The best fishing guides get results when the rest of us don’t. We asked four top panfish guides to share their secret strategies for perch, crappies, and bluegills. So, listen up – school is in session.
Expert: Captain Clint Taylor
Home Base: Rend Lake, IL
Experience: 6 years guiding
In a world obsessed with all things high-tech and newfangled, Illinois guide Clint Taylor prefers going old-school for spawning spring crappies. When the season’s biggest slabs are along lakeshore brush, he chooses the surgical precision of cane-poling.
“The fish are laying their eggs in the submerged branches and feeding on minnows,” he says. “You’re pulling big fish out of the woods, and cane poles allow you to get bait deep into the brush. Sure, you’re going to get hung up a lot, but you’re also going to catch the biggest crappie of your life.”
He starts with a 12-foot rod and 10-pound monofilament. He slides a small slip bobber 1 ½ feet up the line, adds a split-shot just below the bobber, and ties on a No. 1 or No. 2 extra-light hook. He lowers the rig and a lively minnow straight down into a hole in the bushes and then pulls it straight back out. Child’s play?
“This takes quite a bit of practice,” he says. “But pull a few out and you will be hooked.”
Expert: Chris Edwards
Home Base: Conroe, TX
Experience: 9 years guiding
“Crappies are nearsighted,” Edwards says, “and they often take their time getting a good look at the bait before they strike.”
To fool observant slabs, a realistic presentation is critical. That’s why Edwards makes sure that his 1/8-ounce jig stays horizontal when he’s jigging.
“I tie the knot really tight,” he says, “then push it to the back of the jig’s eye.”
He explains that this keeps the jig flat, just the way crappies like it.
Expert: Jerry Blake
Home Base: Lake Greeson, AR
Experience: 13 years guiding
Jerry Blake loves sonar technology. “Position your transducer so that you can see the split-shots on your sonar,” he says. “Start fishing slightly above the shallowest panfish on the fishfinder and then work the baits deeper.”
Expert: Robert “Walt” Walters
Home Base: Pocomoke River, MD
Experience: 44 years guiding
Adding some seasoning to your tube jigs can help you catch the biggest perch of the season.
“Salted baits out-catch everything else two to one,” says Walters. “They attract yellow perch and keep them chewing once they’ve bitten into the jig.”
To salt your jigs the Walters way, just dump them and a few spoonfuls of table salt into a resealable plastic bag and squish it around.
“The jigs will absorb the salt in a day or two and be ready to fish,” he says.