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A plug for panfish: bluegill and other sunfish are dynamos on the right tackle.

Most freshwater anglers have had bream and other panfish hit bass crankbaits and other lures much too big for them. Feisty panfish must think their mouths are bigger than they are.

But with bluegills, redears and other sunfish bedding up in early summer, now is a good time to put together a game plan for targeting--and successfully landing--more of these great-eating fish.

Mini-Cranks for Panfish

Little crankbaits designed for panfish can be found in most Florida bait and tackle shops. A wide range of tiny crankbaits which imitate grasshoppers and crickets on top, and minnows and crawfish under the surface, are extremely effective on bream of all species.

A real advantage to using these small floating crankbaits is that they do double duty. When cast and allowed to float at rest, they are very effective topwater lures--and having a big bull bream smash a topwater plug is a whole lot of fun! On the retrieve, these little crankbaits are very effective mid-depth fish finders, and when worked around cover such as stumps, logs and lily pads, they can be deadly on bedding bream.

Crappie anglers, of course, are familiar with the multi-colored variety of crappie jigs. However, down-sized crankbaits in shad and other bright color patterns will catch a ton of slab crappie. Crappie tend to spread out in warmer months, but troll a couple of rods with small crankbaits and you can prospect a lot of open water quickly to find the best concentrations.

Tiny Plastics for Big Bream

Plastic worms catch more bass than any other bait, but down-sized plastic worms are just as effective on bream.

When bream are bedding, a small, 1/16-to 1/32-ounce jighead is the start of a great setup to catch a lot of big bream. On this little jighead, we thread a tiny soft plastic worm. Berkley Gulp! has come out with a super-small worm--it was originally designed for rainbow trout, but this little pink, scented worm is absolute death for bream of all kinds. The Gulp! Alive Fat Floating Trout Worm is a killer for big bream.

We cast this little rig, which is just like a traditional bass jig and worm rig except much smaller, and watch the line. Bream cannot resist this little scented worm slowly falling through their territory. Another very good thing about this mini-jig and worm setup is that you can cast it a long way with the proper rod and reel. That synthetic bait stays on the hook. Distance casting can be important when the bream have been worked hard and are shy.

The Proper Rig for Mini-Lures

Six-pound-test line is on the heavy side for panfish mini-lure rigs. We need to think of little reels to handle light lines, but these reels need to be solid and strong, with good drag systems for when that 2-pound redear hits and starts pulling hard the other way--or, for when that 10-pound bass eats that 2-pound sunfish! A short rod, less than 6 feet, with ultralight power and medium action, is best for handling 2-to 4-pound-test line. There's a global market for this class of gear, which means tackle companies can produce quality sticks at bargain prices. The Berkley Cherrywood HD series, for instance, includes a 5-foot ultralight model that's ideal for tiny crankbaits. It sells for around $25.

You can mix and match rods and reels to achieve the right balance. Or, take advantage of combo sets which many tackle manufacturers put together. Shakespeare has one set--the Contender Combo--which I like a lot. It comes in a variety of weights and lengths, and with a cost of only $29.99 to $49.99, a dedicated mini-panfish rig won't break the bank. Spincast combos are also a lot of fun to fish with; look for the micro class systems such as the Zebco 11, also priced in the $20 to $30 range.
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Title Annotation:FRESHWATER; crankbaits and lures
Author:Mashburn, Ed
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Geographic Code:1U5FL
Date:Jul 1, 2013
Words:646
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