2 Big Keys to Catching Open Water Panfish
Speed is a critical factor when it comes to crappies or any other open water panfish for that matter; spring, summer or fall.
Even when the fish are really aggressive, you can’t move your bait too fast.
As I go throughout the different seasons, many factors will change, but you’ll find two common threads:
1. It’s important to fish slowly
2. Boat control is absolutely critical
Panfish begin moving out of their winter haunts and up into the shallows as water temperatures continue climbing throughout the spring. Slip floats are one of the best ways I know to present a small jig and plastic or livebait in shallow water.
The key is to position the bait at the same level or slightly above the fish. The exact length will depend on the depth you’re fishing and how the fish are positioning themselves. Experiment with baits and depth levels until you find the sweet spot.
Once I isolate where the fish are hanging out, I lock the boat in place and cast out to their location. It’s generally quite easy to see the fish swimming around in the shallows, even from a distance away. Long casts can be crucial in these conditions, keeping the boat as far away from the fish as possible.
Throughout the summer, when these fish are set up on deeper weedlines, I simply cast a small jig or a tiny safety pin spinner. Speed is vital here — you want to be fishing SLOW. In this case, I will cast out the bait, count it down to whatever level the fish are at and then slowly retrieve it back to the boat.
Crappies will often suspend on the tops of weeds this time of year. Make sure you’re holding your boat steady, as too much movement will dramatically impact the amount of fish you catch.
In the fall, lots of crappies and pans gather together in deep water — in that 15 to 35-foot range.
Most of the time, I use my electronics to sight fish in these situations. It’s easy to isolate and target fish down below the boat when they are out deep during the fall months.
My baits of choice are small jigs with plastics or #3 Rapala Jigging Raps.
The key here is boat control. Use your trolling motor to hover directly over the fish and drop down to them. Again, you want to position the bait at the same level or just above the fish. Your ability to follow the fish and stay on top of them as they move around is critical to success this time of year.
When it comes to crappies and other open water panfish, it’s all about lure speed and boat control!