by Matt Johnson
Exploding through the water like a torpedo, the monster bluegill crushes the shiner minnow—a hearty meal that’s typically found on the menu of a bass. This is a common scenario that often goes unseen within our favorite bodies of water, abundant with panfish. See, panfish are kamikazes, and have been known to devour baits twice their size. If that’s the case, then why do we settle with small-profiled presentations when targeting these underwater bullies? We’ve been taught that when thinking about smaller fish, we must throw smaller baits, but that’s definitely not the case…
Lures that we commonly use to target bass and larger gamefish also have their place in a panfish angler’s arsenal. Granted, we might have to downsize slightly, but the common practice of throwing small baits for panfish does not have to be the norm. We can, and should be, throwing larger baits when targeting open water panfish. The Mepps line of spinners is one of those lure choices that I have in mind when thinking “big” when in search of panfish.
The original Mepps Aglia is an old standby for many anglers throughout the years, and I’m not talking just one species either. The Aglia has grabbed hold of countless bass, pike, walleye, trout, perch, and even panfish—both crappies and sunfish. While slightly larger than your typical panfish spinner, the Aglia still triggers panfish into striking its sleek, appealing design when slow-rolled through the water. With all the flash and profile needed to entice even the wariest of predators, the Aglia has proven itself to rank high among my list of upsizing for panfish.
Besides the ever-popular Aglia, Mepps is home to another spinner that I like to turn to when looking to upsize for panfish—the Black Fury. The Black Fury is the panfish’s nemesis, because one, they can’t resist it, and two, one solid strike of the Black Fury and that panfish is as good as yours. The black blade really contrasts with the surrounding conditions, and allows the hungry panfish to seek (and find) it easily within both stained and clear waters. Contrasting with a light color, namely the other components of the lure, the Black Fury adds another dimension to your panfish arsenal and is a versatile tool when looking to put more panfish in the boat.
Now that we have the obvious upsizing variables out of the way, it’s now time to focus on the Mepps spinners designed specifically for our explosive panfish species. The various panfish-orientated lines of Mepps spinners are created for one purpose: to help you catch more and bigger panfish.
Both the Aglia and the Black Fury have downsized versions that are intended for panfish. The Ultra Lites line of Mepps spinners is fashioned to rank amongst the ultimate in panfish weaponry. The Ultra Lites are a slower falling lure that are great for finesse situations. However, don’t limit yourself to only using these spinners on negative fish, because aggressive fish will be more than eager to crush the Ultra Lites as well. Whether you work these lures with a constant retrieve, hop them, jig them, or whatever, it doesn’t matter because the beauty of the lure is that it allows the angler to incorporate the desired action. When they fall, they provide flash and vibration. When they hop, they act like both an injured and feeding minnow. And when they are retrieved… well, let’s just say they look like food and you better hold on!
One of my favorite Ultra Lites models is the Aglia Little Wooly Worm. The Little Wooly Worm only has one hook which allows for easy unhooking. It’s also lined with hair and fibers that give it a most prolific look, which in turn forces panfish to fall victim to its tasty appearance. The Aglia Little Wooly Worm is a great presentation for pitching around all the various panfish-holding structures.
Next on my list of panfish artillery is the Mepps Thunder Bug. This crafty piece is designed to imitate the mighty thunder bug and after seeing it glide through the water, you might as well consider part of the insect family! The power of the Thunder Bug comes from its slender, tapered body, and its wing-shaped blade. The blade will churn the water differently than the blade of an Aglia or Black Fury; it will act more erratic, much like its real life counterpart and it really drives panfish wild. The Thunder Bug is a very entertaining lure to fish, and both crappies and sunfish find it very appetizing.
And last (but not least) on my go-to list of panfish spinners, is the Mepps Spin Flies. Very similar in design to the Aglia Little Wooly Worm, the Mepps Spin Flies have a single hook and closely resembles a fly you would grab out of your fly box, but with an extra little kick of an added in-line blade. The Spin Flies pack a punch and are an outstanding search lure when looking to target both aggressive and neutral-natured panfish during the open water season. I look to the Spin Flies when I need that extra edge when in hot pursuit of panfish.
As you can see, sticking with tiny baits is not always the best way to go about landing big panfish. While those smaller plastics and pieces of live-bait will catch fish, there comes a time when you need to buck-up and give the fish what they want. The open water season (especially during the summer months) is an excellent time to change tactics and target panfish using spinners. If anything, have one rod rigged with a spinner and another with a plastic. Staying versatile and aggressive when chasing open water panfish is the name of the game, and attacking those kamikaze panfish with a Mepps spinner will allow you to be more productive the next time you’re called into battle!