Panfishing Tips -
Panfish populate virtually all warm water streams, ponds and lakes throughout the United States. They are a mix of finny edible freshwater and saltwater fish species, that fit quite nicely in a pan, as the name suggests. Panfish include bluegills, redear sunfish, crappies, yellow perch, white bass, yellow bass, croaker, warmouths and bullheads. They are great to catch on light tackle using natural baits such as earthworms, crickets or live minnows.

One of the great things about panfish is they don't care about how fancy your tackle is just as long as it puts the right bait in front of them.

There are hundreds of rod-and-reel combo styles available -- everything from simple, inexpensive models to top-of-the-line, feature-heavy imports. Anglers need and want different things. Before you buy, consider these components of a good panfishing outfit.



Know what you will be fishing before choosing your rod's power rating (ultralight, light, medium, etc.--- view "Choosing the Right Fishing Rod"). If you are going to use artificial lures instead of bait, ultralight rods are great for 1- to 4-pound-test lines and lures weighing 1/64 to 1/16 ounce. Light rods are best for 4- to 8-pound-testlines and 1/32- to 1/8-ounce lures. Most panfish anglers favor rods with these power ratings, although medium-weight rods (for lines of 4- to 12-pound-testand 1/8- to 3/8-ounce lures) sometimes are used as well.

The length should depend on the application you have in mind. For general panfishing, a 4½- to 6-foot ultralight or light model will do. If you need to make long casts in clear water to avoid spooking fish, a longer rod is best.


Spinning reels, sometimes called open-face reels, are ideal because they handle smaller-diameter lines well. Spin-cast reels offer simple pushbutton casting control. Because they're simpler to use and rarely cause line snarls, they're perfect for children and novice adults learning to cast.


As our article on reel types stated, reels are available in four basic types: bait-casting, spinning, trolling, and spin-cast. Most bait-casting and trolling reels are unsuitable for fishing with light lines, small lures and tiny baits designed for bluegills and the like.

The type of reel you choose also will determine the type of rod you need. If you prefer a spinning reel, it must be matched with a spinning or fly fishing rod. Likewise, spin-cast reels are usually mounted on bait-casting rods.



Choosing a hook of the right size and style for the job at hand is important when it comes to hooking panfish. Each species has a different size mouth. For instance, bluegills have relatively tiny mouths because they primarily eat tiny crustaceans and insects. Crappies, on the other hand, have large mouths--the better to vacuum in minnows. If you are fishing for bluegills and getting bites but missing the fish, chances are the hook is too big for the fish's mouth. A small hook might catch a big fish, but the reverse is seldom true.

When choosing from the scores of hook designs, panfish anglers should consider three hook characteristics: size, thickness and shank length.

A hook's size is indicated by a number that reflects the gap of the hook--the distance between the point and inside of the shank. Smaller hooks, from No. 14 (or even smaller) up to No. 1, decrease in size as the number increases. For example, a No. 14 hook is extremely small and used only for the smallest baits, like mealworms. A No. 8 hook is quite a bit larger but still suitable for fish such as bluegills and perch, which have slightly larger mouths. A No. 1 hook is larger still and is a good size for bullheads, crappies, white bass and other large-mouthed panfish.

As you move to even larger hook sizes, the numbering system changes to "aught" designations and reverses direction. The next larger size after No. 1 is 1/0, and hooks increase in size as the numbers increase--2/0, 3/0, 4/0 and so on. The 2/0 size is the largest hook commonly used by panfish anglers. Such bigger hooks--from No. 4s up--are okay for crappies, white bass and warmouths.

Hooks also vary in thickness, according to the type of wire from which they are manufactured. Light-wire hooks work best in most panfishing situations. They do the least damage to small, fragile baits such as insects and worms, and they usually will bend enough to pull free of wood cover, reed stems or lily pad stalks. Once they're extracted you can reshape the hooks to their original configuration.

 Most hook styles also are available with shanks of varying lengths. Panfish anglers usually prefer hooks with long shanks because they're easier to remove from small-mouthed fish.

When it comes to hooks, find a few that work for you and stick with them.

Fishing tipsFreshwater fishingPanfishSaltwater fishing

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