Start-Up Lures and Techniques: Panfish


Panfish have always been among the top species anglers pursue year round, mainly because they make excellent table fare, but also because they are known for their fast action. Often overlooked, however, is panfishing for sport. Usually people don’t think about panfish giving up a good fight, but Bluegills especially can be veracious fighters. Swimming in circle after circle while tugging the end of the line, you can have an absolute blast, especially with the right gear/set-up! For those of you that haven’t ever tried this, I will just explain what I do when I look to get out panfishing.


First I would like to mention that panfishing can be made a lot more enjoyable by using an ultra-light, or light action rod. There are many different kinds and brands and some people will tell you to buy the expensive one, while the next guy will tell you to buy the cheap knock-off. I say buy what you can afford. Both will work, however, you do pay for what you get.  For me, I like my 6.5ft. shimano claris light action rod. Not a top of the line, but it has a sensitive tip, and a good warranty! In general, the longer the rod, the longer your casting distance.


As far as line goes, pairing a small reel with 4lb. test monofilament line with your ultralight rod will do the trick. Some guys use their walleye reels and 6lb. test, while others will use their ice fishing reels with 2lb. test. I like to have a chance at the random bass, or pike that may strike, therefore I go with 4 or even 6 lb. test depending on the situation. Once again, the lighter the line, the longer the casting distance. A light line paired with a long rod will give you ultimate distance, however light line may not hold up to a surprise pike, bass or walleye. I like to use simple Triline XL smooth casting monofilament line, Cheap, yet effective. As for reels, I have a small pflueger reel that I use on my ice fishing rod. When the ice deteriorates, I just throw that pflueger on the ultra-light. Sometimes I can even get by without putting new line on. If there is any memory, you may want to consider re-spooling with new line. A good quality reel with adequate number of ball bearings will be good insurance for landing those surprise fish as well.

Jigs & Floats

The first technique that I think that is worth talking about is fishing a small jig under a float. This concept has been around for ages, but proves to be very effective when the water warms up in the spring, all the way until the end of summer. Small jigs such as flu-flu’s, or plain gumball jigs in the 1/64-1/32 oz. size tipped with a crappie minnow suspended beneath a float is about as simple as it gets. As of recently, more and more companies have been coming out with new plastics that are worth trying out. A few that come to mind are 2” berkley gulp alive minnows, 2” berkley power minnow, tubes, ratsos, shrimpos, gulp alive 1-2” leeches, just to name a few. All of these are great candidates to be fished under a float. Basically, try to match the hatch when it comes springtime. If you are using minnow imitations to no avail, switch it up to something that matches flies, or freshwater shrimp. If panfish eat it, there is a plastic imitation out there that will match it. Time and research will help you decipher what routines the local panfish have on your local lake. Once you figure them out, they repeat these patterns year after year.

Casting & Retrieving

Another useful technique for catching panfish during the middle of summer is casting and retrieving to key structure points. This time of year the panfish scatter to various weed-beds, brush-piles, and other cover which tends to spread them out a bit. The best way to cover ground is to cast faster moving, flashier lures that attract and draw the schools out of the cover. A couple lures that have worked well for me in the past have been beetle spins, in-line spinners (mepps, panther martins, rooster tails), small spoons, and tiny rapalas.

Vertical Jigging

Later in the fall, when the water temp cools down, panfish tend to school back up and heading to the deeper wintering holes. A good technique this time of year is vertical jigging using the above mentioned plastic/jig combos.  Anglers that know where these wintering holes are, will buzz around the perimeter searching their electronics for any sign of suspending fish. Once they are successful in locating them, they will try to keep the boat positioned directly overtop the school. Once in position, I would look to ice fishing techniques, like using a flasher, to entice them into biting. Also, don’t hesitate to use heavier ice fishing jigs that work well in the winter during this time. I have seen many success stories of people using wax worms on a small swedish pimple. Pretty much ice fishing in open water!

There are thousands of different lures, techniques, and locations in which you will be able to catch panfish. Remember that the water temp will dictate where the fish are located. The location of the fish will dictate the presentation you should use. Many times the panfish are easily accessible and hungry! Keeping it simple, like using a jig suspended under a float makes it possible for anyone to enjoy the battle awaiting them at their local lake! Come this spring you have to go and experience the rush, you won’t regret it!

Born and raised in the state of 10,000 lakes I have been targeting every type of species the waters of Minnesota have to offer ever since I was handed my first fishing pole.

31 Comments on "Start-Up Lures and Techniques: Panfish"

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