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slick814

Early season Crappies... waxies, crawlers, minnows?

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OK, with the ice gone, my semi- yearly trip to Cabela's completed, all the rods & reels, etc. ready to go, I have a question for you guys.

Waxies or crawlers this time of year for panfish?

I've never really used waxies during open water, but I'm thinking that they'd work as well this time of year as they do when the water's hard, for a multitude of reasons. Insects are starting to come out, larva would be hatching, etc...

Any preferences?

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It depends upon conditions. This time of year, I can often get away with no live bait at all, just a flu flu, or tiny tube jig, or maybe a puddle jumper. I use waxies all year long, and if the sunnies are a bit "off", I like to tip my artificials with something, and waxies can do the trick. I don't think there is a species of fish that swims that can pass up a crawler--a piece of that is good too. But my biggest bull 'gills seem to have come mostly on small leeches. Sunnies love them, especially a bit later in the spring. Crappies especially go for artificials with no bait, but will take a waxie too....but if live bait seems warranted, they seem to me to prefer a small minnow.

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I'm all over the flu-flu's, shrimpo's, etc... just thinking out loud, I guess as to whether or not waxies would still be preferred untiul the water warms up a bit more.

Haven't treid the small leech thing, though.. might have to give it a try.

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slick, I really think this time of the year, that presentation is much more important than bait chice.. I really do think that between those two bait choices, you will catch an equal ammount of fish.

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When live bait is needed, I use minnows and waxies a lot. It always seems one works better than the other on a given lake or circumstance... I have caught a lot of big crappies on waxies and a jig when the minnows or plain jig were not being productive. I always keep a container of 100 waxies on hand in the spring.

Sometimes *switching up* on baits in the same spot can earn you a few more fish when they seem to get educated on a certain spot.

I have not had much for luck on nightcrawlers for crappie other than the occasional fish.

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I like to focus primarily on plastics this time of year, as well as most of the open water months when targeting pannies. Profile is most important right now. Panfish will feed aggressively during spring periods and the use of larger baits shouldn't be shunned upon either. 2-inch plastics are not uncommon for even bluegills at this time of year. A variety of styles can be put into play right now, not to mention colors. CrappieTom (to be honest) has just about perfected the art of pitching plastics for pannies and knowing when, where and how to fish them. He will emphasize color, profile, size and action during this time of the year, and his techniques change as the open water season progresses. His contribution to this topic is almost invaluable.

Right now I'm tossing plastics in two different color patterns (broad category). Natural colors and vibrant colors. Whites and glitters are producing, as are purples and hints of chartruese and high-light. Pinks are also a good choice. I know BDR has been landing panfish pretty consistently as of late with a gold jighead and a white twister-tail for a body. Seems to reflect well in the water and also gives off an excellent profile with the white contrasting in the darker water causing it to appear slightly bigger than it is. The twister-tail also provides action and triggers a response from fish both near and far.

Many panfish are indeed looking for food right now and as the water temps continue to warm you will see an even higher activity level. The recent, and present, rains will also provide some nutrients into the shallows as well. I was just talking with Corey Bechtold (another FM staffer who I would consider to be an expert on panfish) and we both like the concept that spring rain brings to the panfish bite. Seems to only trigger the bite in some situations and rains like we're seeing now I'd consider to be one of those situations. Temps are still holding and by adding a warm spell like we're going to see tomorrow should result in a pretty decent bite.

With the huge variety of plastics we have available to use today, we can just about mimic anything. Plastics can be trimmed down to match profile, size and action, and colors can be implemented for the desired look. The versatility of plastics is incredible and to be completely honest, it has been over a year since I've used livebait for open water panfish. The demand is just not there if plastics are thrown into the equation. Under the ice is a different story, because panfish will examine a bait much longer and tend to feed smaller and with less of a kamikaze approach. But, during open water, the importance of profile, color and action play more of a role. I've also noticed a size difference (in regards to the size of fish) when using plastics vs. livebait. The fish taken on plastics, on average, are larger than those taken on livebait.

Confidence is the key here. It's tough to shy away from livebait when targeting panfish, and that's understandable, but once you acquire that confidence that plastics can (and will) work, you'll be a more versatile panfish angler and you're success for catching quality fish will not decrease.

Just like any fish, at any given time there are plastics that will work on panfish and there are plastics that will not. If one style or color isn't working, try another one. It doesn't mean the fish don't want plastics, it just means they don't want that plastic. I'm not tossing livebait out of the equation either, and in now way is it wrong to use livebait for panfish, I'm just offerring up a different approach that works for me, and I believe that it is something that will work for you as well with a little bit of time and practice.

In my opinion, there is no better source than CrappieTom on the topic of plastics for panfish, and there is an almost endless amount of information on plastics that you can read and soak up in the Crappie-Sunfish Forum that Tom has posted. This is an excellent opportunity to ask whatever questions you have and to get an answer from one of the most knowledgable anglers on this subject. And then you throw in the knowledge of Corey Bechtold, United Jigsticker and the other panfish diehards, and you have a very valuable tool. There isn't a quesiton that they can't answer and they each have their own insight on every topic (and might I add, insight that has worked for me and insight that I use everytime I hit the water). I've learned an incredible amount of information from these anglers and I'm always looking forward to what I can learn next.

This time of year brings a lot of excitement and opportunity. We get to finally drop the boat in the lake again after a long winter, and we get to partake in the aggressive feeding frenzy that the panfish bring to the shallows. This is one of my favorite times of the year and it's a time when anglers, both young and old, can cash in on some excellent fishing.

Good Fishin,

Matt Johnson

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Gee Matt....how am I supposed to fill those shoes?

I honestly feel that mastering plastics for panfish will open a whole new world to the panfisherman. But like anything else, some people are simply not suited to the persuit and I am not going to dun them. Plastic require a tremendous amount of time and study to really understand what the true benefits are.

And again, being perfectly honest, there are days that live bait of some sort will absolutely smoke plastics. There are, however, days when plastics will make bait look like poison. I don't want people to assume that I am anti-bait....I just prefer doing what I do using plastic and the reasons have been hashed over here a million times.

That being said, I would simply say that if bait is what you are comfortable with, by all means use it, but take some plastics along too. When you get into a good bite on bait, rig another rod with plastic and fish it the same way you are fishing the bait. Pay attention to what the fish tell you in how they hit, the colors they prefer and what the day is like (cloudy, sunshine, warm, cold, impending weather). You may find the plastics doing even more than the bait was doing for you.

Again, plastic is not an overnight fix to fishing. You have to work it to understand it. If you think that plastic is a venue that you would like to learn more about, I suggest this then: Dedicate a month to hard fishing and use nothing but plastic. Don't even put bait in the boat. Force yourself to fish it. Force yourself to look for reasons it is not working for you on some days. This will be work pure and simple, but you will come away with a whole new respect for plastic, I promise you.

And as a bonus, should you decide to challenge yourself, what you learn in using the plastics will make you a far more effective bait fisherman!

This plastics thing is not something you can expect to learn in a year, or two, or ten....I am still discorvering twists and hidden treats form the stuff I use- some for over twenty years now, like tubes.

I had the occasion two years ago to take a guy out who swore that on the lake I fish plastic was NOT any good as bait and that crappies would NOT hit it. Period. Money got involved and I finally got him in the boat and never even started the outboard. I ran him over to a stretch of shoreline that I don't ever fish near the landing using the electric and within a hundred feet of travel the guy caught over fifty fish.....all on plastic. I collected my earnings and went back to doing what I enjoy doing and left him at the landing. Two days later I saw him with a guy ( who he had said was the best crappie fisherman on the lake), anchored with a minnow bucket hanging over the side of the boat. My point here is that he is not the sort of person who is at all comfortable with leaving his bait to home, even if he isn't catching fish using it. He will never be a plastics person. And incidently, they were not catching fish using their bait as I went past them and took perhaps forty or fifty right out from under their noses. Using exactly what this guy used two days earlier.

Another way to look at using plastics....if the fish are not hitting bait, can they hit less if you hang some plastic on a jig instead?

As a devout bait fisherman years and years ago, I can remember when MR. TWISTER products hit the tackle shelves and I laughed my arse off thinking "what in the Sam H#4l would hit that stuff". Today, little gets past my eye if it is make of plastic and is used for fishing. I will at least look at just about all of it with some glimmer of hope for it, but yes, some is destined to be garbage before it even comes out of the package. Over time I have developed certain "tastes" for plastics and seek similar products out.

A person has to fish with these baits to see success and then expand on what works. Just starting is hard, I agree. Keep in mind though that the imagination is the greatest hinderence to being a truely successful angler. If you stay stuck on bait, you are eliminating a huge part of your owm potential!

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*whew*

Thank goodness I can print this stuff.... lots of info, Tom & Matt. Thanks!!

I started using plastics for panfish this past winter more and more. I had rarely, if ever used it before this lasat ice season. Thanks to you guys and others out here who were talking about the benfits of the plastics, I purchased a bunch and figured "what the heck can it hurt?" I learned a LOT about how effective they are.

SO.. that being said, Matt mentioned a larger profile. Should I be looking to upsize from a Shrimpo/Ratso size to maybe a medium sized flu-flu type of profile? 2" or so, maybe? I've got a decent bunch of smaller tubes & grub bodies that looked good in the store, but have never been opened or have rarely been used, mostly because of habit, I guess... I just naturally seem to gravitate back to the crawler/waxie/minnow thing when I'm heading out. Kind of a ritual... load up the gear (if it hasn't stayed in the truck), head to the bait shop, then head to the lake or river... maybe I should eliminate the bait shop stop more often. cool.gif

How do you feel about something like a Beetlespin type of bait? And what kinds of conditions are they effective?

I know I'm asking a lot here, but the panfishing is pretty new to me, to be honest. I grew up near a great bunch of Walleye/Pike fisheries in the Babbitt/Ely/Tower area, and lived in Idaho (GREAT trout fishing) and North Carolina while I was in the Air Force (bass & cats...) so I never really fished for the panfish unless it was ice time.

I've now got 4 kids, and sometimes the patience it takes for the 'Eyes, Bass, etc. doesn't come easy to the younger two. It's also been a challenge to learn a new way to fish and the tools/techniques to be successful at it.

Thanks again, guys, and I'll be checking the panfish forum more often with my questions. grin.gif

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Slick....This is a fickle time of year. When fishing plastics now you have to go prepared to up-size, down-size.... whatever the situation dictates. I find that up-sizing is best done in moderartion. In other words, don't go from shrimpos to two inch wide tailed twisters. The aggresiveness of the bite is the best dictator of what to do. If the bite is wild on a shrimpo, up-size to a paddletail or a rat tail/stinger type bait first and then move up in profile and action level from there.

When down sizing, I have seen instances where three inch twisters were taking fish one day and a shrimpo was almost too large the next. Dropping water temps, cold fronts, are just a couple of the things that will almost certainly demand down sizing at this time of year.

Again, the fish are the best measure when looking to up or down size.

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Tom brings up an excellent point, this is no doubt a "fickle" time of year. The fish want something one day, and then something totally different the next. However, it is safe to say that up-sizing from what you used at late ice is a more than likely productive approach. I've been using a 1.5 inch stinger, tube or paddle tail style plastic lately and I know of a few people who have been doing well on twister tail style plastics as well. Tiny Flu-flu's are producing without any bait from time to time too.

Beetle Spin style baits can be productive as well, but I typically like to wait until the water warms a little more before I start pitching those. Closer to the spawn I'll start using spins on a more regular basis as a search lure. I really enjoy targeting docks and weedlines with Beetle Spin style baits for panfish. It usually draws out the more aggressive fish as well as some of the larger fish in the area. BDR and I also did well last year pitching Beetle Spins on deep edges for panfish, letting the spinner flutter almost to the bottom before retrieving. A lot of hits on the way down. There is a spinner called Betts (I believe that's the name) that are a little smaller than the original Beetle Spin and work well too. Or else give the small Beetle Spin a try.

Good Fishin,

Matt Johnson

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I was fishing for panfish in Indiana last weekend. I used berkely's power maggots. The bluegills were all over them. Bobber kept going down each cast. I say this because everyone else around me was using waxies/worms practically not getting any bites. They couldn't believe I was setting the hook on each cast and I was not far from other bobbers.

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I've had good luck using berkley crappie nibbles (resemble mini marshmallows). Mostly fished on a 1/32 to 1/64 oz. feathered jig under a float.

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I used a crappie minnow under a light blue flu flu with a white head and the crappies slammed it! I was on a western metro lake that holds bigguns!

When they were biting strong I switched over to a Red gulp worm and it also worked! (I call this my fake bait confidence booster) My friends were using pink flu flu dealio's and were binging them as well... I think the secret to catching more crappies for us was moving the slip bobber along slowly as they were aggresive to a moving target... a few bite on to a non moving floater.

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Matt, I think you're right about the name Betts... I've got one or two of them as well as the original Beetles...

I hit a small lake in the northern metro last night with two of my kids. While they did OK with the slip bobbber/crawler/waxie bit, I had an untipped shrimpo under mine and was moving it semi-slowly towards shore. Did pretty good, just wished there was a bit more size to them. All in all, we had a blast til the sky opened up and doused us good. Going to give it another shot this evening. Wish I had a boat down here, though....

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