Four can’t-miss items for panfishing

Gear up for the bluegill and redear spawn with these time-tested pieces of fishing gear.

When you get on a fast-and-furious panfish bed, the last thing you want to do is to spend time fumbling around your tackle box looking for just the right rig or counting fish in the bottom of your cooler. Wasting time like that means your buddy will out-fish you for sure.

Serious bream anglers come prepared, and they know the most overlooked gear can also be the most important. That’s why, if you see a bream fisherman on the water without these things, you’ll at least know this: He’s not all that serious.

A small hair or feather option tipped with a wax worm is deadly medicine on bull bluegills. Amazon

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Sometimes panfish demand a little more of your presentation than just a wire hook and a cricket. A tiny feather jig tipped with a wax worm, meal worm, or maggot can be suspended under a float or “dipped” around shallow stumps and cover, where it looks like something small and tasty and alive. There’s not a bluegill that swims that can pass up such a thing—and you’ll probably catch more than a few bonus crappies this way, too.

Balsa wood floats provide the sensitivity you need for light-biting panfish. Amazon

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Yeah, the round, red-and-white bobbers of your youth will still work, but a sensitive balsa-wood float is the better way to go for light-biting fish. You can almost detect a bluegill’s bad intentions with a bobber like this. Most bream fishing is done in less than 4 feet of water and for that, a clip-on spring bobber like this one is easy to cast and fast to rig up.

Keep your catch lively and fresh. Amazon

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If you don’t have an aerated livewell handy, a fish basket is the best way to keep your catch lively and fresh. It’s way faster than a stringer, and will keep marauding turtles from robbing you blind, too. This classic fish basket has a one-way, spring-operated lid that also helps keep the basket afloat. Unhook, drop a fish in, and fire off another cast within seconds.

Helps make sure you don’t keep over the limit. Amazon

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That limit of 20 redears will fill up quicker than you think on a good bed. Do you really want to count them for the first time while the game warden is watching? Miscounting is easy to do with a writhing pile of fish, and besides that, it takes too long. Good fishing guides keep count—and keep legal—by using a clicker like this one. You should too.