good fly, but it’s far easier to make quick accurate casts to current seams, eddies and pieces of cover with ultralight spinning gear than with a fly rod. In addition, a Crickhopper can be brought to life with rod tip twitches or slow reeling to effectively imitate the natural behavior of terrestrial insects that find themselves afloat.
If you’ve ever seen a cricket or grasshopper land in the water and watched what happened next, you probably understand what makes this kind of fishing so exciting. You also might remember the bug’s behavior. Typically, a grasshopper that finds itself afloat will be motionless at first, maybe just trying to gain orientation. Then, it in starts scurrying across the top – sometimes steadily, but often frantically – in the direction of dry land (or so it hopes). It will stop periodically, whether to rest or regain orientation, and then continue its surface kicking. In many streams, ponds and lakes, chances of getting back to shore are minimal.
Work a Crickhopper to match this behavior. Cast near the bank, beside cover, to a current seam or to some other inviting spot and let the bait rest or drift in the current for several seconds. If nothing attacks, barely twitch the rod tip one or two times and then start working the lure either by reeling steadily or with short sharp twitches of the rod tip. Slow reeling causes the bait to swim at the surface and push out a wake. Quick twitches make it dance more erratically.
Either way, pause the lure every now and then, and be extra ready when you start it moving again. Often fish hover beneath a bait when it stops, and the next bit of motion triggers an attack.
Be aware that if bluegills or other panfish are present, they are apt to hit a Crickhopper repeatedly, and smaller fish, especially, often won’t connect. Don’t set the hook unless the lure disappears, or you’ll yank it away from fish quite a bit. Just keep working it when you are getting smaller bites, and it won’t be long before something attacks more decisively.
A Crickhopper Popper provides an excellent alternative to the regular Crickhopper when you want sound to get fish’s attention but still want a cricket/grasshopper profile. It has the same body as a Bighopper but is equipped with a cupped popping face. Fish it with gentle rod snaps and pauses and hold on tight!