STORIES OUT THERE FISHING By: Keith 'Catfish' Sutton, WorldFishingNetwork.com 3 Power Tips and Tactics for Fall Panfish Different types of panfish species require different fishing strategies – learn these power tactics to make sure you're bagging some this fall When panfish are persnickety and hard to catch, don't give up. These tricks can save the day. (Keith Sutton photo) Even the best panfish anglers have days when they feel the fish are finning their noses at them. Don’t take it. Fight back! Anyone can catch crappie, bluegills, bullheads and other panfish when they’re schooled up for a feeding frenzy. But when fall panfish are scattered, fussy and full-bellied, you may need special bait or lure presentations to increase your catch. I call these “power tactics” – trickeries that go one step beyond the usual to trigger reflexive strikes, even when fish seem uninterested. These three can turn a dismal day into a great one. The Fish: Crappie The Enticement: Mini-spinnerbaits I’m a cast-and-retrieve kind of guy. I like being active while fishing. That’s why I often use mini-spinnerbaits when chasing crappie. Some of my favorites include Johnson’s Beetle-Spin, Mr. Crappie’s Spin Daddy and Northland’s Mimic Minnow Spin. Cast to key spots and use a steady retrieve to make the blade throb. Most days, that’s all you must do to nab nearby crappie. The V-shaped arm keeps the spinner above the lure and reduces hang-ups. Changing lure bodies and colors is simple with the safety-pin-style clip. Power tactic: When crappie seem to have lockjaw, as they often do, even your slowest retrieve may not be slow enough to draw a strike. Resolve this problem by rigging a sliding bobber above the spinner. Place a bobber stop on your line at the depth you want to fish. Then add a bead below the stop, followed by a sliding bobber large enough to suspend the lure. Finish by tying the spinner at line’s end. When the bobber hits the water, the spinner’s weight pulls line through the float until the bobber abuts the bobber stop. Your lure is now at the depth you selected, and you can easily adjust the depth by moving the bobber stop up or down. The benefit of this rig is it allows you to greatly slow your presentation and keep the spinner in the strike zone. Use a variety of actions – small twitches, slow steady pulls or long pulls with a few seconds of motionlessness between – until you determine the best pattern. The Fish: Bullheads The Enticement: Special-recipe hot dogs Bullheads rarely weigh more than 2 pounds, so many people shun them and fish instead for larger catfish species. Lots of folks love these pan-sized cats, nevertheless, because bullheads often are plentiful, are always fun to catch and are delicious on the dinner table. Bullheads eat many types of foods, from minnows and crayfish to carrion and insects. “They will take any kind of bait,” wrote Henry David Thoreau, “from angleworms to a piece of tomato can …” While using a piece of tomato can for bait might be stretching your luck, there’s no denying these little cats are not temperamental. You can catch them on many different baits. Where fishing pressure is heavy, however, and when weather and water conditions aren’t ideal, even bullheads get finicky and hard to catch. Power tactic: To make bullheads bite, you must titillate their taste buds, and these cats have plenty of them. Hundreds of thousands cover their skin from head to tail, with dense concentrations on the whiskers and gill rakers. When something yummy dissolves in the water, Mr. Bullhead gets a taste and goes to find it. If it’s something really scrumptious, he’ll eat it whether he’s hungry or not. Anglers learned long ago that cats love dogs – hot dogs, that is. Bullheads are especially fond of the cheapest brands, and if you flavor the wieners with garlic, too, bulls gobble them up like kids eating chocolate. So here’s what you do. Slice eight hot dogs into 1-inch pieces. Place in a zip-seal plastic bag, and add two heaping tablespoons of minced garlic, plus a package of unsweetened, strawberry Kool-Aid. Cover with water, stir, seal and refrigerate until you’re ready to fish. The Kool-Aid gives the bait a brilliant red color. Red flips on an “eat me” switch in the catfish’s little brain because it signifies something bloody and injured. Combined with the flavor of hot dogs and garlic, it’s too much for bulls to resist. Hook a chunk, fish it on bottom, and prepare for action. The Fish: Bluegills The Enticement: Waxworms Bluegills love baby bugs. They eat the immature, worm-like forms of many aquatic insects, including blackfly larvae; caseworms (caddis fly larvae); chironomids (midge larvae) and leatherjackets (crane fly larvae). Unfortunately for anglers, it’s rare that you can buy these bream foods in bait shops, and they’re time consuming to find and collect. They make great baits for persnickety bluegills, but they’re hard to come by. Power tactic: Try waxworms instead. These little white grubs are available from many bait dealers and online sellers. They’re bee moth larvae. They grow from eggs the moths lay in beehives and feed on wax in the hive as they grow. They’re sold in small covered containers filled with sawdust. Refrigerate until use. When bluegills seem tight-lipped, use this waxworm rig. Tie a No. 10 or 12 trout hook on a 3-foot leader made of 2-pound-test monofi1ament.This is fished on an ultralight spinning combo spooled with 6- to 8-pound line. The leader and main line are connected by a small barrel swivel, with a ¼-ounce egg sinker placed on the main line above the swivel. When you’re rigged up, be sure to adjust your drag so the light leader won’t break when a fish strikes. Now, hook three or four waxworms through the midsection, leaving the ends free to wiggle enticingly. Then split a miniature marshmallow – yes, a marshmallow – halfway through, wrap it around your line just above the hook, and squish it to seal the split so it stays on the line. The marshmallow serves as a float, giving the waxworms enough buoyancy to suspend above the bottom. Bluegills can see the tiny baits better, and when the waxworms are spied, they’ll be quickly eaten. Fish on!