Finesse Panfish Presentations


No matter your age, catching panfish is fun. After all, yellow perch, crappie, bluegills and other sunfish are often willing biters. This isn’t always the case, though, as there are times when panfish respond best to finesse tactics. The following is a refresher on where to find panfish in spring and trustworthy presentations for coaxing them to bite.


Panfish Locations

Shallow warm areas with ample forage and good spawning habitat attract panfish in spring. Locations include large bays, coves, canals, flats and protected shorelines. Panfish like areas containing submerged vegetation, reeds, sunken wood and other forms of cover. Islands, rocky reefs, gravel deposits, hard-to-soft bottom transitions and feeder creeks are other features likely to attract panfish.


Quality Fishing Gear Improves Finesse Tactics

As mentioned above, panfish aren’t always aggressive. A cold front will shut down feeding activity. Even on pleasant, warm days, lulls aren’t uncommon. These are just two scenarios when finesse presentations can payoff.



Before getting to tactics, let’s begin by addressing the importance of a sensitive rod, dependable reel and quality line. Simply put, using high-calibre equipment catches more and bigger panfish, especially when a finesse touch is required. The following three products make an excellent panfish combo. Omen Panfish spinning rods are sensitive, responsive and lightweight. Made with Japanese 36 ton Toray graphite blanks, these light and ultra-light rods offer excellent casting accuracy, which helps get a bait into the small strike zone of fussy panfish. Rods also provide superb strike detection.



If you’re looking for a panfish rod that won’t break the bank, but still delivers quality performance, try the Defy Silver series. It offers a graphite blank and soft touch Evolve finesse reel seat while providing a well-balanced setup when pairing with a Kalon O (Blackout) spinning reel. It has a performance feel and action for those finesse panfish presentations.



Kalon Series 1000 and 2000 spinning reels deliver dependable performance and pair well with Omen rods. A Kalon’s smooth gearing and operation allow for precise, finesse presentations. Instant Stop anti-reverse and a smooth drag provide flawless performance when playing crappie, yellow perch and other panfish.



Last but not least, 4-pound Sufix Advance Monofilament is ideal for finesse panfish tactics, delivering excellent line performance. Some highlights include: low memory, smooth castability, excellent knot strength and fantastic sensitivity.


Get ‘Em On Jigs

When panfish are picky, a slow swim or lift-fall retrieve with a jig will often tease bites. VMC’s Panfish Jigs Series in 1/32, 1/16 and 1/8 ounces cover most scenarios from the shoreline out to deep weedlines. Here are a few reliable picks.



The Curl Tail and Boot Tail jigs feature classic profiles with tantalizing movements and will catch panfish anywhere. The unique profile and visual attraction of the tungsten Nymph, Probe and Luv Bug jigs are other foolproof options.


VMC Spin Jigs are also must-have offerings. The jig’s small, under-head blade adds subtle flash and vibration, which is effective at stimulating picky panfish into striking.


Jigs tied with hair, feathers and flashabou produce natural, subtle movements that draw consistently make reluctant panfish bite. The Hot Skirt Glow and Bucktail jigs have a track-record of boating jumbo perch and slab crappie. Standard jigging retrieves apply, but be sure to experiment with letting a jig sit motionless on bottom. Despite being still, the jig’s materials will sway in the water current, displaying subtle, natural movements panfish can’t resist.



When a compact, downsized package is needed to trigger strikes, you can’t go wrong with Tungsten Bullfly or Tungsten Fly jig dangled under a float. Portraying tiny aquatic insects, they’re a snack-sized morsel even lock-jawed fish can’t pass up.



Tip: During low light conditions, a VMC Lighted Slip Float is easier to see and, in turn, helps catch more panfish.


Sure-Fire Panfish Lures

Panfish behaviour can be misleading. Sometimes perch, crappie and bluegills appear inactive when offered jigs, but can triggered using a quick to moderate swim-stop retrieve with an Original Floating Rapala, X-Rap, Ultra Light Minnow, Ultra Light Shad and Ultra Light Crank. Rest assured, though, these baits are equally potent at finessing strikes when swam slowly or lightly twitched in between pauses of a few seconds.



Another faithful finesse tactic is showing fish a presentation may not typically see. Inline spinners are potent panfish baits, but are sometimes overlooked. We’re not sure why because panfish can’t resist the flash and vibration from the Blue Fox Flash Spinner, Northern Lights Super Vibrax or Vibrax Shallow Spinner.




Quality tools make quick work of angling tasks and, in turn, gets you back to catching panfish faster. Carry sharp scissors and clippers for cutting fishing line. The Rapala’s EZ Open Forceps and 5” Mini Pliers are top picks for removing hooks.


A ruler is useful for practicing selective harvest and “catch-photo-release” of big panfish. Rapala’s rulers have large, easy-to-read numbers, for a fast, accurate measurement.


If keeping panfish for the table, a sharp, quality Rapala fillet knife is your best friend. Rapala’s electric fillet knives are great time-savers when preparing a good haul of panfish. Just as popular are the Fish ’N Fillet and Fish ‘N Fillet Superflex knives.



For the most part, panfish are willing biters, but there are times when finesse tactics are the way to go. Using quality fishing equipment and carry a wide assortment of jigs and lures will increase your chances of success during tough-bite scenarios.