Sep 10, 2014

Tricks of the Trade for Panfishing

By: Larry Smith

The part about fishing I have always enjoyed is that you are always learning. I think it is one of those sports that is fairly difficult to master because the ecosystems are constantly changing, the amount of pressure that our lakes and rivers see nowadays, and social media. Social media allows fishermen to check out their favorite bodies of water and get an idea of how the action has been over the last few days. When it comes to table fair I think it is pretty hard to beat panfish in general. Along with this, the action that accompanies panfishing is very exciting. It is how most anglers get their start.

As a young boy, I remember a lot of days out on Lake Winnebago with my dad in our 14 ft. MirroCraft with a 25 horse Mercury on it, and cane poles. We were fishing right over the edge of the boat. These are things that you just never forget. They are some of my greatest memories. In these days, we fished a lot of helgramites, which my dad and I went to the local sloughs and screened them out of the weeds. It was a lot of work but well worth the effort. Over the years, the ecosystem on Lake Winnebago has changed. Helgramites are still a suitable bait, but I wouldn't leave home without a box of leafworms and spikes, along with small little green twister tails, green beads and Dr. Juice. Now it’s time to go perch fishing!

Over the years, I have had a lot of mentoring by some incredible anglers. One of the most influential people in regard to fishing, in my life, is my old friend Rody. He has since passed on a couple of years ago but this man was way ahead of his time when it came to his knowledge of fishing. He always taught me it was the small things that can make such a huge difference when being successful catching fish. When searching out a spot out on the lake to drop your anchor, throw it out about 100 yards upwind and put your motor in reverse and slowly drag your anchor through the mud until you get to your spot. This is usually in the transition area. This means coming out of the mud and coming up the sides of the reefs. It is where the mud turns into gravel and where the schools of perch and bluegills like to gather. Generally, this is 7 to 11 feet of water.  Normally, the bluegills are in the 7 to 9 ft. and the perch 9 to 11 ft. By dragging your anchor, it stirs up the bottom and cuts a trail through the mud to your boat. The perch love to follow the sturgeon as they rut up the bottom and this is mimicking that action. You can always tell this works because the guy in front of the boat is always catching them first about 90 percent of the time. Another very important thing is to make sure the boat is not swinging back and forth. To ensure this doesn't happen, throw another anchor in the back of the boat when you arrive at your location.     

I usually give a spot about 15-20 minutes. If nothing happens, pull the anchors and move onto the next location. However, if all of a sudden I drop on a spot and start catching fish, and after a while it starts slowing down, the key is to pick up the back anchor and lift it up and down about 5 to 10 times which will stir up the bottom. Normally, this will attract more fish.

I prefer to fish straight over the edge of the boat, known as dead sticking the rod. The rocking from the waves gives the rod the jigging action needed. The rigs that I like to use vary from each rod. Some days using an egg style sinker with a 10 inch leader to the hook or jig is key. By using a sliding sinker like this when the rod is going up and down makes it so the line doesn’t get a twist in it. The other rig I like to use is more of a drop shot, where the sinker is on the bottom of the line and the hook is up about 6-10 inches from the sinker. This lets the sinker hit the bottom when the boat is rocking up and down.

As far as hook style, I’ll use an ice jig like a genz worm with spikes or a piece of leafworm. I will also use a gold aberdeen hook on another rod with a green bead above the hook. Or an aberdeen hook with a small lime green twister tail, with either a piece of leafworm or a piece of helgramite. I feel it is always important to have several different types of rigs over the side of the boat. It’s amazing how some days these fish will key in on one and that’s all they really want. Normally, this time of year when I am walleye fishing, I don’t use a lot of attractant scents but when it comes to panfishing I think it is very crucial to use scents such as Dr. Juice. It is probably because they come up to the bait and analyze it more than a walleye would.

Along with great perch and bluegill action, the crappie fishing can be also awesome in the fall. Not necessarily in the same location. The nice part about this is on the really nasty weather days, it is time to head into the Fox River or the Wolf River and fish for crappies. They love to lay in the timber along the deeper banks of the river. Normally fishing 7-14 feet of water. I like to use my flat bottomed boat for this style of fishing because I’ll drive the boat right in the middle of this fallen down timber. The key to this type of fishing is never drop your bait to the bottom, and always fish it from the top of the water column down. Crappies love to layer themselves through the structure and by dropping your bait to the bottom you are pulling out the bottom fish first which will spook the fish on the upper layers. Using weedless jigs tipped with fatheads or small plastics like Kalin’s work extremely well.

Again, remember the small things you do make a big difference in whether you are successful or not, such as taking kids out fishing can give them the great values of enjoying the outdoors.