Lengthening daylight and warming waters in early spring set the stage for shallow panfish, and that provides the perfect opportunity to go after ‘em with a classic slip float rig.
But if you think of a slip float simply as a strike indicator, you’re missing the boat. Panfish master and Team Northland stalwart Brian “Bro” Brosdahl says floats are also an important part of your presentational system.
“Panfish love new weed growth, and the freshest growth in the early spring is in shallow water with a dark bottom,” he begins. “But with the water column only 1 to 4 feet deep, crappies and bluegills are always on alert and highly sensitive to even the slightest disturbance.
“That’s where I go with the Lite-Bite Pencil Sunrise Slip Bobber,” says Bro. “Its half-inch diameter makes a very stealthy splash-down that doesn’t spook finicky fish. A 1/16- or 1/32-ounce jig head tied underneath is usually heavy enough to make the float stand up straight, which is critical to the next part of the presentation.”
Bro likes to go with a Fire-Fly Jig, which has a feather dressing or a Gypsi Jig® offering a crystal flash teaser, though he notes that sometimes the fish prefer something like a Bro Bug® or Mud Bug Jig head tipped with a waxworm or small crappie minnow.
In every case, he shies away from adding a split shot to the rig, to keep it unobtrusive, but if wind or waves make it necessary, he adds just enough weight to make the bobber stand up straight.
“With the bobber vertical, I can twitch the rod tip slightly,” he says. “Just enough to tip the bobber on its side, which lifts the jig an inch or two. I twitch it 2 or 3 times, then let it rest.”
The jig’s subtle movement is enough to make panfish look—then react—without spooking them, he explains.
When on the hunt and fan casting, or probing water from 5 to 10 feet, Bro opts for the stouter Oval Sunrise Slip Bobber in the Lite-Bite Bionic® line. “The ¾- or 7/8-inch versions allow me to cast farther when I’m searching for fish, or tie on a heavier jig that falls more quickly to the strike zone in deeper water,” he adds.