When it comes to the ultimate setup for spring and summer panfish, it’s hard to beat a nightcrawler, hook, split shot, and bobber. But, there are some serious advantages to fishing for bluegills, crappies, and perch with artificial baits. You can cover more water quickly, and also avoid the little fish that are so good at robbing live bait rigs.
So with the warm panfishing months of summer on the way, we rounded up the 15 the best panfish lures of all time.
Crickets and grasshoppers are the staples of the panfish diet mimicked well by this mini crankbait. Twitch or wake it on top or run it to depths of 3 feet. With its realistic profile and body details, the CrickHopper is a particularly good choice after rains or any windy weather that washes and blows insects into the water.
Soft and durable, these 100% biodegradable baits are loaded with Berkley’s powerful, patented scent formula, which attracts distant fish and expands your strike zone. Fished on light jig head or a small hook under a float, Gulp! Fish Fry offer an effective and convenient option to live bait – even through the ice.
A true classic, the flash and thump of a single Colorado blade calls attention to the bite-size plastic beetle. Fish the Beetle Spin on a light spinning outfit with 4- to 6-pound line and cast around grass lines, lily pads, docks and shady pockets beneath overhanging trees. When panfish hold deep, vertically jig the bait around brush piles and other structure.
Weighted for long casts, this slow sinker sports a unique swimming lip designed to create an enticing wobbling and rolling action. External scales and 3-D holographic eyes complete the visual appeal.
A meaty amphibian makes a fine meal for any fish and at just 2 inches (1 ½ for the Teeny size), the Wee Frog makes a perfect panfish mouthful. Fish this floating crankbait on top to mimic a wandering frog or work it with sweeping rod motion for a fleeing action.
A truly unique profile, the Road Runner‘s downturned head sports a spinner blade that provides plenty of thump and flash to attract attention. Swim the bait with a variety of retrieves, hop it across the bottom or vertically jig it – in any presentation, the pulsing marabou tail is a deal closer.
If one minnow is good, then two is better and three is great. Create the image of a bait pod by running a trio of 1/8-ounce lead heads with 2-inch Yum Money Fry from this scaled-down version of the popular Yumbrella rig. Stainless steel arms are heat-tempered for strength and memory in a rig that’s castable even on light tackle.
At 1/8-ounce, this diminutive spinnerbait is fair game for most panfish. The true-running “R” bend wire delivers serious vibration, while a lone Colorado blade handles the flash and water displacement. A 40-strand Bio-Flex silicone skirt and detailed head with realistic 3-D eye make the Micro Pond Magic an enticing target.
Mounting a 1/16- and a 1/8-ounce Slab Daddy on twin arms, this rig rings the panfish dinner bell with a finesse presentation that’s perfect for dock shooting, vertical jigging, slow trolling, long-lining, and casting. Each hand-tied minnow shaped Slab Daddy has a chenille midsection that holds scent attractants.
The tri-split tail design increases this grubs fluttering action and churns up more water for maximum attraction. Fished on a 1/32- 1/16-ounce jig head or a split shot rig, the Triple Ripple Grub gives panfish an active target worthy of a bite.
Listen closely to a lily pad field or grass line and you’ll hear the slurp and smack of bluegills and other panfish grabbing insects off the surface. Stripping these poppers across the water imitates the sound and action of a downed insect – an easy target for a hungry panfish. An 8-foot 5-weight fly rod will handle any panfish you hook, along with any bass that crash the party.
The old foam spider is a panfish killer and the Betts Bream Getter commands attention with its durable, buoyant body and latex rubber legs that wiggle with an enticing action. Leg spacing and tension ensure a realistic topwater presentation that opportunistic panfish can’t resist.
Dragonflies and Mayflies don’t last long when they touch the water’s surface and Strike King‘s soft-body imposters give panfish-tempting targets. Rigged on small light wire hooks and fished on ultralight outfits, these insect imitators are deadly around grass lines, lily pads, docks or anywhere panfish congregate.
A 2-inch grub with stimulating tail action gains visual appeal from a combination of three distinct color laminations, which produce natural baitfish contrast. Fished on a light jighead, the Tri-Alive Hot Curly Tail Grub‘s appearance and action will garner plenty of panfish attention.
Northland’s lifelike holographic Baitfish-Image body sports a tantalizing teaser tail that wiggles and displaces water for maximum attraction. Made to shimmer like real fish scales, the body contains Northland’s salted and spiced Sow-Sauce attractant. Hopped or swam on a light tube jig, this little bait looks a lot like the real thing.
Five Simple Panfish Recipes for Your Summer Fish Fry
The best way to end a day fishing for panfish in the summer heat is a fish fry with your family and friends. We couldn’t help including these simple recipes for panfish, from simple pan-fried fillets, to broiled and beyond. Don’t forget to pair them with a cold drink and some tunes.
1. Pan-Fried Crappie
- 2 lb. crappie
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup flour
- 3 eggs, beaten
- Salt, pepper
- Peanut oil
Directions Mix cornmeal and flour in a large zip-seal plastic bag. Salt and pepper each fillet, dip in egg, then shake in bag until coated with meal/flour mixture. Drop fillets in hot oil poured 1 to 2-inches deep in a cast-iron skillet. Cook fillets for one to two minutes each or until they flake with a fork.
2. Broiled Bass with Hot Melted Butter
- 1 1/2 lb. white or yellow bass fillets
- 1 cup butter or margarine
- 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp. prepared mustard
- 2 tb. chili sauce
- 2 drops Tabasco sauce
- 4 tsp. lemon juice
- 2 tb. chopped parsley
Melt butter and stir in the last six ingredients. Pour enough of the butter mix into the bottom of a large glass baking dish and swirl around to coat the dish. Place the fish fillets in a single layer in the dish, then pour the remaining butter mix overtop. Broil, 4 to 6 inches beneath the heat source, for 10 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
3. Bullhead Po’ Boys
- 6 fried bullhead fillets
- 1 cup ketchup
- 3 dashes hot sauce
- 1 tb. minced onion
- 1 tb. prepared mustard
- 6 large crusty rolls
- Dill pickles
Cut rolls in half, lengthwise, scoop out centers and discard. Place rolls in oven until hot but not crispy. Combine ketchup, hot sauce, mustard, and onion. Spread hot rolls with this mixture, then top with fish, pickles, and the top half of the roll.
4. Panfish with Herbs
- 1 lb. panfish fillets
- 1 lemon
- 1 tsp. each chopped parsley, chives, and rosemary
- 1 tb. Butter
Melt the butter and pour into a shallow baking dish. Arrange the fish fillets in the dish. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze about one tablespoon of lemon juice over the fillets. Sprinkle with the herbs. Slice the remaining lemon half into thin slices, and arrange the slices on top of the fish. Bake in a preheated 450-degree oven for 12 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
5. Perch Cakes
- 1 lb. fillets, cooked, flaked
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 onion, minced
- 1 tb. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. parsley flakes
- 1/4 tsp. pepper
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup cornflake crumbs
- 2 tb. mustard
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- Vegetable oil
Mix egg, onion, mustard, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper in a bowl; toss with flaked fish. Add enough cornflake crumbs to shape 4 to 6 fish cakes. Roll each cake in extra crumbs to coat the outside. Heat the oil in a skillet, and fry cakes until crisp and brown.