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March 9, 2011 / flogginwater


Without a doubt, one of the types of fishing that I love the most – is chasing panfish. For those who are scratching your heads – panfish include, but are not limited to:

Green sunfish
Rock bass (the freshwater kind, not the saltwater fish)

You could also throw small bass in there if you want.

Panfish, I think, were first and foremost made for kids – but that doesn’t make them a kids only fish at all. They can be easy to catch, or maddening. Usually trending toward easy. Panfish are social fish – they travel in large schools. When you find one – there are certainly a bunch more where that one came from.

For most of the year, they’re found close to shore, in fairly shallow water. They move around, following their food source, of course – so sometimes the structure they’re found around changes. They will move deeper or shallower depending on water temp, clarity, available cover and food.

Being smaller fish, that rarely get “big”, panfish are most fun when pursued with ultra light gear – spinning or fly. They tend to like tiny baits and lures, though some fish like crappie have larger mouths, and will feast on larger prey such as minnows and fry (baby fish) more than bugs and aquatic worms. Some fish, like the shell cracker (redear sunfish) feed on snails and freshwater crustaceans heavily. The lil guy below shows just how aggressive and hungry these guys get – he attacked a rapala half his size!

When I’m using my spinning rod, I’m almost always tossing jigs for these fish. Micro jigs – 1/32 or 1/64 ounce, with a 1 or 2″ grub body. Occasionally I’ll go bigger, if chasing crappie and bass – going up to 1/16th to 1/4 oz jigs with 3 or 4 inch grubs. But most of the time it’s micro jigs. My favorite jigs by far are Trout Magnet jigs by Leland’s Lures.

I got turned on to the Trout Magnet’s last summer, from a fellow on I quickly became a believer, after a few trips out to Hagg Lake, along with some private ponds here in Washington County – and those little jigs slayed the panfish. Then on a trip to Takhenitch Lake, they proved their worth again – over the course of a week’s fishing. To date, I’ve caught cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, large and smallmouth bass, pumpkinseed, bluegill, crappie, and yellow perch on these wonderful little jigs.

I fish these with my Okuma Celilo ultra light rods, 4lb test line (though I’m going to try 2lb this season) – in tandem setups. Sometimes I’ll fish them under a tiny float, but usually it’s just the jigs themselves, cast out and retrieved slowly, on a semi-tight line to feel the subtle takes.

These jigs are like panfish crack – they just can’t get enough.

When I’m not fishing Trout Magnets, the next best thing are the smallest Mister Twister curly tail grubs – 1″ and 2″ versions. These are also normally fished on tiny jig heads, but another good way to fish these, is to nose hook them with a #6 drop shot hook, and crimp a BB size split shot from 6-10″ ahead of the hook, and drag them Carolina style.

The perch and sunfish just couldn’t resist this setup last year. We had days where three of us in the boat would bring in close to two hundred fish in an afternoon.

We even lucked into some all right size perch.

When I’m not pitching jigs for these critters, my next favorite lure is the in-line spinner, such as the Yakima Bait Company’s Rooster Tail, along with Panther Martin spinners, or Blue Fox Vibrax spinners – in the smallest sizes. Black & gold is always productive, as is hot pink, neon green, or rainbow trout.

They might be tiny – but they’re numerous, and with the right tackle, they’re just as fun to catch as big silvery sea run fish, especially since it’s hard to go fishing for panfish and come home skunked – whereas it’s been 3 years since I’ve landed a salmon or steelhead, despite my best efforts.



  1. oregonshane / Mar 14 2011 18:09

    I'm gonna have to get some of that panfish crack. I caught some crappie last year on spinners but i let them go. This year im gonna fish for them with jigs and keep some. dont remember eating crappie before. 😀

  2. Mark / Mar 15 2011 02:52

    Shane, those trout magnets are THE most productive lure I've found in a long time. I can't thank the guy on iFish enough who turned me on to them. I'm planning trips this year to certain bodies of water to really give these a workout for trout. So far, the trout I've caught with them have actually been incidental by-catch while targeting panfish. I really hope ODFW will consider putting these types of lures back in the “Artificial Lure” definition in the reg book where they belong. These are NOT bait, by any stretch of the imagination. I wrote the Fish Commission a letter trying to make my case, and we'll see where it goes from there. I might have to make a trip to a Commission Meeting to try to bring this up – but as it stands, these things are illegal on all my favorite trout waters, which makes me sad. Then again – if they work nearly as well on trout as they do on panfish (and watching YouTube vids of people fishing these, I'm inclined to believe they will) – the trout should be writing their own letters against it!

    I recommend buying the Trout Magnets from their website – – since the ONLY store I know that carries them in Oregon is Wal Mart of all places. Have looked and asked at Fisherman's, Dick's, Bi-Mart, Wholesale Sports… no one carries these but Wally's – and Wal Mart charges something like $2.49 for the small pack (2 hooks, 6 bodies).

    The tiny floats I buy in bulk at Fisherman's Marine -they have identical floats (and smaller sizes and larger sizes) than the solid colored ones sold as EZ Floats by Leland's Lures for anywhere from $0.10 to $0.25 a piece, it's something like $2.19 for a 4-pack of these floats at Wal Mart. Exact same floats -only painted differently.

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