With spring fresh in the air, taking stock of my panfish box has become a yearly rite of passage. Early season pannies (crappie, perch and bluegill) are the first fish I cast a line to here in the north, shortly after the ice leaves the lakes. They are prolific, easy to catch, and give a formidable tussle on light line and tackle.
Here are the basics on what to stock your box with to ensure a successful panfish hunt:
Panfish jigs are the bread and butter of any panfish anglers repertoire. A good selection of 1/64 to 1/8 ounces (with 1/16 ounce and 1/32 ounce being my most commonly reached for size) should cover all of the bases. I often give the nod to bright hues, so stock some pink, chartreuse, orange and yellow, as well as the standard neutral or natural colors.
Toss some rigged bucktail and maribou jigs in your box, also. These offer a different visual effect in comparison to plastics and can often be what the panfish doctor ordered.
Plastic Fishing Baits
Soft plastic lures run the gamut and are becoming more specialized and tailor-made for the panfish angler. Micro crayfish like Uncle Buck's Panfish Creatures, waterbugs, worms and beetles all work exceptionally well, as do the standard twister tail and tube. Choose baits in the 1 to 1 1/2 -inch size, and as with the jig heads, carry a wide range of colors.
Panfish can be picky at times, and I have often found them to shun one color yet fight off other fish for another. Water clarity, weather conditions, and what happens to be triggering them that day all come into play. Best to have all of the bases covered.
Fishing With Slip Floats
To target a specific depth when panfishing, a fishing with a slip float is the top choice. These easy-to-use strike indicators can be slid up and down your line (in conjunction with a bobber stop) and work well when fish are found holding above snag-infested structure. Don't forget some small split shot to help keep your bait down.
Fishing With Crankbaits
In order to cover water more effectively — and especially for those times that panfish are feeding heavily on young of the year baitfish — I like to stock a few micro crankbaits in my box. Pick up some 1- to 2-inch cranks, in both stubby and thin profiles, and in floating and diving models. Some of my more exciting days of panfishing is when I can cast a floating crankbait to schools of bluegills — twitching it on the surface — and have them smash the plug on top. Fun times to say the least!!
Reap the rewards that spring panfish can bring. These lure recommendations will help get you in on the addictive action.