Several Wired2fish staffers share a strong passion for catching a wide variety of panfish species such as crappies and bluegills (to name a few). Ryan DeChaine grew up fishing panfish, and that passion continues today. He provides a detailed breakdown of his favorite tackle, techniques, and rod setups for catching panfish throughout the season and in wide-ranging situations. Keep in mind that his experience is based mainly on upper midwest filming, so it’s likely that some of your favorite regional tactics aren’t covered in this primer. Check out our How to Catch Crappie -article for diverse content.
DeChaine leads with a discussion about rod, reel, and line selection, emphasizing assembling a few basic setups that deliver enhanced sensitivity and the best possible bait action.
DeChaine’s Top 6 Panfish Setups
- Jigs with plastic, hair, or live bait. A jig with a plastic or live bait pairing is the most versatile crappie lure on this list. DeChaine discusses the benefits of fishing panfish jigs, the wide variety of sizes and profiles available to anglers, and some general rules on when to use each. Perhaps most importantly, jigs provide immediate depth control and the ability to cover water — a must to finding nomadic panfish. Here are some FishUSA links to popular panfish jigs and soft baits.
- Bobbers (corks). Most panfish anglers started their fishing career with a bait suspended beneath a bobber (aka float or cork). DeChaine introduces some of the most popular bobber styles available and how to pair each to the situation. He dives deeper into his personal favorite slip bobber setup, which forgoes the use of weight altogether. Floats, bobbers and indicators at FishUSA.
- Drop shot. Experienced drop shot anglers understand the utility of drop-shotting extends well beyond bass fishing. Like jig fishing panfish, a drop shot makes mastering depth control a breeze for fish on or near the bottom (e.g., bedding bluegill). DeChaine overviews the drop shot setup for panfish, and his preferences regarding weight, hook and bait options.
- Spinners. Yes, spinnerbaits, inline spinners and single spinner jig heads like the Road Runner catch crappies with abandon. DeChaine discusses the utility of spinners, how to customize them based on fish location in the water column, size of fish, and the type of cover.
- Hard baits like jerkbaits, lipless crankbaits, and spybaits. Like drop-shotting panfish, there’s tremendous crossover potential of hard baits in crappie fishing. Our team regularly targets crappies and bluegills with a variety of hard baits such as those mentioned above. These lures are typically bigger and more aggressive than traditional baits, so it’s common to see catch size increase. Are you having a hard time getting fish to bite? Try triggering strikes with a bigger profile that emits an erratic and unpredictable action — jerkbait fishing crappies is a prime case in point.
- Gliding jigs and spoons. We’ve grouped gliding jigs like the Rapala Jigging Rap and slab and flutter spoons together here. Like conventional jigs and hard baits, gliding jigs and spoons sink quickly for reaching fish at various depths and trigger bites through a combination of profile and different and unique actions. Commonly used in ice fishing, gliding jigs and spoons excel particularly well during the fall months when huge schools of fish take form and congregate in basin areas.
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