In the spring of the year, panfish chasers focus on the shallowest of shallows and the darkest water
Mother Nature affords. They understand that stained and shallow places warm the quickest, attracting prespawn, and later,
spawning panfish. Prespawners shallow-up to gorge themselves on emerging insects and schooling baitfish. Spawners come to
perpetuate their species. Go a step further this spring. Dissect your favorite waters and locate some Really Small Water.
Inlets are a good example of Really Small Water. I’m not talking about the
inflow of a well documented throbbing creek, because these aren’t secretive and usually attract a lot of anglers. Rather,
I’m referring to a trickling stream of warmed water, which had its origins as snow. Lake maps don’t reveal many
seasonal springtime inflows. They’re exposed only through careful shoreline studies and time on the water. Crappies
and bluegills already know the whereabouts of such dwellings.
The seepage of water through
a bog or wall of cattails is another find. Spring’s thaw brings rich and warming water into the main lake, and again,
panfish are drawn to such locales.
Boat harbors, be they manmade or not, contain tepid
and colored water and with the off-colored water they bring throngs of baitfish and buggy edibles. The average angler earmarks
massive multi-slip resort and public harbors, but smaller one and two vessel private harbors often go untouched. Take care
to not provoke lakeshore owners by snagging their pontoon’s upholstery or dock posts, but remember too that your state’s
waterways are public domain. Courtesy is always the best policy, and it’s amazing how a simple wave and a “Hello”
can make any situation a pleasant one.
River backwaters are common panfish lairs. Shallow
and current-free expanses get hit all spring long, but you can avoid the boating-crowds by investigating further. Look for
high water pools formed behind stretches of shoreline timber. I favor drifting along wooded stretches searching for hidden
hollows of water – not true backwaters – which potentially hold fish.
of these spots will be bone dry in another couple of weeks. Beds of dead reeds or rushes as well as shoreline oriented or
freestanding islands also host early spring panfish. Big beds get noticed, so do smaller ones. But it’s not just an
ordinary field of browned vegetation I look for. I prefer one with pockets and openings. You can find these concealed clearings
by slowly motoring around an entire weed-mat. Crappies and bluegills love such hideaways, and many go unchecked.
Another commodity worth searching for is newly emerging vegetation within an expired bulrush or reed bed. Rest assured
that a bed, or even part of a bed that features fresh growth, rests in warm and fertile waters. This theory also holds true
with fields of lily pads. Take note of young lily pads budding from the lake floor.
of standing weeds, the inside edge – open water section between shore and where vegetation begins – is another
overlooked producer. Panfish find warm water, wind protection, and a safe haven inside these gaps. And such places frequently
occur on the main lake, where spring anglers seldom take notice.
you’ve been introduced to some Really Small Water, I must give you the bad news. These are tough spots to hit. That
is, hit with a lure, a jig to be exact. Pinpoint casts are the only way to access these fish. Tangling tree branches and snarling
weed tips block passage to the best of the best. But with a little practice, some finesse, and the right gear, no bull or
slab is unreachable.
I’ve all but abandoned the notion of attacking Really Small
Water with a jig alone. Even with the lightest, most abrasion resistant line, paired with a long but firm rod and aerodynamically
designed jig, it’s still an ordeal to reach fish. Any sudden gust of wind or turn of the boat puts your lure in harms
A bobber, that’s my solution. And not just any old model will do. The right
bobber, or float as some call them, gives you precision depth control, and in this instance, added weight for improved casting
distance and accuracy. Many anglers have turned to the Rocket Bobber. Powerful for its size, The Rocket Bobber casts for distance
like nothing you’ve ever used. Need 30 yards into a headwind to reach the back of a boat harbor? No problem. Give the
rod tip a snap and you’re in; keep the trajectory low for greater accuracy.
distance is crucial because shallow-ranging panfish are easily spooked. Often, pods of fish scatter when a careless angler
motors too close. It’s much wiser to visually identify a hunk of Really Small Water, back off, and launch a long distance
assault. And the durable Rocket Bobber won’t explode on contact if you misfire and smack a rock or dock post.
I’ll conclude with this tactical suggestion. Think small when it comes to bait and lure selection.
Frequently hyper-finicky, springtime panfish will shun gaudy jigs and large frantic minnows. Reach for a 1/64th-ounce jig
or a miniscule ice-fishing lure. Go to tiny minnows, which I call “slivers”, or wax worms and maggots, because
they’re universally accepted. By design, the Rocket Bobber executes flawlessly with light jigs – no split-shot
necessary – and announces even the slightest nibble by raising its tip. Pay extra care to your surroundings this spring.
Panfish will be in their ordinary community spots, but with a taste of resourcefulness and stealth, you’ll find finer
fishing in Really Small Water.