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Angling Buzz: Spring Panfish Patterns

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Angling Buzz: Spring Panfish Patterns

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From crappie to bluegill, this episode is all about how to find and catch springtime panfish. It's been a long long winter. That's fantastic. Including expert strategies, tips and in-depth discussions for this time of year. As well as the latest fishing reports, must-have gear and tackle recommendations. There's a lot of information from beginning to end. This is Angling Buzz brought to you by Omniafishing, a smarter way to shop for fishing tackle.

Spring is prime time for panfish. Both crappie and bluegill are fan favorites of all English, especially this time of year. For good reason. They're in relatively predictable locations. I think after a long winter everybody is excited to go out and enjoy some open water fishing. Watching a float go down with a bite will never get old.

Looking at locations, shallow water bays and channels, that's where pan fish are going to be moving into for the spawn. When we think about weather patterns, this can affect how they move around. They can move around very quickly. For example, a three-day warming trend, schools of them can move up very quickly, very fast. On the opposite end of things, the cold front can push right back down into these deeper depressions. You can think of them as highways that lean in and out of shallow water spawn.

Today's show, we're joined by Wisconsin guide, Jeff Evans, to share his insights into springtime panfish. Jeff, thank you for joining us. How's the season progressing so far?

Hi Troy, well, we're just getting started. Like much of the upper Midwest, Wisconsin was just buried in snow this winter. A bunch of rain, with the late ice out this year, it doesn't take but a few nice warm days to get all these pan and fish barreling up into that shallow water. First, it'll be the perch, then it'll be the crappies, then it'll be the bluegills.

What I've looked in a specific lake, I'll try to find a nice shallow dark bottom bait on the north side of the lake, specifically if I can find a nice body shoreline. Those north sides with the body shorelines tend to heat up quicker and it doesn't take much, just a half a degree can be a big difference with holding fish up early in the season. And better yet, if you can find some submerged vegetation, whether it's old weeds from the season before or a new weed just starting to pop up, those areas will really be key places to target fish. But you do have to be ready for spring cold fronts. When those spring cold fronts come in, they can knock fish back out of deep in a hurry and you have to be ready to be on the boat. You just need to try to locate those fish somewhere between the shallow bay where you found them and the main lake basin where they came from.

Yes, that's very true. That's the whole fish-finding process, that's so important. Now let's talk about baits. What are your favorite presentations for crappie and bluegill?

Well Troy, one of my go-to presentations early in the season is running a small plastic underneath a slip bobber. What I've got here is a 30 second ounce jig head with a small plastic and ethol sinker and my slip bobber. Now if you find super aggressive fish that are really hungry, one of my favorite things to do is switch over to a suspending jerk bane like a raffle X-wrap. This is a number four-inch wrap and number six could work as well and when you fight those really aggressive fish then or shallow, that can be a really fun way to catch a bunch of them.

Now if you find yourself in cold front conditions that knock those fish all deeper and you've located them under your electronics, one of my favorite lures in that situation is a raffle slab wrap. This is a number five. After I've located those fish, I'll cast to them and I'll let that slab wrap go all the way to the bottom and then I'll work it back slowly with a lift and drop presentation.

Okay. Jeff, next weekend is Wisconsin opener. Can you offer any tips for walleye bass or pike?

You bet Troy and you're right, the late season and late ice-out are definitely going to affect fish patterns early and I would suspect you're going to catch most of your fish shallow. With walleye, I focus on less than 10 feet of water near spawning areas like rocky and gravel points or rocky and sandy shorelines. Good baits to use are going to be baits like raffle or rippin' wraps, heavy ha irdries or even crate baits.

With pike, I would focus on shallow spawning baits in less than 5 feet of water, in and around vegetation. Hook baits to use are going to be jerk baits, spoons or spitter baits. With bass, I would target various near the first drop-off towards deeper water. Good baits to use are going to be heavy jigs that you can slowly bang along the bottom or deep suspending jerk baits or even light-haired jigs. I hope everybody has a great start to their season and catches a bunch of fish.

Thanks Jeff, we appreciate your time in sharing some insights into spring panfish. Up next is our timely topics feature. We're diving even deeper into spring panfish strategies without Linda and tai-shi-din.

Here we go, we have one. Here's one Al. This is what we're looking for. Nice crappie. Nice crappie. Good one. Oh, there we go. Look at that. It's been a long, long winter and we've headed up to one of my old stopping grounds. I've been fishing this lake for all my life and we're just on a flat. It comes from deep water up onto a flat and these fish just stack up on there. Look at that dandy. Big old silver side. What she goes there, she goes. That's what we're talking about.

This is a little better one too. It might be bigger than the other one. Another netter. Yeah. But we're getting some use on this net today. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Yeah, not know. That's a good one. Really a good one, Todd. Nice fish. Really a good one. Now you're catching up. You bet you am. Look at that. All right. And the magic hour hasn't even started yet. Wind laid a little bit. The sun's got that water cooking and the crappies are cooking up too. They're loving what they're seeing and it's just going to get better and better and better as the day goes on. Love this time of the year. Love it. Love it. It's just float no matter how old you get. There's something magic about seeing that thing go. Boop down and catching a crappie with it. It just never ever gets old.

There we go. Crappie. Nice one again. Just working that edge. Gaying away from the crowd. Fun fun fish. It's called fat there. If you think about it, these fish are probably in this area because it's 6 to 10 feet, right? Just a flat. These fish have probably been here for quite a while. Getting ready. They're eating minnows and bugs and whatever else. We're talking 43 water temps and they're just getting really active. Look at how fat you're going to see them spawn. Make a bunch more. Just another nice one. Another eater. I haven't been able to call for this one. It was starting to get natter bull but not quite. Not quite. Nothing wrong with that one. No, I know that. Really nice fish.

I've got to tell you a story. I never use live bait. Not for anything. I haven't used live bait for crappies for over 60 years. 60 years. Let me tell you a story. I grew up fishing the lakes in between Chicago and Milwaukee. There's a whole bunch of lakes in there, the chain of lakes in there, excellent fishing. When I was a kid, there was a jig that was available in that area. It was called the pinky jig. I learned how to fish it along with all of the locals. It was in all the bait shops and it had a pink head and a white calf tail tail out of it. I learned at that point in time you don't need minnows. You just can use artificial baits.

Then when I moved to Minnesota where we live now and I started guiding after I got out of the military, there was an old guy here, his name was Gene Shippinski. He made a jig and it was called the quiver jig. It was a floss jig. I started fishing it here again and seeing what all the local guys that got in and this thing. You didn't need bait to catch these things. There's still the case today. I don't think I'm positive you do not need minnows ever.

You're really cutting it when you're looking for these fish in the spring and you're really cutting down your time of actually searching for these crappies by having a good GPS, a good Lake Master card of the lake that you're on. You can highlight the different regions. We're really focused on six to eight feet. As you can see, I've highlighted all this red area that really cuts it down. You're looking at these points. Look at all these areas. You're really narrowing your search down. Then you go ahead and you look for the weeds. We know where we want to focus. You go to this spot, that spot, this spot and look for these tall thick weeds and that's where those crappies are really concentrated on this time of year. Then you go to work.

Oh, it feels like a better one. Oh yeah, good. Real nice one. Real nice one. You can see it really fire out. Look at the size of that fish. That's a fun way to fish. No live bait needed, you can cover a lot of water and catch fish with a simple float and a jig.

It's time for this week's Buzz Bite Reports. To kick it off, we're going to head to North Dakota with Jason Mitchell. We're just starting to lose ice on Devil's Lake and there's a lot of ice still on Devil's Lake and goodness. There's been people ice fishing on Devil's Lake right up until the very end of April. The coolies and the channels are starting to open up and so we're starting to see a few fish get caught. There's been a few big fish get caught. Overall, it's been slow so far but this should turn around any day. By the time you're watching this, it could be happening. But the water temperatures are still pretty cold. So you look at Devil's Lake right now, the best fishing, shore fishing or wader fishing. So casting a lot of basically paddle tails, just an impulse paddle tail, the MVP jig or you can buy these mimic middles that are prepackaged. But white chartreuse, bright colors seem to work pretty good. A lot of times, this water can be pretty dirty. It's just a matter of trying to find current, trying to find some rock. And so that's the program on Devil's Lake right now as the people are catching fish or catching fish from shore. Thanks Jason.

Now let's head to Alexandria to check in with Joe Segura. As you can see, it's a little warmer here than you would have imagined for Alexandria because we're down at Pickwick Lake in Alabama with the Alexandria Bass fishing team. We fished earlier this year down in Florida and did pretty well down there. 34th out of 240 down there. I think we ended up with 91st today out of 240. So we had a few flat tires and a broken-down truck and a prop issues. But we still finished well above the halfway mark and real excited for that finish. And it's fun to be down here, setting the hook on some bass, getting to see some open water. Something we haven't been able to do for a while up in Alexandria. So up in Alexandria, the ice is blown away from the shoreline pretty well. So the ice gets pretty rotten up there. I would expect in the next week or so that we would have some open water up in that area. So I would think we'd have a nice week or so for the water to warm up for opener. I would expect opener to be fairly decent if that's the case. So let's cross our fingers for some open water and we'll be on it soon enough up in Alexandria. Thanks Joe.


Thanks Joe. Now let's head north to Leech Lake. We're up here now as you can see the smaller lakes. The water is starting to show as the ice breaks away from the shorelines, and that's good news because Hopi Long will have docks here at these smaller lakes. And that's where the first action is going to be. Those panfish, those crappies, and those bluegills and some of the shallow spots where the perch are. It's going to be where the bite is up here in the Leech Lake area.

The big water yet, it's pretty locked tight. But the smaller lakes here around the area and some of the smaller parts off of Leech Lake, North End bays, some of the marinas by the resorts and the Shingaby Island area, those waters will open up sooner and of course some of the smaller lakes near you too. So the fish should be in the deeper spots just off the weed edges where they typically go towards the spring. Bobbers, fat head minnows or crappie minnows and worms, wax worms, you know, simple fish and find them, set up on them. A selective harvest of course, that's some of those big ones go but it's all about the ice right now on the Leech Lake. That's the report. Thanks Toby.

Let's check in with Billy Rosner on Lake Vermilion. Lake Vermilion's fishery out of Tower of Minnesota just released their survey report for 2022 and everything's looking really, really good. I'm going to read you a couple of statements on this quick. The East Vermilion walleye catch rate was 16.9. Also on the west side was 16.1 fish per net which was nearly identical to previous last two surveys. So that's really great news, we got some really nice age class of fish coming up. And then also the catch rates of the 20 inch and larger fish remain above the historical medium too. So those make those memorable catch opportunities that everybody's looking for for those walleyes when they're on vacation. Thanks Billy.

Now let's head over to Michigan and check in with Captain Chad Dills. We couldn't be more excited to get into the first week of May. You know here in northern Michigan we just had our trout and walleye opener which is really opened up some opportunities for our anglers to get into our inland lakes and take advantage of a really good bite. You know the fishing down on the Detroit River for walleye is really excellent right now. We additionally had a fantastic steelhead season but part of the warming trend we had two to three weeks ago it really ended that season early. Kind of tricked those fish into thinking that the spawn was over and a lot of those fish retreated back to Lake Michigan. But with that it opened up a lot of opportunities on the nearshore fishing of Lake Michigan. Mountain trout, lake trout as well as some early spring coho and salmon are being caught in our region. We're really excited to have a fantastic spring. We want everybody to get out fishing license and get out there and get bit.

And now it's time for our cool products brought to you by Omni-Efficient. We're going to start out with the Bubba 6-inch Ultraflex fillet knife. This is perfect for smaller fish like crappie and bluegill. It's 11 inches long. You have a 5 inch handle, a 6 inch blade that has titanium nitride coating that's really an extreme hard ceramic material which means this is very durable and else is going to last a long time. It also has flexibility so you can cut around the rib cage, cut around the tail section to ensure you get the best fillets for smaller fish. The 6-inch Ultraflex blade from Bubba.

And next the linear panfish special from Big Bite Bates. This is a 3/32" jig. No live bait needed. You can fish this right out of the package. You get 5 jigs per pack. You can see it has a hard plastic body with a feathered tail. So even the slightest rod action, you get some great movement at the back of the bait. You can fish this underneath a float. You can cast it out and reel it in. This is great for crappie all season long but especially during the springtime from Big Bite Bates, the Lidner Panfish special jig.

And for fishing line, this is Suffolk's Nano braid. This is available in a number of different pound tests. You know, 4 and 6-pound tests are great for panfish and also Trout has a very small diameter. This thing can cast small baits like jigs, crankbaits, jerkbaits very, very far and the near-zero stretch allows for great hook sets. And also with this you can see it's kind of bright. So you can also use this as a strike indicator. This is fantastic line for panfish, Suffolk's Nano braid.

And next the rigged gumball jig minnow from Northland Tackle. This is 1/16th ounce, perfect size for panfish. And as you can see, a really good shape here. You can fish this under a float. You can cast it out and reel it just as it is. It comes with two fully rigged jigs as well as two bodies that you can put on there. And also one thing I do want to note is to fish these horizontal so make sure that your line ties perpendicular to the baits and when you're casting it out it fits like this. You can catch a lot more fish.

And there's also the gumball rigged swimbait as well. But for panfish 1/16th ounce is perfect. You can go up to like maybe 1/8th ounce if you're fishing for big slab crappie. And lastly from Blackfish, the Taunt Rain Jacket and Bibs. This is 100% waterproof. It features equidry technology. What that does is a layering system in here. It keeps water out at the same time. Letting heat and vapor escape. You have a vented hood here. Very comfortable cuffs that cinch down and keep water from getting up into your sleeves. Waterproof zippers. The Bibs feature a non-slip shoulder strap here. Also, there's a waist cinching system that takes the pressure off your shoulders and the way this Bib is designed and sewed around the area and the knees up to the end of the hair. It's very comfortable when you're sitting down. The weather is unpredictable so this is a great jacket top and bottom that you can use all season long here in the upper Midwest.

For these products and many more visit And up next it's time for our technique of the week. By there Brian Brosdall here, I want to show you one of my favorite panfish rods that I use a lot of times in spring, summer and fall. Panfish are one of my favorite fish to fish for and my true love in my panfish rod of choice is an avid 8-footer. Now it's a longer rod but you can really flip a small bobber or a light rig out really far. When searching I'm throwing a little feather jig like this sometimes with a small minnow or small wax worm but I'll pitch that out and let it settle and then twitch it and then move it. And if there's any emergent vegetation around you flip right in there and the 8-foot rod allows you to drop it right in.

And a small Northland light bite bobber they have their brass grommets so braid slips right through. I like braid. It cuts the wind. If there's any breeze or slight wind it's hard to throw something light and that cuts it off. I'll put a small swivel and then a fluorocarbon leader. I make sure if I'm using 10-pound braid or 8-pound braid I'll go to a 5 or 6-pound fluorocarbon leader so I can break it off. This avid is really nice it's got backbone. Couple it up with a 2000 series reel but the eyes are actually designed for light line. They have a slightly V shape to the bottom so when you're pitching your line flows off without slapping the rod as much so you get farther distance. And when you're fighting fish it's in the true parabolic bend that it has to be because of the shape of the eyelet.

I'm really impressed with the average cork handle. It fits your hand in many positions whether you're cranking big panfish out of the emergent weeds. You set hook you get them up on the surface and fight them in. This handle gives you the grip that you need to really give it some good beef when you're doing it and I love the split grip because sometimes if I'm just fishing closer to the boat I like to have my pinky back on that and then just having passed the split grip up into your forearm is really nice and it just feels really good. So a simple rig bobber a swivel and a little feather jig or piece of plastic like impulse plastic goes a long way.

St. Croix really hit a home run here. It's so important to have balanced equipment bro he knows panfish from open water to ice. We can all help stop the spread of aquatic invasive species. Remember anytime you leave any body of water clean, drain, dry. We have a great sweepstakes going on. There's a link in the description below to enter you can win a guided fishing trip up on Lake Vermilion with myself. These all expenses paid a great stay at one of the resorts as well as a tackle pack hand-selected by Amnea Fishing. There's links below in the description for products featured on today's show and let us know in the comments if you have any questions you would like answered and here's another video from Anglin Buzz.