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Proven Panfish Practices

By Walt Matan

Panfish are the sport fish of the ice fisherman! Armed with the proper gear, one can get a great fight out of the bluegill, crappie and even a perch. Plus, you've got the best tasting fish of the year. Nothing beats fresh caught panfish through the ice. Let's go over some of the methods to panfish madness that will turn you into an ice fishing machine!

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BALANCED TACKLE
Balanced tackle is no longer a dream. Gone are the days of $2.00 poles with 10-pound line. Today's ice angler uses mini spinning combos with ultra sensitive tips. Frabill's SenSive 18-inch Micro Jig rod with a Slater plastic reel spooled up with four-pound Seaguar Carbon ice line is an awesome way to present precision plastics like the Finesse Plastic series from Custom Jigs & Spins. Finesse Plastic is at times more effective than live bait. I'll explain how shortly.
For traditional jigs like Custom Jigs Ratfinkees and Demons, I like a longer 24-inch rod like a Frabill 24-inch ultralight. Teamed up with a Frabill SenSive 3000 tiny spinning reel. Spool it up with four-pound Seaguar Carbon Ice line, which is a clear nearly invisible fluorocarbon line. The longer rod allows you to jig effectively in shallow or deeper water and the reel puts a little fun in the fishing.

DETECTING THE BITE
Panfish are light biters. Sometimes they can suck your lure in and spit it out before the blink of your eye. It is wise to put the odds in your favor. There are a lot of things that effect a fish’s mood to strike aggressively or to suck it in slowly. Rapidly barometric changes can really make it tough. Noise from too many anglers is never any good. Finally, the wind will really shut down your ability to see strikes.
That's why I normally fish from a Frabill two man Ranger ice tent. It keeps the wind off my rod tip and I can see the slightest movements of my line. This dark black tent will give you 50% more viewing power than a blue fabric tent! If I am fishing shallow in clear water, I can see the fish by peering down the hole. This is a great way to fish, you can watch the action and see exactly how they respond to the offering. You can change jigging motions and movements to see what works best.
If I'm fishing too deep to see, I'll lower my Aqua-Vu Z-Series camera down the hole. I position the camera facing straight down by taping the chord to the camera. I'll lower it just until my jig is in view directly below it. Now I can see all the action and seldom do fish get hung up on the chord.

A LITTLE FINESSE PLASTIC GOES A LONG WAY
Custom Jigs and Spins Finesse Plastic is all the rage these days. There is nothing quite like fooling a big bluegill or crappie through the ice with no bait on your hook. Original Finesse Plastic is on every Shrimpo and Ratso that Custom Jigs makes including the new size eight. The way you work it is to lower it down to the bottom, raise it about three inches off the bottom and then slowly bob in an undulating hypnotizing fashion. As you are bobbing, slowly raise the rod tip at least a foot and then slowly bob and lower it. Strikes will come as slack or little movements of the line. In either case...SET THE HOOK!
Other Finesse Plastic choices are Wedgees, which are triangular-shaped wisps, Noodels and Micro-Noodels, which are hot dog-shaped do-nothing worms. Noodels and Micro-Noodels should be fished on the fall, while Wedgees can be bobbed.

ANT POWER
Last year Custom Jigs & Spins introduced the Nuclear Ant and stores couldn't keep them on the shelves. Obviously, live ants aren't swimming around under the ice, but the action of these jigs is real effective on panfish. What is nice is that they have three features that make them unique. First, they have a heavy body to get down fast. Second they have Finesse Plastic legs to undulate and attract. Finally, they have a nice open hook design that allows freedom for a waxworm or four spikes to jiggle.
I hope these proven panfish practices I've outlined will work for you this winter. Look for upcoming episodes on ice fishing on MidWest Outdoors television featuring some of these techniques in action. If you have any more questions and live in the Chicago area, stop in at Water Werks II (630-393-0100). We have a huge ice fishing department and we'll be giving seminars coming up on December 6 and 20. Good luck this winter!

A black Shrimpo and a chartreuse Nuclear Ant with a waxworm are two effective presentations for panfish.

Good panfish are easy to come buy for Poppee, since he uses these proven panfish practices every time he goes fishing.

Kicker
Panfish are light biters. Sometimes they can suck your lure in and spit it out before the blink of your eye.