While early-season panfishing isn’t always easy, every trip is exciting because panfish of all sizes roam the shallows and there’s a better-than-fair chance of catching big summer panfish, like bluegill or crappie.
During the summer months, however, anglers have to do some searching if they want to catch extra-large panfish, according to Team Northland pro and panfish expert Brian “Bro” Brosdahl. “For the most part, those big ’gills and crappies won’t be in the shoreline vegetation anymore,” he says. “You have to find isolated weedbeds out in 8 to 15 feet of water.”
The depth of a weedbed and its distance from the shoreline depends on the lake and the clarity of its water, he explains. It could be anywhere from 100 feet to several hundred yards from the shoreline weeds the fish were using just a couple of months before.
“Thick, green weeds are what you’re looking for—cabbage, coontail, milfoil, whatever,” he says. “Bluegills hold in schools, usually along the side closest to the main mud basin, to feed on bug hatches that blow in.
“You can find crappies in the same types of spots, but they’ll also hold on any hump that has some rock structure on it, especially if they’re close to deep, isolated weeds.”
If the bed is on the shallow end of the spectrum and the weeds aren’t overly tall, anglers can cast and retrieve a 1/16-ounce Mimic Minnow® Spin or Thumper® Jig tipped with a crawler chunk over the tops of the vegetation.
On deeper beds where the plants are leggy, a vertical presentation is the best way to go. “Tie a 1/16-ounce Gypsi Jig®, Fire-Fly, or Thumper® Jig, tipped with a panfish-size leech or piece of nightcrawler, under a ½- or ¾-inch Lite-Bite Slip Bobber and cast into the bed and along the edge,” he says. “Twitch the jig to give it some action. Or, if the weeds are real tall, reel in a couple of turns and then let the bait fall straight back down.”