While I love bass fishing and crappie fishing, I get equally excited about chasing big bluegills for the table. And I love to chase big redear sunfish in the spring. I don’t keep redear near as much as I do bluegill but I probably love to catch them more than any other fish I chase. In fact I won the only redear tournament I ever fished. So a lot of my panfish gear is geared around catching bluegills and redears on artificials, although I definitely fish a lot of red worms as well.
When it comes to fishing, I’m also definitely a fishing kit guy. Because I generally don’t chase bluegills all year, I will build a kit just for bluegill fishing that I can keep all in one place and either keep in the boat just in case or also take with me on trips when I think I might fish for bluegills or redears. So I set a goal to have a couple break-down travel rod and reel combos and a small pocket sized bluegill kit that was easy to carry all the gear I might need, save for some live bait that I would pick up fresh anyway.
With a small zipper pouch that I got off of Amazon and one small jig box from Gamakatsu, I can carry everything I need in one big pocket or through it in a backpack. So let us get into what you need for the ultimate bluegill panfish fishing kit.
MY JIG BOX
In my jig box I carry an assortment of terminal tackle and jigs for bluegills for both artificial fishing and live bait fishing. The jig box includes the following:
- Split Shot
- 1/8-ounce bell sinkers
- No. 6 or No. 8 Aberdeen hooks
- Tungsten Ice Jigheads
- Hand-tied custom panfish jigs
- Pre-rigged plastics/jigs
- Open plastic tails
I have a separate small pouch that has all my panfish bobbers including slip floats, clip on floats, wood floats, rattling floats and bobber stops.
The weights and hooks
Probably 95% of the time if I’m live bait fishing for bluegills or red ears, I use a 1/8 ounce bell sinker on the end of short drop shot rig with a No. 6 Aberdeen hook, balled up with a red worm. So I keep a bunch of 1/8 ounce bell sinkers in my jig box.
I also keep split shot in there because you can also pull live bait along with a split shot rig. And a split shot can be nice to add to the line if you are throwing tiny little custom hand tied jigs without a bobber.
I settled on tungsten ice jigheads because they have short hooks. Most of the crappie jigheads the hook is too long. Panfish like bluegills have tiny mouths and they will bite and not get the whole head in the mouth so you don’t get a good hookset. If you drop down to a tungsten ice jighead, you can still have a 1/32 or 1/16 ounce head with a really short hook. And then just put your small plastic on there and roll. I will sometimes wrap thread on the shank and seal it and then glue plastic to that. It will hold the jig together and catch a ton of bluegills and sunfish on one jig.
The custom jigs
I have a variety of hand-tied jigs I will use under a small slip cork or just straight casting in shallow water with no obstructions. I like a bobber if there are a lot of stumps and cover to navigate. But if it’s just open beds or gravel banks, I will often just cast the jigs on light tackle like an UL BFS combo now.
Some of the jigs are hair or chenille with legs coming out or some of them are composed of rubber puff balls in a bundle. They all seem to catch bluegill and red ears at times.
Plastics on jigheads
I keep some made up jigs in my jig box also that are the tungsten jigheads with plastics on them. I have different styles and colors ready to go so I can tie one on and go if I hang one up and lose it.
I like to fish panfish with jigs at first as a search bait and if they will keep biting them. Bluegills and red ears do reach a point it seems where they get wise to the jigs and sometimes live bait can get you a few extra fish.
MY PLASTICS POUCH
In the reinforced pouch is the bulk of what I use to catch bluegills. I’m a big kicking tail guy but I also know how effective a spider body can be. Around Kentucky Lake we have a company Sheltons that makes grub bodies with rubber legs coming out of them in just about every color you can imagine. So I always have several packs of those.
Pro Tip: If you cut the head and tail off the grub so that the body is like a 1/4 inch with two legs coming out either side and thread it on to the small tungsten jig, it’s a dynamite combo that is the bulk of my bluegill and redear catches in the spring. I twitch it along the bottom. Hopping it over and around bluegills. You can straight reel it but that hopping and twitching works well on the retrieve. Bluegill seem to react to impulsive movements.
I also have the super small 1-inch Slider bodies. These are so perfect for bluegills and red ears on a tungsten jig. I stick with pretty natural colors although chartreuse and orange can be your friend on a kicking tail.
Slick mod: I will take a Decoy Rubber Threader and run my rubber legs through the body of the 1-inch Slider to give me a spider look and a kicking tail. This little bug catches so many bluegill and crappies. It’s the perfect size and just catches them. And I’ve caught a lot of nice crappie and bass on it as well.
I also have some Just Another Crappie Bait Company Wigglers in there. This is a new bait I picked up at the Grizzly Jig show, and I really like it for bluegills and red ear. You can find them there or on the Facebook page of the company.
I also have been experimenting with some little JDM trout worms with mixed results thus far. But we’re just getting into bluegill and red ear spring fishing so time will tell on those.
MY GO-TO PANFISH SETUP
My go-to panfish setup for ever has been a light 6-foot spinning rod and reel. But I’m using a an Ultralight 4 to 5-foot Bait Finesse System baitcasting combo these days and playing more with some other lures. I’ve had so much fun this spring BFS fishing panfish. I’ve had some good outings since February with small crankbaits and will be adding those to my arsenal this spring as well. I will get into my BFS Setups more in the Bait Finesse Guide coming soon.
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS FOR A PANFISH KIT
My Panfish Kit is small, simple and extremely effective.
One thing I didn’t mention that I completely believe in is scent. While I don’t keep scent in my kit, red ear especially are driven by scent. For that reason, I usually have a jar of Berkley Crappie Nibbles, my Billy Rub Nightcrawler scent or live bait to tip a jig with when I fish for panfish. There are times where the bluegills and red ears up shallow and feeding and scent doesn’t matter as much. Both are sight feeders so seeing a jig dancing around will get them to bite. But scent I think gets me a lot more hookups.
You have to be quick on the draw with panfish and learn to set a short, but rapid hookset. A big over the head hookset will miss more panfish than it hooks. But a super fast short snap gets them almost every time. However, scent gives you that added split second to lock in on them. So it’s worth it to me.
Like I mentioned I use bobbers and keep those in their own pouch as I use them with other kits.
Outside of that, this is all I need to load the boat with panfish 12 months of the year. I obviously will change locations and depths throughout the year, but this panfish kit travels well and lets me chase big panfish all over. I’ve caught big panfish in Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Nebraska, Missouri, Alabama, Florida, California, New York, Virginia, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and more with this kit. So it’s been around the block and always produces for me.