Tackle & Technique: panfish bait options

Tackle & Technique: panfish bait options

Jun 29, 2015

Solutions to ‘Bad Bait’ and other basic fishing maladies

By Mike Pehanich

Those fish you caught on pieces of mushy nightcrawler years ago did you scant favor. In fact, they likely misled you to believe that chunks of dead worm are satisfying answers to a fish’s hunger.


A drying, dying nightcrawler is a sad substitute for a cool, fat, juicy conditioned crawler, which most bass and many a large panfish will find hard to pass up! Same goes for redworms, wax worms, minnows, spikes, crickets, leeches, shrimp, crawfish and every other form of bait you tote to the ol’ fishin’ hole!

Keep your bait fresh and lively, and it will reward you.

Freshen the water in your minnow bucket. Keep leeches, nightcrawlers, wax worms, redworms, and other baits out of the sun and, preferably, in a cooler. If you buy your bait from a dealer with a reputation for keeping his bait fresh, tap him for tips on the best way to keep your baits lively and at their fish-catching best!

1kg bagBait substitutes and attractants

But the sad truth is that the number of bait shops is shrinking all the time and the number of knowledgeable dealers willing to dedicate time, resources and effort to making sure their customers take only the best and liveliest baits to the water has shrunk even more.

The good news is that some prominent tackle manufacturers have developed high quality alternatives to live bait that will often deliver equal or even better results. What’s more, these bait alternatives are a lot more convenient to handle, too!

In recent years, Japanese and European bait manufacturers have exported some of their jarred and packaged bait alternatives and attractants to the U.S. market to add to the options that companies like Pure Fishing have brought to American anglers.

One of the newest and most effective bait options to hit our shores in recent years is the Marukyu JPz gel pellet line.

Marukyu JPz gel pellets can be fished on a light wire hook.

Marukyu JPz gel pellets can be fished on a light wire hook.

Munenori Kajiwara, founder and owner of Japan Import Tackle (japanimporttackle.com), identifies the Marukyu JPz Ebi, a red gel pellet, as his favorite for members of the sunfish family.

You can fish these pellets by themselves on a lightwire hook or together with natural bait. You can also add them to a small jig designed for crappie and other panfish.

Whatever floats your bait

“I fish JPz on light line with light bobbers,” explains Kajiwara. “For bluegill, I use a Mosquito-type hook between size 10 and size 14 depending on the size of the fish at the time.”

Kajiwara strongly suggests the use of light and sensitive bobbers, a.k.a. “floats.” I agree. SWF has long appealed to bank anglers to get rid of those large round bobbers that look like beach balls. Those oversized floats provide easily detectable resistance to a light-biting fish. More often than not, they cause the fish to release the bait before it has a chance to take the hook into its mouth. If such round bobbers are your only alternatives, select the smallest ones you can get away with.

Vertical floats with a fast-tapered oblong bulb in the center are usually better, but, if you are willing to pay just a bit more, you can get some highly sensitive floats that provide little resistance and respond not only to a downward pull from the fish but will fall on their sides when a fish moves upward with the bait as well!

(Look for more detailed information on floats and bobber rigs in upcoming SWF features.)

“I have found that a needle-type bobber is much more sensitive,” adds Kajiwara, who avidly pursues panfish 12 months out of the year. “With them, it is easy to detect even a very small bite from a bull bluegill.”

Ground baits and attractants

Most of the Asian and European countries, as well as most of our U.S. states, permit the use of ground baits to attract or keep fish in the area you are fishing. Often they stimulate feeding activity, too, turning a slow day into a good day or a good day into a great one!

Two of the baits that Marukyu has brought to North America for this purpose are High Power Amiebi, a natural krill-based fish attractant, and a Sabiki-style Sabikikun ground bait. Spread these baits in the area you are fishing, and watch what happens to the action!

Rods, poles, lines

Bank fishing and panfish rods and rigs can be as simple or complex as you want them to be. Most of us gravitate toward simplicity and, more importantly, limiting the potential problems during our fishing outing. To that purpose, consider a telescoping fishing pole that requires no reel for youngsters who are having trouble casting or even the old-fashioned cane pole. Poles are also ideal when a lot of fishermen are crowding each other. And, believe it or not, the majority of fishermen in match fishing competition in Europe opt for telescoping long poles rather than rod and reel combinations!

In addition to the long European match poles, you may want to check out Asian Tai poles and other domestically made telescoping pole options.

Another factor to consider is line test. Lighter lines almost always give you an advantage with sunfish, perch, crappie, and other pan-sized species.

Kajiwara employs 3-pound test line for most of his panfish fishing whether he is fishing with rod and reel or his Tenkara poles, light fly-rod type poles for very light and delicate presentations.

My panfish rods have reels spooled with lines ranging from 1.5-pound to 6-pound test. With very light superlines under 4 pound test, I rarely add a leader. With superlines of 4- or 6-pound test I may add a light fluorocarbon or monofilament leader, particularly if the water is very clear.

Marukyu ground baits, including its Sabiki-style chum, High Power Amiebi, and JPz gel pellets are available through Lee’s Global Tackle, www.leesglobaltackle.com, 847-593-6424 and Wacker Bait & Tackle; phone 708-450-0305. Retailers interested in carrying Marukyu products should contact Munenori Kajiwara of Japan Import Tackle, phone: 909-913-4741; www.japanimporttackle.com

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