Read any article on fishing for bream, crappie or perch, and odds are you won’t finish it without some comment from the writer about what a great group of fish these are for kids to pursue. Taking kids fishing is great, but one thing needs to be made clear – grown-ups like to have fun too, and panfish deliver plenty of fun. In fact, talk to most any basser or walleye angler on the pro circuit, and many will confess to the guilty pleasure of spending time on the lake away from competition, enjoying a day filling a stringer of bluegills from along a bank or trolling with multiple rods or poles for crappie.
Catch enough of the slab-sized fish, and you have the makings of an excellent meal to boot. So take the kids for sure, but don’t forget your own rod (or two) and some of these awesome lures that can make a day seeking panfish an epic angling adventure.
Like most lures or rigs, success starts with great catchs of a particular species and then spreads to other types of fishing. Umbrella rigs are the biggest “new” thing right now, according to Danny Knight, manager of Ocean’s East 2 Tackle Shop in Virginia Beach, Va., and crappie anglers are jumping on board. Umbrella rigs have been around for years.
The rig consists of an epoxy or lead head where the line is attached, and then multiple wire arms extend out and a lure is attached to a swivel at the end of each arm. Umbrella rigs have been used for trolling by striped bass and hybrid bass anglers for years. A recent development was the Alabama rig, which burst onto the bass-fishing scene this summer. The A-rig is bascially a lighter, castable umbrella rig. The set-up allows an angler to fish as many as five swimbaits (where legal) from one terminal connection. The rig is so effective that many bass-tournament trails, and some states, have made them illegal.
It was only a matter of time that umbrella rigs for panfish were developed.
Heads & Tails Lure Company’s Swarmbrella features a fish-head looking pull point with stainless steel wire shafts and Rosco Duo-lock snap swivels for attaching swimbaits, tubes, jigs or any assortment of lures to mimic schooling baitfish. Pop the rod slightly during the retrieve, and the wires will flex, allowing the baits to group then fan out like something spooked them. The center bait sets slightly farther back to simulate the weakest bait of the bunch. ($12, htlureco.com).
Berkley Atomic Teaser
Spiderwire pro angler Bobby Lane is one of those on the competitive circuit that enjoys time with the family or friends casting for panfish in his native Florida. One of his favorite lures is the Berkley Atomic Teaser, which come pre-rigged and combines the enticement of a tube bait with that of a power worm affixed to a non-lead jig head.
The Berkley Atomic Teasers are available in 1/32-ounce and 1/16-ounce weights and can be fished by suspending above grass, ledges or underwater brush or dropped straight down alongside a pier or other structure where crappies like to hang out. Simple water action will flare the tentacles, which can be enhanced with a slight twitch. ($4/pack of three, berkley-fishing.com)
For drifting bluegills or crappie drawn to the shallows as the water begins to warm, the Rebel Crickhopper is a popper-type lure with two variations – one designed to work across topwater and the other that will submerge during the slow retrieve between zero to 3 feet.
On topwater, wait until the ripples subside then gently twitch the tip of your rod side-to-side for twitching action that can bring on some vicious strikes. ($4, lurenet.com)
Berkley Atomic Pulse Tube
A tube bait with a design twist, the Atomic Pulse Tube, part of Berkley’s PowerBait scent-impregnated line has a ribbed body for additional scent dispersion and a softer body for easier hook penetration. Available in 20 colors-go with something brighter, like a chartreuse or glow/chartreuse combination for darker, muddier water and a lighter lure in clear water such as a pearl or pearl/silver fleck.
Rig it with an Aberdeen hook (hook side up for crappie since they feed up and not down, the hook will set better) and small split shot set about 6 inches from the lure. Combine with a float tube to adjust the depth once suspended fish are located. Pulse tubes or any tube for that matter work well in conjunction with a light jig head, too. ($4/pack of 10, berkley-fishing.com)
Johnson Beetle Spin
A classic for hauling in slab crappie and large bluegills, the Beetle Spin is a great dark-water lure given the flash and sound provided by the spinner, but also delivers the popping action of a jig. The hooked grub body can be quickly changed for one with a different color by detaching it from the spinner’s safety-pin-style attachment. Retrieve it slowly for spinning action or simply jig it.
Tip the hooks with wax worms or maggots for additional enticement. ($1.50/for one lure and four grub bodies; berkley-fishing.com).