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Plastics for Spring Panfish

By Jerry Carlson - April 23, 2019
I can't begin to count the number of panfish I have caught in the spring of the year on small, feathered jigs. There is something about the subtle appeal of these tiny jigs that crappies and sunfish seem to love.

However, just because something is working great doesn't mean that anglers shouldn't experiment with a concept that is a little different. I have always been one to try new approaches just to see what will happen. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, so to speak.

One of my experiments took place a couple of years ago. Since I had become such a believer in using plastics for my winter fishing, it just seemed natural that they would work well in the spring. After all, it is that invertebrate look that gets the attention of hungry fish.

While glass lenses still offer the best image quality, high-grade plastics are lighter and less resistant to fogging.
Along with my feathered jig rods, I hooked up a couple that had some of my ice fishing jigs attached. And of course, the same plastic I used in the winter was also part of the presentation.

At first, I utilized the feathered jigs as my search bait. Since I have had so much success with the Flu-Flu style jigs, I wanted to start with something I had confidence in. Once I located fish, I switched on and off between feathered jigs and plastic.

It took a few outing for me to make a total switch to plastic, but it did finally happen. I eventually realized I was catching more fish on the plastic and also had a higher rate of hook-ups on the ice fishing jigs than I did with the feathered jigs.

I also came to realize that bluegills were more interested in the plastic approach than they were in feathers. Although I target crappies more than gills in the spring, I have nothing against reeling in some feisty sunfish.

When it comes to selecting jigs and tails, I have simple requirements. I like jigs with longer shanks that allows me to thread on the plastic tail easier. Since the plastic I use is very tender, longer shanks also hold the plastic much better.

I typically use jigs that are 1/64 or 1/32 of an ounce. I like the small profile and this size jig works perfectly with my bobber presentation.

While glass lenses still offer the best image quality, high-grade plastics are lighter and less resistant to fogging.
As for plastic, it is hard to beat Maki products. I like the Polli, Mino and Jamei. I also have success with Northlands Slug Bug plastic as well as Trigger X tails. Pink, red, black and white all seem to work for colors.

My bobber, or float, is long and thin and lays flat on the water. I wrap a little tape on the end of the float to get the buoyancy set right. When a fish sucks in my plastic, the bobber simply tips up to signal a bite. It is extremely sensitive which helps greatly. This set-up also casts well in the wind.

No matter what the presentation, utilizing long rods that allow me to fish far from the boat is important. Spring panfish can be very spooky at times. Once you find them, don't crowd them!

Spring panfish angling is something I thoroughly enjoy. By utilizing plastics as part of my lure presentation, I have been able to increase my success.

Author Jerry Carlson
Jerry Carlson
Jerry started his outdoor career in 1987 when he began writing for Outdoors Weekly. He currently writes about a 130 articles a year for various publications in the Midwest. In addition to writing and giving numerous hunting and fishing seminars, Jerry does weekly radio shows on two St. Cloud, Minnesota stations; WJON and WWJO. He also authored a book called Details for Locating and Catching Fish. Hunting and fishing photos and articles written by Jerry, along with his email address, can be found at jerrycarlsonoutdoors.com. Jerry fishes all species but prefers crappies in the winter and bass in the summer. He also loves to hunt Canada geese in the fall.