Book Now

January 3, 2022

Author Image

Team Guidesly

Fishing Panfish: How to Choose the Best Live Bait

Fishing Panfish: How to Choose the Best Live Bait

Panfish are one of the most manageable fish groups to catch, but that does not mean you get to miss out on the challenge and fun when targeting them. It’s safe to say that panfish fall under the “fan favorite” category when it comes to sportfishing, and it’s a great species to look out for, especially when you are just starting. Whether you may call it bluegill, crappie, pumpkinseed, perch, bullhead, or bream, pan fishing is considered one of the gateways to the glorious life of fishing.

Not only are they easy to catch, but they are also reasonably simple to cook and eat as well. These fish species can easily fit into a pan, hence the name. Panfish usually dwell in shallow areas or covers, such as swamped vegetation, submerged trees, and rock piles underwater. They are often productive right before the sunsets. Catching panfish only requires small bait and hooks—the lighter your rods are, the more you will feel the fight of a fish. It is also ideal to use spinning reels that come with a good drag, as the reel action must also match your fishing rod action.

For hooks, sizes 6 to 10 are the best to use when angling panfish. However, choosing lighter equipment may be essential, but choosing the proper bait is equally important. While it may be easier to tie on your usual artificial lure submerged in a fish scent, using live bait is far more effective and ideal when aiming to catch panfish. 

Choosing the Best Live Bait for Panfish 

palm with leeches on it

No matter what skill level you have in sportfishing, using various types of live bait is ideal for targeting game fish species compared to using artificial lures. Fish are more attracted to live prey, which will significantly heighten your chances of having a good catch that is less likely to escape. There are a lot of live baits to choose from, including but not limited to Minnows, Worms, Crickets, Crayfish, Nightcrawlers, Waxworms, Leeches, Sand eels, Catalpa worms, Small grasshoppers, Maggots, Grubs, and Wasp larvae.

However, if you want to make the most of your time, using live baits specifically designed to attract the type of panfish species you want to catch is a much better option. To do this, you need to research the water body deeply you will be angling and figure out what panfish species you would like to catch. Focus on one fish species as much as possible, and try to research its behaviors and its most productive times depending on the water body you will be going in. Distinguishing these factors before angling will help you choose the right live bait and technique to use, making your fishing experience a lot more enjoyable and rewarding.

1. For Sunfish

You will probably think of bluegill species first, along with pumpkinseed or bream, when you think of sunfish. They can be found in various structures—rocks, docks, weeds, lilypads, and underneath overhanging branches. Smaller sunfish species bite quickly and come in large schools, while larger sunfish tend to dwell in smaller groups or even swim alone.

A great way to fish for them would be to follow the rule that once you do not get a bite in about 5 to 10 minutes while in a specific area, move to another spot. Their diet consists of algae, zooplankton, and small minnows. They will gobble down anything that carries a lot, so the most effective live baits for sunfish species would be crickets, grasshoppers, waxworms, and grubs—all of which can be attached to a size eight or size ten hook. Catching sunfish requires a tremendous amount of patience, and they usually give great bites in the morning and evening. Note that they are also visual feeders, so it would be best to accompany your live bait with a flashing spinner to draw their attention.

Redear sunfish species, on the other hand, usually feed on snails, shrimp, and mussels—hence their other name, shellcracker. Other effective live baits would be insects and larvae, but they tend to feed on these while they are on or near the bottom. Earthworms and crickets are effective live baits for readers when fishing near submerged aquatic plants.

Additionally, green sunfish are usually attracted to all live baits, but they prefer to eat insects and small minnows. Meanwhile, warmouth fish species will also gobble down anything they can fit in their mouth, and shrimp, insects, crayfish, minnows, earthworms, and crickets work great as live bait for them. These also work as effective baits for redbreast sunfish species.

2. For Crappie

Crappie species are also one of the easiest panfish species to catch without fail. Minnows are the most effective live bait for them, but they also feed on insects and crustaceans. They have large mouths, so keep the line tight once you get a hold of their bite because they are also soft and might tear easily. Live bait used for crappie fishing is best attached to size six hooks.

Crappie may tend to dwell in deeper waters during summer but will generally surface once dawn or dusk comes. 

3. For Perch

Perch are also one of the easiest panfish species to catch with live bait, and they most effectively feed on small minnows and worms on size six hooks. The live bait may also be attached to spoons, spinners, jigs, and flies to attract their attention. You may also use maggots with rigs while targeting them.

Remember that perch species usually form schools by size, so if you seem to catch only smaller-sized fish, move to another area with deeper water. Keeping the live bait near the bottom is the most effective way to catch perch. 

The Takeaway

 Choosing the best live bait means selecting the appropriate one for a particular fish you aim to catch while angling. It all boils down to determining what a specific fish species feeds on and using that to your advantage when deciding on which live bait to use.