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Published Feb. 11, 2022

Ice fishing for panfish is wildly popular, thanks to the accessibility of the species and the action-packed experience they provide. If you want to hit the ice for crappie, bluegill, or perch, you’ll need the right gear. I’ve made that a little easier by choosing the best ice fishing lures for panfish using my years of experience catching these species. 

Best Lure for Crappie: Crappie Mo’ Glo Jig

Crappie Pro

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Key Features

  • Balanced presentation
  • Long shank that works well with plastics
  • Distinct glow finish
  • Tapered hook made specifically for crappie

Why It Made the Cut

The Mo’ Glo is the best ice fishing lure for crappie because its slow, enticing fall excels at bringing big fish up the water column while weaning out the small fish. Its design also works well with bait and artificials. 

Pros

  • Glow
  • Balanced presentation
  • Tempered for crappie fishing
  • Ideal for ice and open water presentations

Cons

  • Large hook doesn’t pair well with spikes and smaller baits 
  • Environmental concerns regarding the use of lead
  • On an aggressive bite, the slow fall rate can cost you fish

Product Description 

The Mo’ Glo Jig hits the mark on many must-have features of a quality panfish lure. For example, it has a balanced horizontal presentation that fits well with minnow bodies and plastics. It’s high-gloss finish helps accentuate the lure’s glow properties, allowing it to stand out in lowlight conditions that are often best for crappie fishing. Additionally, its wide-gap chrome hook is tapered specifically for crappie, which helps hooksets and eliminates the chance of losing a trophy fish.   

Its lead composition also allows it to have a slow, enticing fall relative to its size. This can produce a competitive bite—something frequently overlooked by panfish anglers. Perhaps most importantly, it pairs well with plastics. When you can fish plastics, you spend more time fishing and less replacing baiting. 

I personally like a 1/16 ounce jig in ghost or chartreuse colors, paired with a minnow body or your favorite crappie plastic. If you happen to see the hard-to-find 1/32 ounce jig still on a shelf, even better. Be sure to work this bait above a school of feasting crappies to wean out the bigger fish. 

Best Lure for Bluegill: Lindy Tungsten Toad

Key Features

  • Dense tungsten composition
  • Horizontal presentation
  • A variety of colors and hook sizes
  • Durable

Why It Made the Cut

This tungsten jig packs quite a punch for its small compact size, making it the best ice fishing lure for panfish: particularly with bluegill. It’s also a tough lure, making it easy to pound bottom, punch through slush, and have confidence that it doesn’t need to be replaced after hooking into a pile of fish. 

Pros

  • Greater sensitivity than lead jigs
  • Faster fall rates
  • Easy to break through slush
  • Get in front of the school faster
  • Hangs horizontal which allows for a natural presentation 
  • Perfect for finesse fishing in midwinter

Cons

  • Tough bite days might require a faster fall rate
  • Not the best choice for shallow water
A woman holding a fish
The author catches a bluegill. Nicole Stone

Product Description 

The Lindy Tungsten Toad is a tough and reliable bait that should be in every ice angler’s arsenal. Its main benefit is that its dense tungsten composition falls faster than lead counterparts of the same size. This means anglers can downsize without reducing weight. When targeting bluegill, this can be especially important. The Tungsten Toad comes in a multitude of glow and non-colors, as well as three hook sizes—sizes 10, 12, and 14. 

I pair my Tungsten Toads with wax worms or very small plastics. In most situations, I prefer a size 12 hook because it’s large enough to weed out small fish but small enough to entice bluegill. When paired with bait I use a slow dance and raise. During tough bite days, I downsize to a size 14 hook and waxworms to turn over more fish. 

Best Lure for Perch: Northland Forage Minnow

Northland Fishing Tackle

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Key Features

  • Miniature jigging spoon (can be found down to a size 1/32 ounce)
  • Lifelike holographic pattern
  • Flashes and flutters

Why It Made the Cut

It’s no secret that spoons are deadly for any species. However, few spoons are small enough for panfish. The Northland Forage Minnow is the perfect size for panfish and it comes in a variety of perch colors, which makes it deadly for targeting jumbos. 

Pros

  • Mimics a small, crippled minnow
  • Comes in a large variety of colors and patterns
  • Versatile, multi-species lure

Cons

  • Concerns with weak hooks 

Product Description 

The Northland Forage Minnow is a perfect spoon for targeting jumbo perch. Not only does it have a lifelike holographic pattern in a variety of popular perch patterns, but it also can be purchased as small as 1/32 ounce, making it a very versatile spoon for many different areas.

Best Lure for Tough Bite Days: VMC Bullfly

Key Features

  • Tungsten jig head
  • Horizontal presentation
  • Comes in a variety of metallic and glow colors
  • Premium goose tail and wing

Why It Made the Cut

Downsizing is key when trying to turn over fish on a tough day, and it’s on those days that you pick up the VMC Bullfly. Its feathered appearance, glow properties, and weights down to 1/64 ounce make it a trip saver.

Pros

  • Can be purchased in extremely small sizes (1/64 ounce)
  • Wide gap hook to secure more hooksets
  • Horizontal presentation

Cons

  • Small hook 

Product Description 

The VMC Tungsten Bullfly Jig is a small, compact package that comes in a variety of colors, including glow and metallic patterns. Its feather tail and wings help it mimic bugs and small forage in the water. This is key during those midwinter days, when the bite gets more finicky. 

I always keep a variety of 1/16, 1/32, and 1/64 ounce jigs in metallic silver and metallic gold on hand. I tip them with spikes and work them up slowly through the water column. When using that technique, you’ll be surprised by how many crappies, bluegill and perch you can catch on this little jig.  

Best Lure for Aggressive Bites: Lindy Rattl’N Flyer Spoons

Key Features

  • Made of non-lead alloy
  • Unique wing profile provides erratic jigging actions
  • Built-in rattle
  • Red treble
  • Glow eyes

Why It Made the Cut

Any small spoon can be deadly for panfish, especially when targeting trophy crappie, perch, and that occasionally monster bluegill. However, when it comes to presenting a unique, erratic presentation—the Lindy Rattl’N Flyer Spoon is where it’s at.  

Pros

  • Dances, darts, and glides, providing a variety of action
  • Comes in lifelike baitfish patterns
  • Holographic finish

Cons

  • Lightest weight is 1/16 ounce
  • The presentation is too aggressive to catch small panfish
A woman holding a large yellow fish
The Rattl’N Flyer Spoon is aggressive and excellent for ice fishing panfish. Nicole Stone

Product Description 

The Lindy Rattl’N Flyer Spoon is a perfect lure for nearly any species thanks to its unique wing structure and built-in rattles. Its erratic return and aggressive behavior is popular among predator anglers. However, when downsized to the 1/16 ounce size, it can be one of the best ice fishing lures for panfish, specifically for the largest and most aggressive panfish. Its lifelike patterns and variation of colors allows you to match the hatch. It’s especially effective tipped with a minnow head or some spikes.

This flyer spoon has caught me some big crappie and jumbo perch because in trophy fisheries often create an environment conducive to an aggressive bite. That’s why when targeting fish on a trophy destination, don’t be afraid to throw out a more aggressive bait such as a Lindy Rattl’N Flyer Spoon, and watch as you pick off the largest and most aggressive fish in the school. 

Best Lure for When Nothing Else Is Working: Rapala Jigging Rap

Rapala

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Key Features

  • Balanced design
  • Minnow profile
  • Creates a reaction bite
  • Comes in natural, UV, and glow color

Why It Made the Cut

The Rapala Jigging Rap is popular among walleye anglers, but can be exceptional for panfish. Its snap jigging technique is a great contrast to traditional baits, helping intrigue an attack on even the toughest bite days. 

Pros

  • Has an erratic response to snap jigging
  • No bait needed
  • High landing percentage

Cons

  • Takes time to master the technique
  • Snagging can be an issue if fishing over structure

Product Description 

The Jigging Rap is a staple for walleye fishing. However, what many people don’t realize is how deadly it can be one of the best ice fishing lures for panfish. There are times when the only thing that will work is the snap jigging technique (quick snaps with a varied cadence). This technique, paired with the Jigging Rap’s realistic profile and perfect snap jigging response, can be the trigger on those days when nothing else seems to be working. Not to mention, when competition is a factor, the biggest fish will often chase the most aggressive lures. This is when the jigging rap really shines. 

Sizes 2, 3, and 5 are best when targeting panfish. Best of all, bait is not needed, meaning more time in the water and less time wasted baiting your hook. When working the Jigging Rap, focus on a varied cadence.  

Choosing the Best Ice Fishing Rod for Panfish 

Choosing the right lure is critical for increasing your odds while targeting panfish, but ultimately the best way to land more panfish is to lighten up your gear. Choosing an ultralight or noodle rod will allow for the lightest detection in bite while also allowing you to control lightweight baits. This is especially important when using baits like the Lindy Tungsten Toad, Crappie Pro Mo’ Glo Jig, and VMC Bullfly.  

 Make sure to also pair your presentation with a light line. I prefer 2- to 4-pound monofilament for crappie and bluegill, but braid and fluorocarbon will do too. Many perch anglers prefer braid, as its stiffer composition and added sensitivity assist in enticing and detecting the perch bite off of the bottom. Most importantly, it helps you detect a bite. The sensitivity on the end of the rod allows you to see the lightest interaction with the bait and respond with a hookset. 

FAQs

Q: What size lures for ice fishing walleye?

Jigs and spoons in 1/4 ounce or 1/8 ounce are most popular. I recommend an 1/8 ounce on a tougher bite and 1/4 ounce on a more aggressive bite. 

Q: Are jig heads good for ice fishing? 

Jig heads work well when ice fishing for nearly all species. Just make sure to pair jig heads with plastics or live bait.

Q: Can I use spoons for ice fishing? 

Spoons work great for ice fishing nearly all species. Make sure to tip a spoon with live bait. 

Final Thoughts

When choosing the best ice fishing lure for panfish, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the long aisles of colors and sizes, but you can feel well prepared having these options in your tackle box. 

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