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July 13, 2011 / flogginwater

Technique Corner: Panfishing with Thill Shy Bites

If you’ve read many of my posts here, you probably know I’m a shameless lover of the panfishes – those lovely fat, dish shaped fishes that don’t usually get really big, but they’re usually really pretty. I love chasing panfish – bluegill, pumpkinseed, crappie, green sunfish, warmouth, you name em. I like chasing them with ultra light spinning gear and light fly gear.

This year I’ve rediscovered a terribly fun, and terribly productive method of catching these little power house fishes – and that’s float & jig fishing using Thill’s Shy Bite and Mini Shy Bite stick floats.

If you’ve never seen one of these, they’re simple to picture. You with me? Okay, visualize a wooden dowel anywhere from an inch to six inches long, about as fat as a #2 pencil. now picture them with thin little tips, the top tip painted bright orange, with a bright green band under that, and the rest of the float done in a dark, clear wood finish.

These things are not designed to buoy an ounce of lead – rather, even the big ones are only meant to be used with a few BB sized shot along with the jig or bait hook of your choice. These are a finesse float – you add weight to the line until just 1/4th of the orange tip protrudes above the surface of the water – the vast majority of the float is meant to be submerged.

With such a float – even the lightest bites are detectable, either the orange tip simply disappears under water, or it twitches or swims away. There’s almost no resistance with this set up, the fish don’t have to fight with the water resistance the typical round bobber puts up, or the resistance of the giant floats most folks seem to use for panfish. Pannies are strong fighters for their size, but when you’re using a bobber fit to keep the anchor of the USS Missouri afloat, you’re going to miss a LOT of bites, and you’re not going to have as much fun fishing.

These Shy Bite floats are of the fixed variety – that is, they don’t slide up and down your line to hit a bobber stop knotted to the line, rather, they’re affixed top and bottom with rubber sleeves you slide on your line, then slip the ends of the float into to fix the depth. I normally don’t fish deeper than 7′ with these floats, anything much deeper is better served with a slip float, or a floatless technique.

I’ve been using the mini shy bites mostly of late, the little 1 and 1/2 inch model is the best for my fishing. I’ve been using 1/100th oz micro jigs, tied up like a standard wet fly or nymph, and a single BB size split shot crimped above it. This is the perfect weight for such a rig. Stepping up to the Shy Bite float (which is about 4 inches long) I use a 1/64th oz jig and 1 BB shot for the same effect.

I will also mention, right here, that I’ve been tipping my jigs usually, using Fish Crack, aka Berkley Crappie Nibbles, white in color. These things are made with some sort of unholy devil’s brew of pure fish enticing wonder. Crappie, sunfish, perch, bass, trout, cats…they all want this stuff. I hope the man who came up with the formula is rolling on a pile of money, but sadly, he’s probably just some corporate stooge making $10 an hour and is unappreciated by his corporate masters (you know, the same folks who own Coleman, Oster, and all those other companies I ranted about a few posts back?). He ought to be a millionaire.

Anyway – the panfish have been going crazy for this rig, and with such a sensitive setup, I definitely believe my catch ratio has gone up, and I’m missing fewer bites than I did fishing with larger floats. You can see it when a fish farts in the direction of these floats, they’re so sensitive.

I’ve been fishing these floats with my 7′ and 8’6″ Okuma Celilo ultra lights, and 2lb Berkley Trilene XL line, nice clear, limp line, perfect for this kind of fishing.

This rig would also work well for trout fishing on ponds, lakes, and slow moving backwaters of trout streams. You could even substitute the micro jigs with honest flies, and slay the fish.

Very soon, I’ve got to get out to the coastal rivers, and try these floats with my much loved, but kind of ignored of late, Trout Magnet jigs, since I can’t fish these jigs on the trout streams here in the valley (they’re closed to bait fishing, and in oregon, soft plastic lures, even jigs and bass worms are considered bait.)

Super simple rig that will put more panfish in your hand, or on the table. Try it!

One Comment

  1. Brandon / Aug 31 2011 07:19

    I started using the Thill mini shy bite this summer, and like you said above, I know my catch rate has gone way up. I also discovered Trout Magnet jigs this summer…haven't used them on bluegill yet, but the trout here in AZ love them. Great blog, keep it up!

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