As I write this blog there's a heat-wave in Southern Ontario. Humidity is high. Last week's gusty weather has given way to a few days of light wind. It's during these dog days of summer that I rekindle my love affair with sunfish and crappie. When temperatures soar and lakes are flat calm, I can always bet on steady bites by exploring weed clumps — and frequent hook sets are important to keep one distracted from sauna like temperatures at the lake.
Panfish flock to healthy green weeds like moths to a porch light. The greenery offers cover, shade and a buffet of various snacks, including snails, nymphs, crayfish, baitfish and microscopic zooplankton. Sunfish and crappie inhabit weeds from shallow shoreline areas out to the deepest edges and isolated clumps, but the outer zones are my focus in this blog entry.
While there are few absolutes in angling, one general principle is that big fish tend to like deep water. Crappie and sunfish are notorious for holding in and around deep weed clumps and edges. Overall the more features on the area, the better. Boulders and wood amp up a location's value; as will irregular contours in the weed line and fingers or rocky points extending off a flat.
When it comes to plucking panfish from deep weeds, I carry a few rods rigged and ready with baits for covering different depths in the water column, which is important as sunfish and crappie frequently suspend. One rod is reserved exclusively for a float and jig set-up. The dance of a jig dangled below a bobber is often a hot tactic for up-feeding panfish. When fishing in low-light conditions, a lighted float can make a huge difference in the number of fish you'll catch.
On another rod I'll have a jig tied on. I'm a huge fan of tubes for panfish as their slow, spiraling fall is a great attractor. This said, bladed jigs like those by Road Runner or Northland Fishing Tackle's Thumper Jig or Crappie King Jig, can be phenomenal for panfish. The blade creates drag to slow the jig's fall while simultaneously putting out flash and vibrations that attract fish. These are just two options and there are tons of panfish plastics available. I'll swim jigs beneath the surface, count them down or pitch them into lanes and along edges in the weeds. They're highly versatile for plucking panfish from deep weeds.
The third rod I carry frequently has a hard bait or metal lure tied on. I tend to work these lures quickly for covering water to locate panfish or when fish are aggressive and will chase fast-moving lures. When fish are suspended or near the surface, small Rapala X-Raps and Countdown Minnows as well as STORM Deep Baby ThunderStick are all winners. Small spoons and blade baits are other good bets when worked on a swimming retrieve. These sinking baits are also deadly for vertical jigging when panfish are holding at the base of weeds or along drop-offs close to vegetation. Regardless of the lure, a retrieve with plenty of pauses is critical to coaxing panfish to pounce.
Weeds are blooming in lakes across the continent right now, so be sure to spend time plying the greenery for plenty of rod-bending panfish action.