An outside-the-box-approach to catching more and bigger bluegills, crappies and perch.
Ask any hardcore panfisherman what he prefers to take the most and biggest fish on and he will likely tell you some kind of live bait. Day in and day out, bait does put the odds in your favor, especially if the weather causes problems. But there are other tactics out there that few anglers currently use. It is the employment of metal, hardware, yes ... spoons catch all kinds of fish. Nothing new to the saltwater crowd.
But for freshwater panfish? Big slab crappies and bluegills? You bet!
About 10 years ago Bill Modica, of Antioch, Illinois, started experimenting with spoons for catching bluegills in his local lakes. Sure, he'd caught a ton of fish on the standard issue worms and crickets and waxworms with all the favored riggings. But, in his own words, Modica was "tired of getting worm poop under my fingernails all the time."
With that, he started fishing with spoons ... an ice-fishing standard that he applied to warm- weather panfishing scenarios. To his great and pleasant surprise, he began catching lots of fish, and big fish to boot.
His breakthrough tactics have been featured in In Fisherman and on the popular TV show as well.
Modica currently uses a lot of the spoons that are popular to the local put-and-take trout crowd and ice-perch patrol from the midwest portions of the country. Swedish Pimples, Kastmasters, Buckshot Rattle Spoons and Blue Fox Rattlin' Flash Spoons are probably not on many bluegillers list of favored lure options. But they are on his, and after a few years of success they are on my list as well.
The basic rig
For most situations, Modica will rig a 1/16 th or a 1/8 th ounce Rattle Flash Spoon for panfish like so; using Fireline Crystal Braid in 6 pound test (2 pound diameter), he spools his ultralight reel with this as the mainline. Using a size 12 or 14 barrel swivel, he'll knot the braid with a Palomar knot and attach a 12 to 16 inch piece of 6 pound test fluorocarbon. Then, he uses a small cross-lock swivel attached to the mono leader and can change out various size and colors of spoons as the situation dictates.
Different spoons come in different weights, they are not all exactly the same, but most brands are similar. A #3 Swedish Pimple, for example, will weigh 1/5 th of an ounce. Rattle Flash Spoons will go 1/16 th, 1/8 th, 1/4th of an ounce, and so on. Yet other spoons for panfish will log in at 1/10th or 1/12 th of an ounce. The increments will vary, but the same rigging can work for most of them in a variety of situations.
Modica likes fluorocarbon as the leader, but it is not absolutely essential for success. In some of the clear, midwestern lakes he fishes, he feels that it adds to the lures effectiveness and enables him to present the spoons without big bluegills spooking and shying away from the presentation. Often, he is fishing in 20 to 35 feet of water over main-lake structures like rockpiles, humps of deep weed edges. Most gillkillers and perchjerkers don't fish anywhere near that deep. But spoons can put you there.
Bait tipping, though optional, greatly enhances the effectiveness of this rigging. Modica uses a variety of baits to include wax worms, mealworms or, yes, chunks of nightcrawlers. He has also done well with Berkely Gulp! Earthworms, Redworms and Maggots. The fish see the spoon and its' enticing wobble, checks it out a little closer, smells the added bait, then can't resist!
The overall effectiveness of spoon-feeding big panfish cannot be denied. Just this past July 15, I used a 1/12 ounce gold Kast Master spoon to make a 'personal best' catch of a lifetime. I had had success on big hybdid sunfish with the spoon gig just a few weeks prior at a local pond. Using ultra thin, 2-pound test SOS monofilament, I was able to make long casts to the depths of the pond where big sunfish and crappies had retreated from the heat. Once I let the spoon settle to the bottom, I 'snapped' it up off the lake floor and after two cranks of the handle felt a thunderous strike.
Playing the fish cautiously for what had to be several minutes, I eventually saw the huge, wide flanks of a monster hybrid ... and just one hook in it's mouth! I eased the fish shoreward and bowed when it made those powerhouse surges for freedom. Finally, I was able to ease down the steep bank and lift the fish out by hand onto the shoreline. The fish was stunning, huge! At 13 inches and 2 pounds 4 ounces, it was my personal best for any and all sunfish species.
Yes, the spoon gig for big panfish is a little like power fishing for bass…lots of casting and retrieving, but with an end result that is usually bigger fish. Crappies often show up in the mix, and spoons can be deadly on tidal and lake-bound white perch throughout much of the warmer months. And don't be a bit surprised if you nab a big ole' bass, catfish or other gamester on the hardware. It's a great technique to have in your pocket when standard issue bobber/jig/bait options aren't panning out. Outlets, like Walmart, Dick's and Bass Pro Shops, all carry these smaller trout oriented spoons.
Get a couple and start spoon feeding those babies today!