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Panfish In The Fall

By Bob Jensen - October 1, 2003
Panfish are fun, there's no other way to look at it. When a good panfish bite is discovered, it's possible to catch lots of fish.

Panfish are also great on the table. Whether we're talking about bluegills, crappies, yellow bass, or perch, there is no question that if a meal of fish is the goal, you won't go wrong with panfish.

Autumn can be a very good time to find panfish action. They can be found in several very different types of areas depending on the type of lake being fished, so however you like to fish, you can probably find some panfish willing to respond to that technique. Following are some ideas that will help you catch panfish in the next few weeks.

My favorite way to catch panfish this time of year is to find a weedline near deep water and work it with small jigs. This technique is best later in the afternoon on a calm day.

"If you're looking for some fast panfish action, fall can be your time of year..."
First, you need to find the weedline. If you have an electric motor on your boat, put it in the water and start searching. A quiet motor like the Minn Kota AutoPilot will prevent spooking the panfish as you approach. Quiet is a very important aspect of this panfish search. If you make too much noise, you will scare the panfish out of the area.

Schools of panfish will gather near the surface and will be eating small bugs. You will be able to see the fish sucking these bugs off the surface. If you get close enough you will be able to see the fish. However, if you can see the fish, you are probably too close.

Once a school of panfish is found near the surface, the rest is easy. Put a Gulp! Maggot or Grub on a 1/64th ounce Gypsi or Fire-fly jig, crimp a little splitshot onto the line about twelve inches above the jig, and set the slip-bobber a couple of feet above the jig. Cast this rig a little past where the school is and slowly reel it into the area where the fish are. The bobber will probably not be floating very long.

Although small, this jig/splitshot combo will cast well on four-pound test Trilene XT line. Some anglers like ultra-light equipment for tiny jigs, but I prefer something just a tad heavier. A Mitchell 310X on a six foot light action Lightning or Fenwick rod makes a great panfish rig, and will also do a nice job on walleyes when they want a small jig.

There are times, especially when crappies, perch, or yellow bass are the desired species, when we will be better off fishing closer to the bottom. The same small baits will still be a good bet for the perch and yellow bass, but crappies will go for a larger jig, maybe a sixteenth or eighth ouncer.

If you're looking for some fast panfish action, fall can be your time of year. Watch for the telltale dimple of panfish feeding on the surface, get a jig into that area, and get ready to reel in a panfish. It really can be that easy in the autumn.

Author Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen
Bob Jensen is the host of the Fishing the Midwest television series, a series of television fishing shows that highlight fishing locations and techniques throughout the Midwest. He also writes a syndicated fishing column and does fishing seminars throughout the Midwest. He is a former fishing guide and tournament angler. Visit Bob's web site at
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