Open water panfish

Published 11:09 pm Monday, April 13, 2009

By By Bob Jensen
For many anglers, the first fishing trip of the open water season is in search of panfish. Crappies and bluegills and sunfish are often the first fish to get active in the spring, and in some states, they’re the only fish you can legally pursue due to closed seasons on walleyes and bass and the like. It won’t be long until you can get after panfish: In fact, in many areas of the Midwest they’re eating right now. Here’s how you can get in on the action.
One of the keys is finding the warmest water in the lake or pond you’ll be fishing. Warm water makes the fish more active and more likely to eat your lure. The north side of a body of water warms up faster, as do the bays and canals and areas like that. Those are the areas where we’ll be concentrating our efforts.
BluegillPanfish like to be near “stuff”. “Stuff” could be a tree that has fallen into the water, a dock or boat lift, anything that provides some cover for the panfish that’s in warm water and is close to deeper water will probably be the hangout for some bluegills or crappies.
A small jig under a slip-bobber is probably the best presentation this time of year. If you’re after ‘gills or sunfish, go with a tiny jig. Something in the 1/32nd or 1/64th size range will be good.
If crappies are the quarry, go a little larger, maybe a 1/16th ounce jig. Crappies have a large mouth and can handle a bigger jig. ‘Gills and sunfish have tiny mouths and prefer tiny meals.
By using a slip-bobber, you can suspend the jig right in the fishes face. A slow presentation is best now, and the slip-bobber allows for a slow presentation. Set the bobber stop so the bait is just a tad above where you expect the fish to be. They’ll go up to take a bait, but rarely down.
Black is a good jig color. In many areas the panfish are eating just hatched black bugs in the spring. Crappies seem to prefer something brighter. A Fire-fly jig tipped with Gulp! Alive Waxies or Fish Fry will be a winner.
Another option is a Slug-Bug or Bro’s Bloodworm from the Bro’s Bug Collection.
Twitch your rod gently to impart a quiver to whatever jig you use.
Rig your baits on four pound test Trilene XL. This line is soft and easy to work with and won’t spook the panfish.
Many anglers like a longer rod, something like a seven foot or six foot-six inch length in medium light action is perfect. I have a Fenwick HMG rod in the seven foot medium light action that is great for panfish or throwing light jigs to walleyes.
If you’re anxious to get fishing, and you should be, find a panfish pond or lake in your area and get out there. The fish will bite if you just put a lure in front of them.
Bob Jensen is a syndicated fishing columnist that also hosts the show “Fishing the Midwest.” His shows can be seen on and

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