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#12413482 - 09/04/17 08:39 AM catching pan fish - so many fun lure choices!
SenkoSam Offline

Registered: 09/03/03
Posts: 65
Loc: Walden, N.Y., USA
Locally I usually do well catching most fish species using light jigs and soft plastics. This includes all pan fish species, bass, pickerel and sometimes cat fish. It's not uncommon to hook 50 to over 100 fish per day as long as I can find them and then provoke the bite. Much of the time one area of the lake will hold more than half the fish I'll catch that day.

The following work on any lake I fish (a dozen local lakes - lowland and highland). In the past I have used many of the lures shown in posts on this forum, but love soft plastic lures for the variety of designs that work and the versatility of presentations.

First off, line is one of the most important considerations as is the rod and reel. Each of us have favorite brands and I'm no expert when it comes to which are best. All I know is that any ball bearing reel that has a 6:1 ratio and medium size spool and take in slack line fast to allow for a solid hook set.

I find that a 5'6" or 6' light action rod adequate in length to cast light jigs 20' or more, allowing me to cover a lot of water in an area. The rod shouldn't be to wimpy all the way down it's length but very flexible 1/3 of the way closest to the end. This is also important for a long distance hook set and keeping the fish hooked.

My line choice is as important as the above rod and reel: 8-10 lb test braid (small diameters of 4-6# line) and a 4-6# test 1.5' fluorocarbon leaders. Braid has no stretch, is sensitive enough to feel the faintest strikes and rarely breaks line mono. I can use the same line for two years and not worry. F/c line is more abrasion resistant than mono though mono is fine for light lures if I run out of f/c of the right test. The light leader allows for the best lure action with the least line bow and f/c is nearly invisible in water causing less distraction from the lure.

When it comes to jigs, unpainted ball head jigs are the only jigs I use with soft plastics. 1/32 and 1/16 oz work 100 % of the time though 1/8 oz is an option for deeper larger fish. I attach a wire L beneath the line tie to keep the lure up on the jig and can catch a dozen or more on the same lure.Again, I want the least distraction from the lure and drab jig heads allow that.

In the last decade of making and testing lures - hard and soft - I've found that plastics are the easiest to use and offer the largest variety of designs that work in any season and in any water. What's more is using plastics I already own, for years not knowing they could be modified for pan fish. Here are a few of the many that can always be counted on to catch fish:

The only one of the above not hand poured is the finesse worm which was cut from the end of a 4" bait and rigged on a light jig. What all have in common are subtle actions unique to each which make fish take notice and hold their attention. The cone tail grub may seem to be action-less, but the tail quivers and the lure darts depending on rod tip twitches. The thin tails flutter, while curl tail (not shown) flap like a flag - all of which provoke fish to attack.

Before I show you many of the lures I use, here I the L wire idea you can use to keep plastic up on the jig head. I use a coated craft wire size #28. Though the picture shows a lead barb to hold lures, I order jigs without them so less damage is done. Note: the wire L can be 1/2-3/4 of the hook length and always before the hook point.

When it comes to lures, you are only limited by your imagination to use much of what you may already own. Pieces of lures do the trick though keep in mind that 1-2.5" is the usual length all size fish bite - anything over that, only larger or super-aggressive fish bite unless they are bass or large catfish. This fish was caught using the last 1.5" of the tail of a 4" Ring Worm:

Note: Ring Worm as well as most finesse worm segments always catch fish:

The next lure was cut from a small Slugo grub though a shortened Fin S Fish grub would have worked just as well.

I've even found a use for the head of a craw bait that never caught a fish (note the claws and body were removed resulting in the lure on the left:

You can also shorten a worm or other lure by cutting a piece out and fusing the remaining parts with a candle flame such as this Slider Grub shortened from 3.5" down to 2.5":

Of the many lures you use that differ in shape and length combined, all have unique actions that have the potential to aggravate fish into attacking. It's just a matter of finding designs which do the job. Once found, you can bet they'll always catch fish - even when used by a child. But as with all small light lures, the key to catching fish is a slow retrieve with pauses, rod tip twitches and lure pulls and any other action you can apply to lures that already have unique actions built in.

Important! :Just be sure to observe each lure in the water to see how they act when worked a certain way.

Edited by SenkoSam (09/04/17 08:50 AM)

#12414428 - 09/04/17 10:29 PM Re: catching pan fish - so many fun lure choices! [Re: SenkoSam]
banker-always fishing Online   content
TFF Guru

Registered: 07/12/10
Posts: 40785
Loc: Universal City Tx.
Great post. thumb

IGFA World Record Rio Grande Cichlid. Lake Dunlap.

John 3:16

#12414639 - 09/05/17 08:32 AM Re: catching pan fish - so many fun lure choices! [Re: SenkoSam]
Laker One Offline
TFF Guru

Registered: 07/03/11
Posts: 10883
Loc: San Antonio TX
This one SUPER POST. Lots of very good information. Thanks for posting SenkoSam! Good job. woot

#12416951 - 09/06/17 07:01 PM Re: catching pan fish - so many fun lure choices! [Re: SenkoSam]
jrod88 Offline

Registered: 05/27/15
Posts: 79
Loc: The Colony, TX
I have a few packs of crawfish I may now have a use for, thanks!
Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.


#12417905 - 09/07/17 01:12 PM Re: catching pan fish - so many fun lure choices! [Re: banker-always fishing]
Gitter Done Offline
TFF Guru

Registered: 02/06/07
Posts: 10459
Loc: San Antonio Tx.
Originally Posted By: banker-always fishing
Great post. thumb

Totally Agree!

#12424024 - 09/12/17 02:04 PM Re: catching pan fish - so many fun lure choices! [Re: SenkoSam]
Woodwzrd Offline

Registered: 06/22/10
Posts: 106

#12425254 - 09/13/17 01:11 PM Re: catching pan fish - so many fun lure choices! [Re: SenkoSam]
Bobby Milam Online   content
Extreme Angler

Registered: 07/13/14
Posts: 2779
Loc: Arlington
I bass fish and never fish for pan fish but sometimes the grandkids want to go and they just can't catch bass. I am always having torn plastics that I just throw away at the end of the day. Now, I'm going to start saving them for the grandkids and let them try catching some panfish.

Thanks for the idea.

#12426037 - 09/14/17 06:00 AM Re: catching pan fish - so many fun lure choices! [Re: SenkoSam]
SenkoSam Offline

Registered: 09/03/03
Posts: 65
Loc: Walden, N.Y., USA
The only difference between targeting bass versus pan fish is lure size and tackle in general.

I've known bass anglers that have a hard time adapting to the light tackle necessary to use light lures, especially 1/32 oz jigs and small plastics or other lure material. Fact is, light tackle catches all species of fish and is more of a challenge.
Tackle related necessities:
1. hooks so sharp that fish set the hook for you with rod swept slowly away from them while maintaining line tension.

2. drag set just right to prevent light line snapping (like for bass)

3. slow presentations - always - unlike for bass where many larger bass lures must be moved faster

4. a very sensitive touch for feeling the slightest line bump or slack transmitted to your reel or rod handle (unless a float is used for one presentation) via braid and a light f/c leader

5. the ability to impart just the right action to subtle-acting lures (no different than for bass)(kids do it naturally - even 5 year olds). But also realizing that lure action is also dependent on rod tip action and reel handle turns where rod action must be light or ultralight. Heavy line and rod action can't cut it.

6. like bass, discovering location/ depth patterns - knowing what to cast and where to cast it. A lure length change of 1/16" or a slight reduction in jig weight by 1/32 oz can make all the difference.

Light tackle isn't for everyone nor slowing down, but in my 57 years of fishing, I've found that fish are fish and the challenge is catching anything that will strike my lure. It's not that I don't take heavy tackle along - I always do for quality bass lakes - but 95 % of my fishing is the use of light tackle.

A disciplined approach, like for any type of angling, means the difference between catching +60 fish vs. a dozen or less regardless the species.

Edited by SenkoSam (09/14/17 08:42 AM)


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