Fly fishing for Bluegill and Panfish

Fly fishing for Bluegill and Panfish

Capt. Jim Klopfer is a saltwater fishing guide in Sarasota, Florida. However, in this article he will talk about fly fishing for bluegill and panfish. These diminutive battlers are every bit as much fun as other game fish when pursued using the right tackle. Fly fishing is easier than many anglers think. This is especially true when chasing bluegill and panfish. Also, many of these trips end up with enough fish for a meal. In most waters, taking out abundant panfish can actually help the fishery.

fly fishing in freshwater

The primary difference between fly fishing and spin fishing is really very simple. With spin fishing, the lure or bait provides the weight. It is cast out and the line just follows behind. With fly fishing, it is the opposite. Flies weigh relatively nothing. Therefore, the line provides the weight and it is cast and the fly tags along for the ride. And that is really all there is to the difference between the two!

How is fly fishing different than spin fishing?

Fly casting is quite different from spin fishing. There is a skill and nuance to it and it does require special tackle and some practice. However, of all the fish species that anglers can chase with the fly rod, pan fish and bluegill are perhaps the easiest. This is one reason that Capt. Jim enjoys doing this so much. Believe it or not, on a day off of “work” he really enjoys fly fishing for bluegill and panfish.

fly fishing for bluegill and panfish

We will not really address fly casting in this article. There are a ton of great resources out there already for that, whether it be online blogs, YouTube, videos, or books. Suffice it to say, most anglers can learn to cast 15 or 20 feet in an afternoon. And, that is all that is required in order to catch bluegill and panfish on fly.

Fly Fishing Equipment

We will discuss the equipment required for fly fishing for bluegill and panfish. A complete outfit suitable for this endeavor can be purchased for less than $100. Anglers do not need to spend a lot of money in order to get a functioning rod, reel, and line. However, as in most hobbies, Capt. Jim recommends buying the best equipment that an angler can reasonably afford. This usually results in more enjoyment of the sport.

river fishing tips and techniques

Fly tackle is designated by “weight”. This is true for the rods, reels, and lines. A 4 weight outfit appears as 4wt. This will be on the base of the rod near the handle. Most lines are similarly marked near the end. This really makes it easy to match all the tackle components by simply staying within the same weight designation.

In these designations, the smaller the number the lighter the tackle. A 1wt outfit is extremely light. Conversely, anglers chasing giant tarpon and saltwater would use a 12wt outfit. Anglers fly fishing for bluegill and panfish will do well with a 3wt or 4wt outfit.

Fly fishing for panfish

The fly rod is much more important in this type of fishing than is the reel. The rod is used to cast and to fight the fish. The reel basically just holds the line. In most cases even when fighting a fish, the reel is not used. Instead, the fish is brought in by hand. We will explain this more later.

Fly Lines for bluegill and panfish

Fly lines are extremely important. This is definitely not the place to skimp when it comes to fly fishing tackle. Fly lines come in various configurations; weight forward, tapered, floating, sink tip, and full sinking. There are other choices as well.

Fortunately, when fly fishing for bluegill and panfish the choices really simple. A weight forward floating line is the best choice in 95% of these fishing applications. A weight forward line is a bit heavier at the end. This helps anglers cast a bit easier and further.

fly fishing for panfish

A floating line is pretty self-explanatory. It simply means that the line floats. It will sink after a while. Anglers occasionally dress the line to clean and add flotation. As most bluegill and pan fishing is done in relatively shallow water, floating lines are the best choice. They are also easier to cast.

Fly fishing leaders for panfish

A leader is used between the end of the fly line in the fly. Fly lines are thick and easy to see. If the fly was attached right to it, no fish would bite it. These leaders are generally tapered. That means that they are thicker at the fly line or butt section than they are at the end of the leader. This helps the fly roll and “turn over” on a cast. These tapered leaders are available commercially. A 5x leader is fine when fly fishing for panfish and bluegill.

Fly selection can run the gamut. However, it does not really need to be complicated. Bluegill and panfish for the most part are not fussy. The two different types of flies are surface flies and sinking flies. Surface flies lie at rest on top of the water. They generally have some type of action which draws the fish up from the bottom. Poppers and rubber spiders are good examples of these flies.

Sinking flies are generally bait fish imitations or “buggy” type flies. In reality, any small black fly that has any kind a hackles or tail will catch bluegill and panfish. They really are not fussy at all in most instances. Also, anglers usually don’t lose a lot of flies when fly fishing for bluegill and panfish. Here is a link to a decent starter outfit for $75 that includes rod, reel, line, leader, flies, and case. Make sure to click on the 3wt outfit!

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Fly fishing techniques

So, we have now acquired a decent fly fishing outfit, a couple of leaders, and a selection of flies. A few hours of practice in the backyard or the local pond has us ready to go out and catch a few fish. Anglers can choose to fish from shore, a boat or even wade.

The locations that anglers will fish are the same whether using spinning tackle or fly tackle. Weed edges, submerged weed beds, docks, feeder creeks, submerged rocks, riprap, and fallen or submerged trees are all prime spots. Big bluegill in particular love wood of any type. In most cases, it is important to keep moving and fishing different areas until a school of fish is located.

fly fishing for bream

The fly is cast out towards some likely fish holding structure. This can be a weed line, dock, fallen tree, or even just over some submerged vegetation. The fly is retrieved using the free hand, the one that is not used to cast and hold the rod. With the rod tip low near the surface, the fly is manipulated using that freehand. That is how it is retrieved.

When a fish strikes, the angler keeps the rod tip low and pulls back sharply with the free hand. This gets all of the slack out of the line and gets the fly started in the fishes mouth. The rod tip is then raised sharply and held up while fighting the fish. This is called a “strip set” and is a bit different than what trout fisherman are usually used to. Once hooked, the angler simply strips the fish back in. Seldom will the reel be required when catching a bluegill or panfish.

Fly fishing for panfish with surface flies

Anglers using floating flies or poppers will allow the fly to settle until the rings disappear. Then, with the rod tip low and the line tight, they use the free or stripping hand to give the line a short, sharp pull. This will result in the fly twitching or popping on the surface. The fly is allowed to settle and the process repeated. It is great fun to see a bluegill or panfish viciously attack the fly on the surface!

bluegill and panfish on fly

While catching fish on the surface is great fun, anglers will experience more action learning to fish sinking flies. These flies more thoroughly cover the entire water column. Also, there are days when fish just will not feed on the surface. In these situations, small bait fish patterns and buggy flies will produce best.

The fly is cast out towards the structure and allowed to sink several seconds. Then, with the rod tip low the angler used to stripping hand to retrieve the fly. As in all forms of fishing, angler should vary the retrieve until a productive pattern emerges. Generally speaking with bluegill and panfish, short subtle strips work best.

fly fishing for jack crevelle

One mistake many novice anglers make when fly fishing for bluegill and panfish is to work the fly too quickly. Bluegill are aggressive, however they can spook off of the fly if it looks unnatural. It is surprising at times how long a popper can sit on the surface motionless before a fish attacks. The same applies to fishing subsurface flies, slower is generally better. Although, when fishing sinking flies anglers do need to keep it off of the bottom weeds or structure.

Popper Dropper Rig

One very productive rig is called the popper dropper. With this anglers use both a floating fly and a subsurface fly at the same time. The angler ties the popper onto the end of the leader. Then, an 18 inch piece of for pound line is tied to the bend of the hook. A small sinking fly or nymph is tied to the other end of the line.

Freshwater fish species

The rig is cast out towards some structure. It is then fish exactly is an angler would a popper or surface fly alone. The difference is that at times a commotion of the surface fly will draw fish to the submerge fly. The surface fly also acts as a bobber to give the angler an indication when a strike on the subsurface fly occurs. This is a great approach to fly fishing for bluegill and panfish. It does take a little bit of practice to keep the flies from tangling. However, once mastered, this technique will produce a lot a fish!

Fly fishing beds in spring and summer

One of the best times to go fly fishing for bluegill and panfish is in the spring when the fish are on the beds. When bluegill and panfish spawn, they dig out little circular holes in the weeds. This is where they lay their eggs. When the water is clear and the sun is up, these areas are very easy to see. It almost like little moon craters scattered about in a tight area.

freswater fishing

These panfish are extremely aggressive during this time as they are guarding the nests and eggs. Rarely will a well presented popper be ignored. The time of year that this occurs varies in the United States. Generally speaking, the warmer them weather the better the panfishing is. This is a great time of year to practice fly fishing and put a bunch of fish in the boat.

Bluegill and panfish flies

Florida freshwater fishing

as mentioned above, flies used for this type of fishing are simple and basic. There is no need to get over complicated or overwhelmed. A selection of poppers, foam rubber spiders, sinking flies, and streamers is all that is required when fly fishing for bluegill and panfish.

Surface flies

Surface flies are great fun to fish. No matter what the style of fishing, when an angler can see the strike on top it only adds to the fun. The two primary types of surface flies used are poppers and foam rubber bugs. Poppers are a small piece of plastic, foam, or cork that have rubber legs and a tail. When twitched sharply, the face of the popper digs into the water giving at the distinct “popping” sound.

Foam rubber bugs come in many different sizes, shapes, and colors. However, they all basically work the same. They are better choice when fish are a little bit less aggressive as the action is much more subtle than a popper. Basically, the bug is twitched a bit and then allowed to sit on the surface with the rubber legs undulating back and forth. Pan fish find us irresistible and will attack this fly with gusto.

Sinking flies

Sinking flies come in many different sizes, shapes, colors, and patterns as well. Again, anglers do not need to get overwhelmed when it comes to fly selection for panfish. One of the best all round sinking flies is the woolly worm. This is a buggy looking little fly that bluegill find irresistible. They are also tied with a little bead had to give it weight, these are called woolly debuggers and work better and slightly deeper water.

Nim sit are traditionally used for freshwater trout fish and can be dynamite on bluegill and panfish as well. Hairs near and Prince of tides are just a couple of examples. These flies can be fished under a popper as mentioned above. They can also be fished alone. Often times take is quite subtle when using the smaller nymphs.


Most streamers are basically small bait fish patterns. Any tiny fly such as a lefty’s deceiver can be tied to mimic very small bait fish. These patterns are worked a bit more quickly than our woolly worms and other sinking flies. Bluegill in particular seem to be taken on them. Perhaps this is true because of their aggressive nature. Anglers fishing in areas that have good populations of small bass will have great fun as well as a 2 pound bass hooked on this very light tackle is great fun!

Panfish species

Anglers fly fishing for bluegill and panfish will have a variety of species to catch, depending on their geographical location. Bluegill are the most widely distributed and aggressive of the panfish family. They are also the easiest species to catch on fly.

Redear sunfish or shell crackers are the largest of the panfish family but are a bit more difficult to fool on fly. They are normally found in slightly deeper water and primarily feed on crustaceans. Woolly worms and other sinking flies work very slowly on the bottom will fool a few.

Green sunfish or stump knocker are a bit smaller than bluegill but highly aggressive as well. Pumpkinseed, longhair, red breast, and war mouth are just other examples of the various species of pan fish that are available to many anglers. Some even consider crappie a panfish. They will most certainly had a fly, especially a minnow imitating streamer. As mentioned above, it is not at all uncommon to hook small largemouth bass when fishing for panfish as well.

In conclusion, this article on fly fishing for bluegill and panfish will hopefully encourage anglers new to the sport of fly fishing to give these feisty little game fish a try!

Fishing with Spinners in rivers and Streams

Fishing with Spinners in rivers and Streams

This post will discuss fishing with spinners in rivers and streams. Spinners are excellent artificial lures. They catch a wide variety of species. Smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, trout, salmon, walleye, pike, panfish, and other species will take one. Spinners really shine when used in rivers and streams. The current keeps the bait moving and the blade turning.

fishing with spinners in rivers and streams

Spinners are simple lures that have been around for many decades. They consist of several components. A shaft is the center of the lure and sometimes had a body. A spinner blade rotates around the shaft and body. This provides flash and vibration. A hook rides on the tail of the shaft. It is usually a treble hook and can be dressed with hair or plain.

Advantages of fishing with spinners in rivers and streams

One great aspect of fishing with spinners is the simplicity. Many artificial lures require the angler to impart the action. Often times, “feel” is needed to detect a strike. This is not the case with spinners. A slow, steady retrieve works best. The action is built into the lure. Finally, most fish hook them selves.

trout fishing blue ridge

Spinners are fairly heavy for their size. This means that they cast well on light tackle. Most fish in rivers feed on bait fish, which spinners mimic realistically. Spinners come in many different sizes and finishes to match any angling situation. All things considered, they do not snag all that often when worked correctly.

Fishing with spinners in rivers

Spinners are very easy to use. It is one of the advantages of fishing with spinners in rivers and streams. They are an excellent choice for novice anglers. It really does not take a lot of skill or experience to catch fish with spinners.

Best fishing lures in rivers

The best approach when fishing with spinners in moving water is cast across the stream and let the spinner “swing” with the current. Anglers can give the lure a little twitch to get the blades rotating. The spinner will continue down stream on a tight line, blades rotating and flashing. Strikes may occur at any time. However, it often happens as the line tightens up at the end and turns sideways in the current.

Quiet water behind rocks and other obstructions are prime spots to cast a spinner. Fish will lie in ambush, out of the current yet close enough to have the flow bring a steady stream of forage. Deeper runs between riffles are outstanding spots to try as well. The bait will need to sink a tad deeper in these areas.

Techniques for fishing slower water spinner fishing

Quiet water behind rocks and other obstructions are prime spots to cast a spinner. Fish will lie in ambush, out of the current yet close enough to have the flow bring a steady stream of forage. Deeper runs between riffles are outstanding spots to try as well. The bait will need to sink a tad deeper in these areas.

best 13 bass lures for pond fishing

Most rivers have fairly consistent physical characteristics. There are riffles or rapids, separated by deeper, slower pools. Depending on the fish species, many will hold in the deeper, slower water. They can feed without fighting the current constantly. Spinners are very effective in these deeper pools as well. Heavier spinners that sink more quickly are usually the most productive.

The same approach of casting across the current works well in the deeper pools as well. The difference is that without the swift current, the lure will sink faster. Anglers will need to adjust the speed of the retrieve to keep the lure from snagging on the bottom.

River fishing tackle

Light or ultra-light spinning tackle is the best choice for fishing streams and smaller rivers. It is versatile, affordable, and easy to use. With a little practice, anglers can land fairly large fish with light line and tackle.

fishing in rivers for smallmouth bass

A 6 1/2′ light action rod with matching 1000 reel and 4 lb to 6lb line is an excellent all round outfit. Anglers fishing ultra clear water for trout often drop down to 2 lb line to increase success. Conversely, in stained water for larger fish, anglers can go up as high as 10 lb line. Here are links to rod and reel combos as well as line.

Top spinners for fishing rivers and streams

While spinners are all very similar, there are some differences as well. These differences affect when the spinner will work best and in some cases the species being pursued. Lighter spinners work best in smaller, shallow streams. Heavier spinners obviously work better in deeper water.

Fishing the North Shore of Minnesota

The top spinners for fishing rivers and streams are the Wordens Rooster tail, Mepps Aglia, Panther Martin, and Blue Fox spinners. These four spinners will cover every river and stream fishing application.

Most spinner manufacturers offer anglers many different sizes and colors. Generally speaking, light colors and silver blades work best in clear water and on sunny days. Copper blades and darker colors perform better on cloudy days and in low light conditions.

Wordens Original Rooster tail spinners

The Wordens Original Rooster tail is a terrific spinner! It is Capt Jim’s personal favorite. It is one of the lightest spinners for it’s size. This makes it a perfect choice for trout fishing in small, clear streams. It has a gentle presentation and the blades spin with very little movement.

best panfish fishing lures

Rooster tail spinners are available in a single hook version. This is great because it allows anglers to use them in waters designated “single hook artificial lure only” areas. These mostly involves rivers where catch and release trout fishing is instituted or encouraged.

Rooster tail spinners are not only for trout anglers. These lures are very effective for panfish, smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye and other species. Generally, these species will be found in slower moving water.

Mepps Aglia spinner

The Mepps Aglia spinner is a classic lure that has been helping anglers catch fish for many years. It comes in both a plain and dressed hook. For whatever reason, it has become a ‘big fish” bait. The larger versions are very good for pike, bass, walleye, and even musky! The gold blade/dressed tail combination seems to be the favored finish.

river fishing for musky

The Mepps Aglia does catch plenty of trout. However, it is favored more by anglers fishing slower, warmer rivers for bass, pike, and other species. It is also good when trolled in the larger, deeper sections of rivers.

Panther Martin spinners

Panther Martin spinners are another excellent spinner for fishing in streams and rivers. It is a bit heavier and more compact than the Roostertail and Aglia spinners. They are a great choice in deeper water. Anglers fishing larger rivers with deeper pools use them successfully.

walleye fishing guide

Panther Martin spinners can be used in swifter current, as long as there is a bit of depth. Anglers fishing them in shallow riffles will hang up and lose some baits. They are a great lure to use when the water has some color to it. Panther Martin spinners put out a unique, fish-calling vibration.

Blue Fox spinners

Blue Fox spinners are the heaviest of the four spinners highlighted. They have a substantially heavier body than the other spinners. Blue Fox spinners are the best choice for anglers fishing larger, deeper rivers. They are usually the spinner of choice for spring walleye anglers.

pike fishing in Minnesota

These lures are great for anglers who like to troll in the holes of deeper rivers. The weighted body will get down deep where fish hold out of the current. They can certainly be cast as well.

River and stream fishing environments

River and stream fishing can really be broken down into three categories; Warm water, cool water, and cold water species. Warm water species include sunfish, crappie, largemouth bass, and catfish. Cold water species are basically trout and salmon. Obviously, cool water species bridge the two and include pike, walleye, smallmouth bass, musky, and stripers. There is some overlap.

Cold water river species

Trout and salmon are the most predominant cold water species. The introduction of dams and therefore a tailwater has resulted in a boon in cold water rivers. They can control the water temperature in the rivers by controlling the depth at which they release water. This allows them to keep the rivers at ideal water temperatures.

rainbow trout fishing lures

Cold water streams come in many sizes. They range from tiny streams to raging rivers. Small rivers are usually the easiest to wade and fish. Locating fish and presenting baits is usually easier as well. Larger rivers are a bit more challenging. Safety becomes in issue both wading and boats. Anglers can read more about the best rainbow trout fishing lures here.

Often times, larger rivers are best fished from a boat. Anglers can position themselves much more safely and strategically to present spinners to fish. Salmon will certainly take spinners, and some of them grow quite large! Trolling can be a very effective technique to locate and catch salmon and trout in larger rivers.

salmon fishing in tailwaters

Warm water river species

Most warm water species inhabit rivers that are slower and deeper. They can have some swifter portions as well. These are low land streams and rivers that meander along. Most offer anglers the chance to catch bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass, and catfish. Rivers with a lot of bends, deeper holes, and abundant structure are the most productive.

Cool water species

river fishing lures

Cool water river are a bit of the best of both worlds. Anglers can catch walleye, smallmouth bass, pike, striped bass, and even musky in these rivers. Many are often cool enough to harbor decent populations of trout. This is particularly true in the cooler months on stocked rivers. Stocking is done to take advantage of the lower water temperatures.

Conversely, many of these waters are warm enough to also hold largemouth bass, catfish, and panfish. One great thing about fishing with spinners in rivers and streams is that just about every game fish species will take them!Anglers can read more about the best lures for small rivers and streams here.

In conclusion, this article on fishing with spinners in rivers and streams will help anglers catch more fish using these terrific and versatile lures!


Top 13 Rainbow trout fishing lures

Top 13 Rainbow trout fishing lures

This article will list Capt Jim’s top 13 rainbow trout fishing lures. Rainbow trout are arguably the most popular cold water species in North America. While many anglers fly fish for them, rainbow trout will take a wide variety of artificial lures as well.

rainbow trout fishing lures

The top 13 rainbow trout fishing lures are; Roostertail, Mepps Aglia, Panther Martin, and Blue Fox spinners; Kastmaster, Phoebe, and Krocodile spoons, X-Rap, Wee Craw, Flatfish, and Rapala plugs, and Mister Twister teeny and Gulp Alive jigs. This selection of artificial lures will catch rainbow trout in any situation that an angler may encounter.

Best trout fishing tackle

Most anglers casting artificial lures opt for spinning tackle. These outfits are affordable, durable, versatile, and easy to use. They really are the best tools for the job. Spin cast gear still has a place as well. It can be easier to manage for children and novice anglers. However, it does have it’s limitations.

Rainbow trout are caught in a wide range of environments and sizes. Therefore, it is difficult to choose one spinning outfit for every situation. Since most fish taken will be a few pounds or less, a light spinning outfit will work well for most anglers.

A 6 1/2 foot light action rod matched to a 1000 series reel is a great all-round combo. Anglers can shop for other outfits as well.

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 Light line is very important when trout fishing!

Light line is very important when it comes to fishing for rainbow trout. This is especially true in very clear water, which is where most trout will be found. 4 lb test is a good all round choice. Some stream anglers go down to 2 lb line. 6 lb line can be used in stained water. Going higher that that will really reduce strikes.

List of top rainbow trout fishing lures

The top rainbow trout lures can be broken down into four categories: spinners, spoons, jigs and plugs. All four can be both cast and trolled effectively. Most can be used to cover the entire water column. All can be used in both rivers and lakes.

Top Spinners for rainbow trout fishing

Spinners are clever artificial lures that have been around a long time. They catch a wide variety of species and rainbow trout are no exception. Spinners come in many different sizes and colors. However, they all work the same. A blade rotates around a shaft, putting out flash and vibration. There is a slender body and a hook that often comes with some type of dressing.

Spinners are very easy to use. The angler casts it out and allows it to sink to the desired depth. A sharp twitch of the rod tip with get the blade turning. Then, a slow, steady retrieve is used to bring the bait back in. This lure works well when very slowly trolled as well.

Spinners really shine when fishing for rainbow trout in streams and rivers. The current is used to keep the lure moving and the blade spinning. The best approach is to cast across the stream, 90 degrees to the current. Then, the lure is reeled in very slowly as it sweeps down stream. This technique is very effective!

rainbow trout fishing lures

Spinners come in a variety of sizes and colors. 1/16 ounce to 1/8 ounce baits work best in smaller streams and rivers. Larger baits can be used in lakes. Silver blades and light colors work best in clear water with bright sun. Copper blades and darker colors work great on cloudy days. Anglers can read more about fishing with spinners in rivers and streams here.

1) Wordens Roostertail spinner

Anglers can shop different colors and sizes from this link

The Wordens Roostertail is a terrific spinner for fishing streams and small rivers. It is Capt Jim’s favorite rainbow trout lure! Roostertails come in many different colors and sizes. It is also available with a single hook, making releases easier. They also comply to regulations requiring a single hook. This lure works best when retrieved VERY slow!

2) Mepps Aglia Spinner

The Mepps Aglia is another classic spinner that produces rainbow trout. It also comes in a very wide selection of sizes and colors. It works well in both streams and lakes. Many anglers prefer the larger sizes for trolling in lakes. Capt Jim prefers the versions with dressing on the tail.

3) Panther Martin Spinner

The Panther Martin spinner is another excellent rainbow trout fishing lure. It is a tad heavier and more compact than Roostertail and Mepps spinners. Therefore, they are a better choice in larger, deeper rivers and lakes. They will cast a long distance on light line.

4) Blue Fox spinners

Blue Fox spinners certainly have their loyal fans. Some anglers believe that it puts out a very distinct, and effective, vibration. Like the Panther Martin, it is heavier and more compact. It works best in slightly deeper or swifter water with a faster retrieve. It is a great lure for trolling deeper in lakes as well.

Best spoons for rainbow trout fishing

Spoons are one of the oldest fishing lures. They are basically a curved piece of metal with a hook. Spoons are simple, yet very effective. They work well on rainbow trout from small streams to the largest of lakes. Larger versions are used in lakes to troll for the largest trout.

top trout fishing lures

Spoons are relatively heavy and cast a long way. The best retrieve is usually a steady one with the occasional pause or twitch. Anglers should vary the retrieve until a productive pattern emerges. Spoons put out a LOT of flash and vibration. They will call fish in from a distance.

Like most lures, spoons come in different sizes and finishes. Silver and gold are the most popular, though painted versions catch trout as well. Silver is best on sunny days while gold is preferred on cloudy days. Smaller sizes work best in smaller waters while the larger spoons are a better choice in lakes and larger rivers. A swivel should be used to reduce line twist when using spoons.

5) Kastmaster spoon

The Kastmaster spoon is very compact and dense. It is quite heavy for it’s size. Kastmaster spoons are a great spoon for fishing deeper lakes from the shoreline. It works well in larger, deeper rivers as well. Finally, it produces well when trolled.

6) Acme Phoebe spoon

The Acme Phoebe spoon has been around a long time. It is a small, delicate spoon that is the ideal choice for rainbow trout fishing in smaller streams. It flutters seductively in the current and trout love it. Phoebe spoons come in gold and silver, most anglers prefer gold. Both the 1/8 ounce and 1/12 ounce sizes are effective.

7) Luhr-Jensen Krocodile spoon

The Lurhr-Jensen ¼ ounce Krocodile spoon is a terrific bait for anglers seeking larger trout. It is fairly large and heavy, offering trout a substantial meal. Krocodile spoons are best used in larger rivers and lakes. It is a terrific lure for trolling up a big rainbow trout.

Fishing for rainbow trout with plugs

Many anglers ignore plugs when it comes to fishing for rainbow trout. However, that is a mistake. As trout get larger, they begin to feed more on minnows and less on insects. They are seeking a more substantial meal. Plugs closely mimic small, wounded bait fish. They generally do not produce as many trout, but they are almost always larger.

trout lures

Most plugs float on the surface then dive down to a determined depth when retrieved. The depth it dives is a result of the size and shape of the bill. Most plugs have this information on the package, though some are “optimistic”. Plugs should match the size and color of the local forage.

Shallow diving plugs are extremely effective in rivers and streams. Tiny plugs work great in smaller streams. They are best used in the deeper sections and at the head and tail of riffles. Deeper diving plugs are used in lakes for anglers casting and trolling.

8) Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait

The Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait is a very effective lure for rainbow trout. The 06 size is a good all round bait for most streams, rivers, and lakes. The larger plugs are better for lakes. Anglers can choose the deep diving versions to either troll or cast.

9) Rebel Wee Craw

The Rebel Wee Craw is a legendary smallmouth bass lure. However, it is extremely effective for rainbow trout as well. It is especially productive in streams and rivers where crawfish are present. Most waters in the southern range of rainbow trout have crawfish in them.

10) Rapala Original Floating Minnow

The Rapala Original Floating Minnow still has it’s loyal following, and for good reason! This is an old-school bait that still catches plenty of fish. It works well in both streams and lakes and is terrific when trolled. It comes in many sizes and colors. A lot of veteran trout anglers prefer the original silver finish.

11) Flatfish

The Flatfish is another classic bait. Unlike the other plugs, this bait has a ton of built in action. It can be cast but is often trolled. One unusual technique is to simply let the plug back in the current and hold it in place. The Flatfish will vibrate in place in the current. This drives trout crazy!

Fishing for rainbow trout with jigs

Most anglers do not associate trout fishing with jigs. However, they can be effective lures for rainbow trout and tend to catch larger fish. Jigs mimic both bait fish and crustaceans. Those are the preferred forage of larger trout.

Most anglers fishing for trout with jigs use the jig and grub combination. This allows for easy changing of tails to adapt to conditions. White and chartreuse generally imitate bait fish. Darker colors such as olive and rootbeer look like crawfish.

These baits work very well when drifted along with the current in riffles. They can also be used in slower, deeper holes. Anglers fishing in lakes will catch fish as well. They can be trolled if the jig heads are heavy enough.

12) Mister Twister Teeny grub

The Mister Twister Teeny Grub is an excellent soft plastic lure for rainbow trout. It has a very life like action on the water, particularly in current. It works well in small streams on a very light jig head.

13) Gulp Alive Minnow


The Gulp Alive Minnow kind of bridges the gap between live bait and artificial lures. It is heavily scented and also has great action in the water. It is most often fished on a light jig head in a manner similar to other jigs. Rainbow trout will hold on to it longer due to the scent.

In conclusion, this article on the best 13 rainbow trout fishing lures will help anglers catch more of these very popular freshwater game fish!





Best 9 Fishing Lures for streams and Small Rivers

Best 9 Fishing Lures for streams and Small Rivers

This post lists the best 9 fishing lures for streams and small rivers. These smaller bodies of water requite a bit more finesse than do larger lakes and rivers. Smaller lures and lighter lines will produce better results. The best 9 fishing lures for streams and small rivers are the Rebel Wee Craw, Mister Twister grub, Roostertail spinner, Beetle Spin, Rapala Floating Minnow, Gulp Alive Minnow, Heddon Tiny Torpedo, Daredevil spoon, and 4” the Senko.

best 9 fishing lures for streams and small rivers

These 9 freshwater fishing lures will cover every situation that an angler fishing small rivers and streams will encounter. They will also fool just about every species including smallmouth and largemouth bass, trout, panfish, pike, walleye, and more. There are certainly many other effective baits, but these are Capt Jim’s personal, proven favorite lures.

river fishing tips

Best fishing tackle for small rivers and streams

Spinning tackle is the perfect choice for most anglers fishing these smaller waters. Conventional tackle can certainly be used, especially when casting larger baits. Spin cast is still a choice for novice and more casual anglers. However, a 6 1/2′ light spinning rod with matching 1000 reel is a very versatile outfit. It is affordable, reliable, and easy to use. Light spinning tackle is perfect for most small river applications.

It is very important to use line that is as light as possible in these smaller waters. It can’t be stressed enough how this alone will result in more success. 4 lb line is a good choice in most situations. This is especially true in low, clear water. Anglers can bump it up to 6 lb test in stained water.

Top river and stream fishing lures

In this section, Capt Jim will list his best 9 fishing lures for rivers and small streams. In most cases, he will give tips on how, where, and when to use the lures. Also, he will include the species that the lure normally catches. Let’s get started!

best river fishing lures

1) Rebel Wee Craw


The Rebel Wee Craw is the number one river and stream fishing lure. It is practically a legend! It is a small crank bait. The Wee Craw float at rest and dives down 4′ to 6′ upon retrieve. It has a terrific, erratic action that fish can not resist! It resembles a crawfish, which is arguably the top forage of river and stream game fish.

river fishing lures

As mentioned, this lure works best with a fairly aggressive, erratic retrieve. Like most lures, it is best to cast it across the stream and work it back against the current. Ideally, it bounces off of rocks and boulders on the bottom. This closely mimics a fleeing crawfish. This bait is effective in both moving and slower water. However, it really shines in the slower pools between riffles.

The list of species that this lure will fool is long. Smallmouth bass are at the top of that list. Trout, panfish, walleye, pike, pickerel, and other species will hit it as well. The bait comes in several colors. The best approach is to use lighter colors in clear water and darker finishes in stained water.

2) Mister Twister jig/grub combo

Second on Capt Jim’s list of best 9 fishing lures for streams and small rivers is the Mister Twister Grub. These baits hit the fishing scene in the late 70’s. They have been producing fish for anglers ever since! The soft plastic grub has a curly tail that puts out terrific action with very little movement. It mimics both bait fish and crustaceans.

The Mister Twister grub is usually fished on a jig head. The 2” grub fished on a 1/16 ounce jig head is an excellent all-round size for most small rivers. It will catch bass, trout, panfish, and more. It is extremely effective for river walleye. The bait is cast across the river. Anglers can swim it steadily or bounce it on the bottom.

best lures for fishing streams

Anglers can go up in size in deeper water with a more current or when pursuing larger fish. The 4” baits will take pike, bass, and even musky. White and chartreuse are excellent color choices to imitate bait fish. Rootbeer and olive are great imitations of crawfish. Pumpkin green is a great all-round freshwater color. These baits are inexpensive, versatile, and effective. One drawback is that they do snag on the bottom easily. However, they are so inexpensive that the trade off is worth the trouble.

Wordens Original Rooster tail Spinner

Anglers can shop sizes and colors from the link above.

The Rooster tail spinner is third on Capt Jim’s like of top river and stream fishing lures. However, if hard pressed to choice a single lure to use, it would probably be the Rooster tail. This lure has several advantages. It is very easy to use. Anglers simply cast it out and reel it in as slowly as possible. It comes in many sizes and colors. However, most of all, it catches everything!


The Rooster tail is far and away Capt Jim’s favorite trout lure. It catches rainbow trout, brown trout, and brook trout everywhere in the country. It also also extremely effective on warm water species such as panfish and bass. Larger versions will take pike, walleye, and musky as well.

best panfish fishing lures

Rooster tail baits are a great choice for novice anglers. It is just so simple and easy to use. Spinners are productive when cast across or even downstream and allowed to “swing” in the current. It works great in pools and in eddies behind rocks. Color is a matter of preference. However, Capt Jim likes silver blades n clear water and bronze blades in stained water or on overcast days.

4) Johnson Beetle Spin Spinnerbait


The Johnson Beetle Spin is a terrific lure for fishing small rivers and streams. It is basically an under-sized spinnerbait. This lure has several advantages. It is very easy to cast and use. The single hook makes releasing fish easy. It is relatively snag-free. Finally, it catches fish!

Best fishing lures for bluegill

The design of spinnerbaits results in very few snags. It tends to bounce and “walk” over rocks. A very slow, steady retrieve works best. This lure does not do as well in swift currents, it tends to roll. It is extremely effective on bluegill and other panfish. It also catches bass, trout, walleye, and pickerel.

North Shore smallmouth bass

These very versatile lures are great for prospecting new waters. They cast well and cover a lot of water. 1/8 ounce is a good size for anglers seeking bass, pike, walleye, and pickerel. 1/16 ounce baits work best for trout and panfish. Capt Jim favors darker colors such as black and green.

5) Rapala Ultralight Floating Minnow

The Rapala Ultra Light Floating Minnow is another classic river fishing lure. Most anglers associate it with smallmouth and largemouth bass. However, it catch many other species as well. Trout in particular will hit this bait, with it often catching larger specimens. Panfish, pike, walleye, and other species will fall for this bait as well.

best stream fishing lures

The bait floats at rest and dives a couple feet below the surface when retrieved. It has an erratic action that puts off a lot of flash and vibration. Since they work the upper water column, snags are infrequent. They do have treble hooks, so anglers need to be careful. Silver is a great color.

6) Gulp Alive Minnow

The 1” Gulp Alive Minnow comes as close to fishing with live bait as a lure can, without the hassles. These baits are heavily scented. They also have great action. These small baits are an excellent choice when the bite is tough. Post cold front conditions are a prime example.

The Gulp Minnows are usually fished on a light jig head. This is a very subtle, “finesse” type presentation. Less action is better, the current will provide enough motion and action. Trout will devour these baits, where it is legal to fish with them. They are extremely effective for panfish and small bass as well. They can be fished under a float, too.

7) Heddon Tiny Torpedo

The Heddon Tiny Torpedo is a topwater plug. It has a tapered nose and a propeller on the rear. It puts out quite a bit of noise and splash. River and stream anglers have been using it for decades effectively. For the most part, it is for bass, pike, and musky.

Manitoba smallmouth bass fishing

The bait is easy to use. Anglers cast it out and work it back in using sharp twitches with a pause in between. It is best fished in the slower sections of the river or stream. It is especially effective when fished near structure such as fallen trees and submerged boulders.

8) Eppinger Daredevil

The Eppinger Daredevil is another classic lure. It has been around for many years. Most anglers associate it with northern pike, and for good reason. It is an excellent lure for pike in rivers and streams. Red and white is still the most popular col;or pattern. It comes in various sizes. The ¼ ounce size is perfect for smaller waters.

Best fishing lures in rivers

This lure will catch other species as well. Pickerel, musky, bass, and walleye will hit it with gusto. Both a steady and erratic retrieve will produce. The Daredevil puts out a lot of flash and vibration. Anglers do need to use a swivel (and leader if pike or musky fishing) in order to prevent line twist.

9) 4″ Yamamota Senko

Last, but certainly not least, on the list of best 9 fishing lures for small rivers and streams in the 4” Yamamoto Senko. These lures are extremely popular in lakes. The smaller 4” version works great in rivers as well. Natural colors such as green and brown work best. It will catch bass and many other species.

Fishing the north shore of Minnesota

The best presentation involves very little action imparted by the angler. Free lining it on a worm hook with no weight will produce some nice fish. The bait will undulate naturally in the current. A bit of weight can be added if needed.

In conclusion, this article on the best 9 fishing lures for small rivers and streams will help anglers catch more fish!


Ice Fishing for Crappie, a Beginners Guide

Ice fishing for crappie, an Beginning Angler’s Guide to Success!

This article will focus on ice fishing for crappie. Crappie are a very popular freshwater fish. They are found throughout most of the United States. Crappie are pretty and grow fairly large for pan fish. They put up a decent fight, but the primary reason for their popularity is for their value on a dinner plate. Crappie are delicious eating!

ice fishing for crappie

There are two types of crappie, black crappie and white crappie. There are a few differences in habits and locations. However, for the purposes of this article, we will treat them both the same. Crappie are a schooling fish, once located a bunch can be caught quickly. However, this also means that there is a lot of water that is devoid of fish.

There are several similarities between ice fishing for crappie and fishing for them in open water. Vertical presentations are often used. Crappie will school up, generally relating to some type of cover or structure. The top baits are jigs and live minnows. They taste great, no matter when they are caught!

The number one factor to consider when ice fishing for crappie or any other species is safety. Safety always comes first! Unfortunately, anglers die every year from exposure to the cold and from accidents involving falling through the ice. There are simple safety measures that can be taken to ensure that this does not happen.

Best ice fishing tackle for crappie

Tackle used when ice fishing for crappie is pretty basic. The same basic outfits used for panfish and other smaller game fish will work fine when pursuing crappie. Fishing rods are generally light and between 30 inches and 36 inches long. Rods with soft tips are preferred as crappie have a very thin tissue in their mouth. Ultra light reels are attached and spooled up with line. Read more about ice fishing tackle here.

ice fishing for crappie

Four pound fluorocarbon line is a good all around choice. Anglers who prefer braided line can go with 10 pound test. However, they will need to attach a 3 foot long fluorocarbon leader to the braid. This is usually done using a swivel or snap swivel to reduce line twist and allow for easy changing of the leader.

Anglers will want to bring along a decent selection of hooks, split shot, and floats for fishing with live bait. Hook size it should range from #4 for larger crappie down to #8 when fishing smaller baits. The tackle box should also have some artificial lures. Small jigs, spoons, and plugs are the most productive.

Strategies when ice fishing for crappie

Now that we have all the gear, it is time to go fishing! Just as in open water fishing, determining the spot to fish is crucial to success. It can also be a bit daunting. Local bait shops where minnows and other tackle can be purchased are a great source of local information. Message boards and other online resources such as report sites can save anglers a lot of time. Clusters of anglers already out on the ice can signify that a school of fish has been located. It is okay to fish there, just be courteous.

crappie fishing

As stated earlier, there are actually fish migrations under the ice. Crappie will move around seeking ideal conditions as well as forage. In November and December, which is early in the season, points, weed beds, and other structure in water between 14 feet deep and 20 feet deep are good places to start.

Placing the holes

One good strategy when ice fishing for crappie is to drill 10 holes 10 feet apart. The goal is to have these holes in several different depths and over different structure. This technique makes it easy to cover a fair amount of water relatively easily. Drilling holes and finding depth of the fish is important.

Anglers can actively fish each hole or they can use a series of tip downs. Setting up tip downs will allow anglers to fish live bait and some holes while while jigging vertically in others. Normally, anglers will actively jig holes that are marking fish on the sonar unit. Tip downs set with a live minnow are placed in the holes with less activity. However, just because no fish are being marked is not mean that there are none in the area. We will discuss more about tip downs later in this article.

crappie fishing

The best times to go fishing are early and late in the day and on days with cloud cover. This is true for anglers ice fishing for crappie just as it is when open water fishing. However, they can certainly be caught in the middle of the day as well.

Ice fishing for crappie with live bait

Many anglers choose to use live bait when crappie fishing. There is very good reason for this! Many anglers feel that it is easier to catch fish on the real thing as opposed to trying to them with a piece of hardware. The top live baits for crappie fishing are minnows, wax worms, and mealworms. Often times, mealworms and waxies work best around shallow grass. Minnows generally produce better when fishing in deeper water.

The live bait can be presented in a couple different ways. The simplest rig is a hook tied right to the end of the line with a small split shot 18 inches above. This works very well with a live minnow. The minnow should be hooked in the back between the dorsal fin in the tail. Many anglers make the mistake of hooking minnows through the lips. This does not work as well when ice fishing. A floats can be used to suspend the minnow at the desired depth while also providing visual evidence of a bite.

Wax worms and mealworms are most often fished on a jig head. They can be used on a bear jig head or in conjunction with a jig and grub combination. Both can be very effective. In fact, the combination of a live bait and an artificial lure in one package can often be the key to success as it combines the taste of the bait with the flash in action of a lure.

Artificial lures produce crappie through the ice

Artificial lures will certainly produce for anglers ice fishing for crappie. The number one bait without a doubt is the jig and grub combo. This is true for anglers ice fishing just as it is for anglers open water fishing. The jig head provides a hook and weight to get the bait down. Modern ice fishing jig heads are usually made of tungsten. This is a very dense material and allows for anglers to use very light weight jigs. Jig heads can be as light as 1/64 of an ounce.

ice fishing auger

Jig heads come in several different designs. The key element is the placement of the line tie. This will determine the action of the jig and the water. The lure will be balanced differently and will react differently based on this factor. Jig heads come in many different colors and designs. Most anglers ice fishing prefer very brightly colored jig heads to help call the fish to the bait.

Grub bodies are threaded on to the jig head. This is an outstanding fish catching combination that will for just about every species of fish on the planet. Grub bodies come in many different sizes, shapes, styles, and colors. It would be impossible to cover them all here. The best approach is to get some local information and find out what baits work in a particular area. However, sometimes thinking outside the box and showing the fish something they have never seen will produce even better.

Jig fishing techniques

Crappie will readily take a jig. However, this does not mean they are easy to catch. One of the most important things is to constantly vary the presentation. Anglers should try several different colors, depths, and jigging motions. Many anglers ice fishing for crappie always tip the jig. Others wait to see how aggressive the fish are, tipping the jig if the bite is a bit slow.


Crappie almost always feed facing up, so if using a sonar unit, it is best to work the jig a foot or two above the suspended fish. The bite can be very difficult to detect in this situation. Often times, the line will simply go slack as the crappie takes the bait while swimming up. When this happens, the angler should real quickly to remove the slack in the line and gently raise the rod tip.

After initially dropping the jig down to the desired depth, angler should try a subtle, gentle twitch of the rod tip. This will make the jig dance seductively in place. If that does not produce, then raising the rod tip a foot or so and allowing the jig to fall back down should be tried. In general the best approach is to start with finesse type movements in the become a bit more aggressive, hoping to trigger a strike.

Hooking and landing crappie

Jigs will produce crappie in very shallow water, particularly over submerged weed beds. In this situation, the jigs should be fished just above the tops of the grass. Fish will dart out of the cover to inhale the jig. Tiny jigs tipped with a meal warmer wax worm work very well.

fishing for crappie

Once the crappie is hooked, the angler must keep even, steady pressure on the fish. Crappie have a very thin membrane in the side of their mouth. This will result in the hook creating and wallowing out a whole. The slightest bit of slack can result in the jig falling out. With small hooks and a soft mouth, a delicate, light touch is required. Anglers should take their time and avoid pumping the rod tip. Again, slow steady pressure works best.

Ice fishing for crappie with spoons

Spoons are excellent artificial lures for catching crappie. Especially true for anglers who are after larger fish. Spoons provide weight to get down into the water column as well as flash and vibration. They are outstanding lures to use when crappie are suspended in deeper water. They can be tipped with a piece of minnow or even a live minnow.

Ice fishing spoons come in a myriad of sizes, shapes, and finishes. Generally speaking, gold works best in low light conditions such as early, late, and on cloudy days. Silver spoons are a better choice on bright, sunny days spoons will also draw active fish from further away than will jigs. When crappie are feeding on small bait fish, spoons are incredibly effective.

Spoons are best worked in deeper water. They can be fished at any point in the water column. Anglers ice fishing for crappie are often surprised at how close to the ice these fish can be caught. However, that does not mean that anglers should ignore the bottom or lower portions of the area that is being fished.

Ice fishing plugs

The standard when it comes to ice fishing plugs is the Rapala Jigging Rap. It has been around a very long time and still catches a lot of fish to this day. This lure has the line tie in the center of the bait and a then on the tail. This results in the lure having an erratic action. It falls in a circular motion, mimicking a wounded bait fish.

The Chubby Darter is another effective ice fishing plug. It has a bit larger profile than the Jigging Rap does. Both of these plugs or any others should be worked fairly aggressively. These lures are best used when fish are aggressive and anglers are looking for quality fish over numbers.

Tips downs are great family fun

Tip downs are clever devices that hold a fishing rod stationary over a hole. They are bit similar to tip ops except that with a tip up the fishes hand lined in. With the tip down, the angler has a couple of advantages. The whole can be fished without an angler actively supervising. Also, once the fish is hooked, the fight can be enjoyed on a standard rod and reel.

ice fishing basics

These devices are readily available and quite affordable. Sullivan is widely recognized as one of the best brands available. They average around $25 apiece. While anglers can fish artificial lures, since the bait is not being actively fished, live bait works best. In most instances, anglers lower down a live minnow on a hook with a split shot.

Tip downs are great for family fishing! Kids don’t always have the longest attention spans. With tip downs, there is almost always something going on, between fish being caught and hooks being attended to. There’s nothing wrong with the kids playing on the ice or snow the and scrambling for the rod with the tip berries in the hole.

Ice fishing for crappie in shallow lakes

Crappie respond a bit differently, depending on the body of water being fished. Anglers ice fishing for crappy in shallow lakes will usually find them over submerged weed beds. In that environment, that is generally where the forage will be found. Because the weeds are on the bottom and the food is on the bottom, that is most often where the crappie will be found.

Crappie can be found in the deepest holes available in the shallow lakes. However, once the vegetation dies off the food source will be depleted and they will generally move shallow again. Healthy aquatic vegetation in shallow water will put off oxygen which will attract bait fish.

Deep lake crappie fishing

Crappie in larger, deeper waters will react a bit differently. Schools of fish will generally be found further offshore, often times suspended. While in open water, they will generally relate to some type of structure such as a creek or river channel edge, submerged islands, fallen timber, or rock pile. Having this much water can certainly make the fish more difficult to locate. A portable sonar unit is invaluable in helping to locate structure and fish.

Early in the ice fishing season, there will be plenty of oxygen in the water near the bottom. Therefore, crappie can be caught there. However, as winter lingers on in oxygen levels become lower, fish will relocate. Particularly true if there is a lot of snow on the ice which will block sunlight, resulting in vegetation loss.

These fish will generally move shallower, though that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll move in closer to the bank. Instead, they will slide up the water column. Anglers ice fishing for crappie will often find them 10 or 15 feet below the surface, even a water that is very deep. This is due to oxygen deprivation levels and forage location.

Big lakes have more structure

Larger lakes will generally have more defined structure than will shallow, weedy lakes. This type of structure includes sloping points, main river channel edges, creek tributary channels, underwater islands and reefs, rock piles, and even bridges.

In river systems and in lakes that have current and fish like rivers, anglers ice fishing for crappie will find them in areas of lower current flow. These would include coves and backwater areas away from the main current flow. Coves and tributary creeks can also be great places to fish.

In conclusion, this article on ice fishing for crappie should help novice anglers experience success catching these tasty fish through the “hard water”!

Crappie Fishing Tackle and Lures, a Complete Guide

Crappie Fishing Tackle and Lures, a Complete Guide

This article will focus on crappie fishing tackle and lures. Crappie are an extremely popular freshwater fish species. They are the largest of the “panfish” family. Crappie are taken by anglers using both live bait and artificial lures. They are beautiful, scrappy, and terrific eating. What more could an angler ask for?

crappie fishing tackle and lures

Capt Jim Klopfer runs fishing charters in Sarasota, Florida. While the bulk of his charters are in saltwater, he does run trips in area lakes and rivers. The crappie tackle and lure recommendations are his personal choices based on his almost 60 years of fishing for crappie.

Crappie fishing rods and reels

Crappie anglers have quite a choice when it comes to fishing rods and reels. Most opt for light spinning tackle. Some still prefer the time proven spincast outfits. A few anglers choose light conventional rigs. Some serious crappie addicts go for the long spider rods to troll many lines at once.

Spinning rods and reels for crappie fishing

Most anglers fishing for crappie do so using spinning tackle. This type of tackle is versatile, easy to use, and very affordable. Capt Jim still likes to cast to crappie or troll for them with a typical spinning outfit. Therefore, he prefers a light spinning rod that is 6′ to 6 1/2′ long and matched with a matching reel. This rig allows anglers to cast a very light jig as well as do some trolling.

Here is a link to a quality Daiwa outfit for under $50. Not only is it perfect for crappie fishing, it will serve anglers well for fishing for smaller bass as well as stream and small river fishing.

Spider rods and reels for crappie fishing

There is a specialized tactic for crappie fishing called “spider rigging”. This is where angler slow troll near submerged structure using several long rods. It is usually done from the bow with the rods extending out in front on the boat. However, anglers can do the same from the stern as well. These rods are long, up to 18 feet in length.

crappie tackle and lures

Varying the rod length and lure depth allows anglers to cover a lot of water in search of crappie. It also keeps the lines from tangling. Boat control is crucial! It does take some practice to master this skill. Capt Jim does not fish this way, but anglers can read more about fishing a spider rig in this link. Anglers can shop for some spider rods in the link below.

Spin Cast rods and reels for crappie fishing

Some anglers still prefer the simplicity of spincast rods and reels. Most anglers, Capt Jim included, caught their first fish using these outfits. They are a good choice for children and novice anglers. They are also fine for experienced anglers as well. Here is a link to a quality spincast outfit.

Fishing line for crappie

Anglers have several choices for fishing line when crappie fishing. These are basically monofilament, flourocarbon, and braided line. Like most things in life, all have advantages and disadvantages. 6 lb test is a good all-round size. However, anglers may drop down in clear open water or go up higher in stained water or when fishing in heavy cover.

Monofilament fishing line

For most crappie anglers, monofilament line is the best choice. It is what Capt Jim prefers. Monofilament line is inexpensive and easy to use. Knots are easy to tie as well. Monofilament line stretches, and this is a good thing when it comes to crappie! They have very soft mouths and hooks will pull easily. Capt Jim prefers Suffix fishing line.

Flourocarbon fishing line

Flourocarbon line is excellent line to use for crappie. It is nearly invisible and does have a little stretch. The main down side to this line is the cost. Anglers who only use a couple of outfits might decide that it is worth the price.

Braided fishing line

Braided line is very popular among many anglers, particularly with those chasing largemouth bass. The advantages of braided line are that it has almost no stretch, incredible sensitivity, and lasts a long time. However, the “zero stretch” aspect is not necessarily the best for crappie fishing. Anglers using braided line need soft rods and lightly set drags.

Best crappie fishing lures

Many crappie are caught by anglers using live bait. Live minnows are by far the most popular live bait for crappie. However, artificial lures are very effective as well. Most lures imitate minnows, which is the primary forage of crappie.

Sarasota trolling techniques

The main advantages to lures are that they allow anglers to cover a lot of water as well as being more convenient. Lures can be stored and do not need to be kept alive. Trolling or casting lures will also generate reflex strikes from inactive fish.

1) Blakemore Roadrunner

The Blakemore Roadrunning is Capt Jim’s go-to crappie lure. It can be cast or trolled in all portions of the water column. It can even be fished under a float. The lure consists of a jig head, tail or dressing, and a spinner blade. It really combines two of the best freshwater lures; spinners and jigs.

crappie fishing tackle and lures

While the Road Runners that come with marabou dressings are quite effective, Capt Jim prefers to add a grub tail to the bare jig head. This makes it easier to change colors and sizes. 1/16 to 1/8 ounces are the best sizes.

Productive colors vary greatly. Anglers should match the color to the water clarity being fished. Light colors work well in clear water. Darker colors are productive in stained water. Hot pink is good in muddy water. Chartreuse is a great all-round color.

2) Mister Twister curly tail grub

Mister Twister twister tail lures hit the market in the late 70’s. They have been catching a wide variety of fish species ever since! Crappie are certainly no exception. These baits have a tantalizing action in the water. The Teenie Grub is 2” long and perfect for crappie of all sizes.

Sarasota freshwater fishing

The Mister Twister grub is most often fished on a jig head. The jig head provides weight for casting and depth control along with a hook. It also results in the action for which the “jig” gets it’s name. 1/16 ounce is a good all-round jig head size. Colors vary, but the same rules regarding water clarity apply. Once again, chartreuse is a terrific choice for most applications.

Sarasota crappie fishing

The Mister Twister grub/jig head combo can also be added to a spinnerbait. This is an excellent bait for larger crappie. It will catch other panfish species as well as bass.

3) Johnson Beetlespin

Number three on Capt Jim’s list of the top artificial lures for crappie in the Johnson Beetlespin. This is a simple, yet highly effective lure for crappie and other species. It is basically an undersized spinnnerbait with a small grub on the business end. 1/16 is the best size for crappie, but anglers going after larger fish can bump up to the 1/8 ounce size.

Sarasota crappie fishing

The best aspect of the Beetlespin is the simplicity. These baits are very easy to use! Anglers simply cast it out, allow it to sink, and use a slow, steady retrieve to bring it back in. The same approach applies to trolling; the slower the better, as long as the blades are turning.

Capt Jim does like darker colors such as black and green when using the Beetlespin for crappie. As with most crappie lures, these baits will catch just about every freshwater species, particularly bluegill.

4) Gulp Alive Minnow

The Gulp Alive Minnow in the 1” size is a terrific bait that combines fishing with both artificial lures and live bait. It can basically be substituted in any situation where live minnows are used. They have a great scent that will attract crappie to them.

tackle and lures for crappie fishing

The Gulp Minnow is generally used on a jig head. It can be fished with or without a float. Anglers also use them on bottom rigs and drop shot rigs. They have the advantage of fishing with live bait without the inconvenience. Gulp baits are a good choice when crappie are located and a bit fussy.

5) Rapala Floating Minnow

Plugs will certainly catch crappie, and in many cases larger specimens. Minnows are the number one forage for crappie. The Rapala Ultralight Minnow closely mimics a wounded bait fish. It has an erratic action that puts out both flash and vibration. It can be cast out and retrieved and is also productive when trolled.

best crappie lures

For the most part, these lures are best used in shallow water. The lure floats at rest then dives down a few feet. This means that shallow weed beds and other flats are most productive. Spring and fall are usually the best times of year to fish this bait.

6) Roostertail Spinner

The Roostertail is a very good lure for catching crappie. It is very well known for fooling trout and is a bit underrated for crappie. It works very well in water 6 feet deep or less. Roostertail lures are an excellent choice when crappie are scattered out over large flats. One “problem” with these spinners is that they catch so many different species that anglers will be spending time catching bluegill, bass, and other species.

Crappie fishing tackle

Roostertail lures are very easy to use. Like most freshwater baits with spinners, they work best when reeled back in using a slow, steady retrieve. Anglers can vary the depth fished by changing the sink time allowed. These lures can be trolled, but anglers must go very slowly.

7) Rattletrap Tiny Trap

Anglers searching for big crappie and who enjoy “power fishing” will love fishing the Tiny Trap. This is a small version on the venerable Rattletrap. These are in the family of artificial fishing lures known as “lipless crankbaits”. They do not have a lip. Therefore, they do not dive down. Instead, they slowly sink and vibrate intensely when reeled back in.

Anglers can both cast and troll the tiny trap. This lure does work better with a fairly fast retrieve, as opposed to most bladed baits. A steady retrieve is usually used, but anglers can mix it up with pauses and twitches. It is a great “locator” bait that allows anglers to cover a lot of water when crappie fishing.

Miscellaneous crappie gear

One nice aspect of crappie fishing is that a lot of extra gear is not necessarily required. For the most part, this is fairly basic fishing. The exception might be the anglers who get really into using spider rigs. Otherwise, it is just fairly light tackle, a handful of lures, a bit of tackle, and a couple extras.

Anglers who fish with live bait will obviously need some hooks. Fine wire hooks from size #2 down to size #6 will cover most crappie fishing situations. Anglers who mostly fish with lures can simply use a plane jig head to put a live minnow on if they like. A selection of split shot and sinkers along with some bobbers will also be required. A landing net is always a good idea, especially for fish like crappie with their soft mouths. Finally, anglers who fish with live minnows will need a bucket with a portable aerator.

Crappie fishing tips

It is often said that crappie are easy to catch but hard to find. For the most part, this statement has some truth to it. Crappie are not the most challenging of game fish to catch, once located. There are certainly days where they suspend and post front fish can be difficult to catch. However, the true challenge in crappie fishing is finding them.

Crappie are almost always found in schools, or at the very least scattered bunches. In deeper water, they will school up on some type of depth change. This is particularly true if cover is present. In man-made reservoirs, submerged channel edges of the original River are prime spots. Sloping points are another good place to look for crappie. Submerged timber or other types of structure will greatly enhance the chance of fish holding in these locations.

Shallow water crappie fishing

Crappie are found in fairly deep water for most of the year. The exception to this is in the spring when they move in close to the bank to spawn. For many anglers, this is the prime time to pursue these tasty freshwater pan fish. In many lakes, just about any brush pile and 328 foot of water will have crappie holding on them in the spring time.

This is a great time of year to use light spinning tackle and cast artificial lures. Since crappie are scattered about but highly aggressive, this is a fun and productive technique. All of the artificial lures listed above will catch crappie in the spring time. Many anglers fill their freezers this time of year and ignore crappie fishing in the other three seasons. This can be a mistake!

Deep water crappie fishing

Crappie are a bit more difficult to locate and catch when they school up in deeper water. However, anglers who put in the time to learn the patterns that crappie use in the summer, fall, and winter can experience some outstanding days. Anglers who do find crappie in deep water schools can experience nonstop action!

For the most part, vertical presentations work best when fishing for crappie in deeper water. This is a very efficient technique that keeps the bait or lure in the strike zone for the entire time. Jigs and live minnows are generally the most productive baits to use when fishing for crappie in this situation.

Trolling for crappie

Trolling is another excellent technique that anglers can use to locate crappie. Once again, lures that get down deep in the water column such as jigs, Road Runners, and Bettlespins are generally the best choice. Crank baits that will get down close to the water level being fished can work well, too.

One new method that has come about in recent years is spider rigging. In this method, anglers use several rods of varying lengths to thoroughly cover a wide swath as the angler trolls. Using varying length rods and different depths, anglers can quickly locate the depth that which crappie are feeding that day. Is a bit complicated regarding equipment. However, once mastered, it will put a lot a fish in the boat.

Crappie can be caught through the ice as well. These fish not only tolerate cold water, they feed and thrive in it. The same spots that produce in summer are often the best fishing spots for crappie he under the ice as well. Since a vertical presentation is really the only option, jigs and live minnows are the top baits to use.

Channel edges and deep water points are prime ice fishing spots for crappie. Anglers should drill multiple holes at several different depths and locations in order to quickly locate a school of fish. Once found, anglers can concentrate on that area. It is important to follow safety measures and make sure there’s plenty of ice before going out.

In conclusion, this article on crappie fishing and tackle should help anglers catch more of these very popular freshwater pan fish!



Best 7 Fishing Lures for Redfish

Best 7 Fishing Lures for Redfish

In this article, Capt Jim shares his Best 7 fishing lures for redfish. Redfish, or red drum, are a very popular inshore game fish from Texas to the mid Atlantic. There are many different redfish fishing lures on the market. Shopping for them can be intimidating. However, there are really only a handful of baits that anglers will need in their tackle boxes to catch redfish.

Best 6 fishing lures for redfish

The best 7 redfish lures are: gold Johnson spoon, Bass Assassin Sea Shad, Rapala X-Rap, Redfish Magic spinnerbait, Gulp baits, Rapala Skitterwalk, and the DOA Deadly Combo. These seven artificial lures will catch redfish in any fishing situation.

Best fishing tackle for redfish

Most anglers opt for spinning tackle when casting artificial lures for redfish. Spinning tackle is versatile, affordable, and effective. Lighter lures are much easier to cast with spinning tackle as well. The same inshore saltwater tackle that is used for speckled trout and other species will be fine for redfish, too. A 7 foot medium action rod matched with a 3000 series real and spooled up with 10 to 15 pound monofilament line or 20 pound braided line is a great all round combo.

fishing for redfish

However, conventional casting tackle certainly has its place when fishing for redfish as well. This is particularly true in the upper Gulf Coast where the largest redfish in the country are caught. These bull reds will put even stout conventional tackle to the test. Also, in most instances, anglers are casting fairly heavy lures in search of these larger fish. A medium action conventional outfit spooled up with 20 pound line works very well.

Most saltwater anglers already own a suitable rod and reel combination. However, for those that don’t, the links below will allow anglers to shop. Capt. Jim likes the Conflict spinning combination in the Lew’s conventional outfit.

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Redfish habitat and lure selection

Redfish are often found in a wide variety of habitats. Many anglers picture fishing for them in very shallow water. This type of fishing in skinny water is both challenging and rewarding. Redfish are also found under docks and around structure. Inlets and passes will also hold redfish at certain times of the year. Reds can even be found schooling in the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.

fishing for bull redfish

Many of the redfish lures are tailored to catch them in shallow water. They are designed with a single hook that rides up, reducing snags. Other lures, particularly jigs, will fool redfish in deeper water. It is important when choosing a lure to pick one that suits the water in which anglers will be pursuing redfish. Depth, cover, structure, and current are just a few of the factors that will affect lure choice.

1) Gold Johnson Silver Minnow

It would be hard to argue against the venerable gold Johnson Silver minnow spoon as the top redfish artificial lure of all time. To this day, gold weedless spoons produce many redfish. They are terrific search baits. Spoons can be cast a long distance. This allows anglers to cover a lot of water in search of fish.

redfish lures

Like many productive saltwater fishing lures, the Johnson Silver minnow spoon started out as a largemouth bass lure. While it does come in silver and other finishes, gold is the more productive color for redfish. The spoon is relatively weedless as it rides hook up and also has a weed guard. Spoons have an enticing wiggle and put out a lot a flash and vibration. They can be fished in water as shallow as a foot deep effectively.

The technique when fishing with weedless spoons is fairly simple. Anglers make a long cast and reel the spoon back in using a slow, steady retrieve. It is extremely effective when used overlarge expansive shallow grass flats. The Johnson Silver Minnow can also be used along oyster bars and shorelines. The 1/2 ounce size is most popular.

2) Bass Assassin Sea Shad

Second on the list of Capt. Jim’s best seven fishing lures for redfish is the 4 inch Bass Assassin Sea Shad soft plastic swim bait. These types of lures have been around for a long time. They are still very effective for catching a wide variety of fish species, and redfish are no exception.

redfish lures

These soft plastic swim baits are simple, economical, and very effective. The bait is 4 inches long and has a shad style tail which produces a lot a vibration and a natural swimming action. Bass Assassin offers a myriad of color options for anglers to choose from. Lighter colors work well in clear water while darker colors perform best in stained water. Hot pink and chartreuse work best when the water is muddy.

Anglers have several choices when it comes to reading these baits. Most often, a jig head is used. The jig head provides both weight and hook. The lure rides with the hookup, making it relatively weedless. However, the jig had will pick up grass. Special shallow water jig heads have a tapered head which helps reduce this. Anglers can also rig this bait on a weighted swim bait hook.

fishing for edfish and speckled trout

One of the keys to this baits effectiveness is its versatility. The bait can be rigged on a very light jig head and fish and extremely shallow water. Anglers will swim it over the grass than allow it to sink down into potholes. It can also be bounced down the edges of oyster bars. When used with a heavier jig head, this lore can be used when redfish are found in deeper water such as and inlets and passes.

3) Rapala X-Rap

Number three on the list of best redfish lures that Capt. Jim likes is the Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait. This is a shallow diving jerk bait that is very effective on redfish as well as other species. The bait floats at rest that dives down several feet upon retrieve. The best retrieve is usually an erratic one with a pause in between. The bait has a lot of flash and vibration.

redfish fishing lures

X-Raps are available in several sizes and multiple colors. In the waters of Sarasota were Capt. Jim fishes, the #* X-Rap is often the best choice. It realistically mimics the smaller forage such as finger mullet, glass minnows, and sardines that are available. Olive is a great all round color with white being his second choice. Gold works great in rivers and tannin stained waters.

As in all fishing applications, anglers should match the size and color of the bait to the locally available forage. If redfish are feeding on larger pogies, pin fish, mullet, and grunts, stepping up to the #10 X-Rap is probably a good decision. Again, lighter colors in clear water and darker colors in dark water is a good rule of thumb.

best fishing lures for redfish

4) Redfish Magic Spinnerbait

The strike King Redfish Magic spinner bait is number four on Capt. Jim’s list of the best seven fishing lures for redfish. Once again, this is basically a converted largemouth bass fishing lure. Spinner baits are really a combination of two very effective baits; a jig and a spinner. The lure has a wire frame with a jig and grub combination at the bottom and a flashing spinner blade at the top.

beginners kayak fishing

Like the spoon, this is an excellent search bait that allows anglers to cover a lot of water. The best approach is usually to cast it out, allow it to sink a second or two, then reel it back in using a slow, steady retrieve. This bait puts out a ton of vibration and is an excellent choice when the water is murky. It is also an excellent lure for novice anglers to use as it has a lot of built in action.

This bait really shines in conditions of limited visibility regarding water clarity. The Redfish Magic spinner bait puts out a lot a vibration and flash. This will help fish locate the bait when visibility is poor. The swim bait tail can be easily replaced when anglers want to make a change in color. Gold is the preferred blade finish.

5) Gulp! Baits

The Gulp! line of baits made by Berkeley work extremely well for anglers fishing for redfish. Soft plastic baits have been scented for many years. However, these are a whole step above that. The lure is actually manufactured from scented material. On days when the bite is tough, this added advantage of the scent can make a huge difference.

Texas redfish

The two Gulp! baits that Capt. Jim likes to use are the 3 inch Gulp! Shrimp in the 5 inch Gulp! Jerk Shad. Both will fool redfish as well as just about every other saltwater species. The Gulp! Shrimp works best on a jig head and water depth from 2 feet and deeper. The jig had is matched to the depth and current. White with a chartreuse tail and new penny are his favorite colors.

The Gulp! 5 inch Jerk Shad is a tremendous bait in shallow water. It can be rigged with a very light jig head. However, it really shines when rigged up weedless on a light swim bait hook. These are specially designed hooks that have a weight near the bend of the hook. This allows for the lure to be presented and a horizontal manner. This rig can be worked through the shallowest of grass effectively without hanging up.

6) Rapala Skitter walk

The Rapala Skitterwalk is six on Capt. Jim’s list of the best seven fishing lures for redfish. Redfish have an inferior mouth. This means that the nose of the fish protrudes forward with the mouth being behind and underneath. However this does not prohibit redfish from taking a top water plug!

fishing with lures for redfish

Since redfish are often times found in very shallow water, top water baits are often a logical choice to use. These baits will ride over top of submerge grass and not get hung up. They will also call fish up to the surface. The Skitterwalk is a “walk the dog bait”. This means that it does not have a lot of built in action, the angler must provide.

The lure is cast out and allowed to set motionless for several moments. With the rod tip held low near the surface of the water, the bait is retrieved back in while the rod tip is twitched. When the proper rhythm is found, the lure will dance seductively from left to right on the surface. It is important to wait until the weight of the fishes fell before setting the hook. Otherwise, most fish will be missed and the plug will come flying back to the boat.

7) D.O.A. Deadly Combo

Last, but certainly not least, on the list of top redfish lures is the DOA deadly combo. This is really a system that consists of a noisy cork, a short leader, and then and artificial shrimp. This is a very productive bait, particularly in stained or muddy water. It is also a great choice for novice anglers as it is fairly easy to use.

best redfish lures

The idea of the bait is fairly simple. The noisy float is twitched sharply, causing it to pop and rattle. This simulates feeding fish. This will attract game fish in the area to the sound of the cork. Once there, they will see the shrimp dangling underneath and devour it. It really does work quite well! It really is just and artificial lore version of the venerable popping cork and live shrimp combination, which has been catching fish for many decades.

This is a great lure choice for children. The more they jerk and clack and make noise, often times the better it works. The bite is also visual as when a fish takes the court just disappears. For these reasons, this makes the DOA deadly combo a good lower for both kids and novice anglers. It will catch plenty of speckled trout as well.

In conclusion, this article on the best 7 fishing lures for redfish will help simplify the lures and techniques for catching reds!




Ice Fishing Tackle and Gear

Ice Fishing Tackle and Gear

In this article we will thoroughly cover ice fishing tackle and gear. Just as in open water fishing, and really any other hobby or sport, some specialized equipment is required. Rods, reels, hooks, and lures are just the beginning. Ice fishing anglers will also need augers, proper clothing, and other equipment. They might even spring for extravagant items such as portable shelters and fish finders.

ice fishing tackle and gear

Safety is the number one factor when it comes to ice fishing! It should always be the first consideration when planning a trip. While many anglers do consider ice thickness, exposure to the cold is also a serious consideration to take into account. There are a few basic things that every angler should do before an ice fishing trip. Most serious ice fishing anglers are advised to invest in a floatable suit for safety.

Ice thickness and ice fishing safety

Ice thickness is of prime consideration. This is particularly true early and late in the season. Regions that experience extreme winters will usually have plenty of ice in mid winter. Anglers can access ice fishing reports both online and from local shops to get an idea of current conditions.

Fortunately, anglers can easily check the ice thickness once they have arrived at their favorite lake. The easiest thing to do is to simply drill a hole. The angler can then measure the thickness of the ice to determine if it is safe enough to fish. A good rule of thumb is that the ice should be a minimum of 4 inches to walk on and at least 12 inches to drive on.

Protection from the elements

One thing that has certainly changed over the years is the quality and affordability of outdoor apparel. Thermal undergarments, boots, socks, hats, gloves, and coats are easily obtained at reasonable prices. For the most part, this gear is lighter and less cumbersome than it used to be. Properly outfitted, an angler can fish in comfort for many hours, despite the conditions.

ice fishing gear

Portable, pop up ice houses are a game changer! These reasonably affordable devices really increase the comfort level for anglers when ice fishing. This may encourage children and less enthusiastic anglers to give ice fishing a try as they will be able to fish in comfort. A secondary benefit of these portable ice houses is that they block out glare from the sun. This allows anglers to see very well down into the water.

Drilling ice fishing holes

One aspect of ice fishing that is probably the most obvious difference from open water fishing is that anglers need to drill a hole in order to wet a line. Once again, modern technology has changed this drastically from bygone years. Most anglers ice fishing learn early on that a gas or battery-powered ice auger is the way to go. These modern devices make drilling multiple holes a quick and easy job. Manual augers are still available for anglers that desire them.

Ice fishing rods and reels

Most anglers ice fishing do use rods and reels. However, for the most part, the main difference is the length of the rod. Shorter rods are almost always used. It is just easier to fish the closer to the hole and angler can stand. Since casting is not required, the length advantage is negated.

ice fishing tackle and gear

The vast majority of anglers ice fishing use ultra light spinning tackle. Some still do use spin cast reels. Very light line is required as the cold water is quite clear and fish will not bite if the presentation does not look natural. Fortunately, anglers do not need to spend a lot of money on these rod and reel outfits. Quality combinations can be purchased for $50 or less.

Ultra light panfish outfit, good for panfish, yellow perch, bluegill, and small trout.

Medium outfit for walleye, bass, larger trout, pickerel, small pike, and whitefish.

Heavy outfit for larger pike and lake trout.

Ice fishing line

Line is not the place to try and save a little money! The cold water is almost always extremely clear. Light, thin lines that are nearly invisible will draw more strikes. Most anglers fish with 2 lb line for panfish and 4-6 lb line for larger species. Anglers will notice a reduction in strikes when going up any higher than that for anything other than larger pike, musky, lake trout, etc.

Line manufacturers make line that is specifically designed for ice fishing. Both monofilament and flourocarbon lines are popular. Suffix has a nice selection of ice fishing lines, as does many other manufacturers. These lines are designed to produce fish and work well in the clear, cold water. They are worth the little extra cost.

Ice fishing lures

The most popular ice fishing lure by far is the jig. Since casting and retrieving is not an option, the only presentation anglers can make is a vertical one. Jigs are perfect for this application! A jig can be lowered down to any desired depth and worked in an enticing manner. Live bait can also be used in conjunction with jigs, which will discuss and a bit.

ice fishing tackle

Jigs come in many different sizes, shapes, and colors. Basically, they all work the same. A jig is a hook with a weight molded on the shank near the eye. The weight not only allows the jig to sink, it also gives it that erratic action for which it is named.

Ice fishing jigs

Jigs can come with some type of natural or synthetic dressing such as buck tail. Probably more popular is the jig and grub combination. With this rig, jig heads are used in conjunction with soft plastic grub bodies. This allows anglers to quickly and easily change the size and color of the tail.

Ice fishing anglers have a wide variety of choices when it comes to choosing jigs.The selection is endless! However, most are very similar. In general, brightly colored jig heads are preferred. Hooks are usually small and delicate. Anglers can use jigs as light as 1/64 ounce for panfish, crappie, and small trout. Larger jigs are used for larger game fish. Local tackle shops are a great resource for anglers they will have a good selection of the most productive jigs for the area.

Grub bodies also come in a myriad of sizes, shapes, and colors. Most do the same job and it just becomes a matter of angler preference. Again, bright colors are quite productive. Tails can mimic minnows while many really don’t look like anything in the water. As long as they undulate seductively in the water, they will catch fish!

Other ice fishing lures 

While jigs are the most commonly used artificial lure for ice fishing, there are others that are productive and should be in the tackle box of every angler ice fishing. These mostly include hard body plugs and spoons. These lures are obviously still worked using a vertical presentation. They are extremely productive on a variety of game fish, particularly larger species. Spoons can be tipped with a live grub or worm as well.

Ice fishing plugs

The venerable Rapala Jigging Rap is an ice fishing plug that has been around many decades. It is revered by some old-school ice fishing anglers and still produces fish to this day. The best situation to use this lure is when anglers are looking for bass, pike, and walleye. The lure is obviously fished vertically and has a unique circular swimming motion. The Chubby Darter is another very popular ice fishing plug.

Lipless crankbaits are also used by anglers ice fishing. While not designed for ice fishing, the mid plug tie results in a lure that can be used in a vertical presentation. Rapala Ripping Rap, Bill Norman Rattletrap, and Live Target Golden Shiner are examples of these baits. Generally speaking, the smallest sizes are best for ice fishing.

Ice fishing spoons

Spoons are another productive ice fishing lure. They are a natural for ice fishing as they are often used in a vertical presentation. Spoons are available in many sizes and finishes. The spoon is basically lowered down and worked with short jerks. Most strikes occur as the spoon flutters down. They really mimic a wounded bait fish. Spoons will catch just about every freshwater species and they are easy to use!

There are many different ice fishing spoons available to anglers. These include the Leech Flutter spoon, Acme Kastmaster spoon, VMC Rattle spoon, and the Sweedish Pimple. There are many more spoons and when fished correctly, all will catch fish.

Ice fishing with live bait

Many anglers ice fishing choose to use live bait. It is an extremely effective technique that certainly produces a lot of fish through the ice. Top live baits include wax worms, mealworms, nightcrawlers, minnows, and leeches.

Tackle requirement for anglers ice fishing with live bait are pretty basic. Most anglers who fish in freshwater already have most of what is required. Hooks in sizes 14 to 4 in the baitholder style will cover most angling situations. Split shot in several sizes will be needed as well. Many anglers bypass this and simply use a jig head, the weight and hook are combined in one tidy unit. Floats can be used to suspend the bait at a desired level

Fish finders for ice fishing

Portable fish finders that are specifically designed for ice fishing are another piece of gear that will produce more fish. There can be a little learning curve, but once the skill of reading the unit is mastered, angling success will skyrocket! Anglers have a wide selection of fish finders to choose from. Many prefer the old school “flasher” units. Other like the more modern “graph” style. Regardless of the choice, these units will definitely help anglers put more fish on the ice!

Ice fishing with tip downs and tip ups

Tip downs are often used by anglers when ice fishing. These are devices that allow a rod or line to be fished unattended. When a fish bites, the weight of a fish pulling causes the device to pivot. Often times the rod moves downward where the tip is in the hole of the ice is used to signal a bite. This allows anglers to fish quite a few holes at one time. It is great fun when several go off it wants and everyone scurries around to get the fish!

Tip ups are similar to tip downs. They are devices that allow anglers to fish a hole unattended. However, they do not require a rod and reel, those are built into the unit. When a fish bites, a flag pops up and anglers scramble to get to it and bring the fish in.

Miscellaneous ice fishing gear

A few final pieces of gear are required for anglers fishing through the ice. A skimmer looks a bit like a spoon on the edge of a stick. It is used to clear ice chips out of the hole. Otherwise, the normal fish and supplies such as tackle boxes and pliers will also be needed. One last thing, do not forget the thermos with coffee or soup!

In conclusion, this article on ice fishing tackle and gear should help anglers understand and acquire the tackle and equipment needed to get started in the fun sport of ice fishing!


Top 9 Speckled trout fishing lures

Top 9 Speckled Trout Fishing Lures

This post will list the Capt. Jim Klopfer’s top 9 speckled trout fishing lures. Speckled trout, or spotted sea trout, are arguably the most popular inshore saltwater game fish species. They are widely distributed, being in coastal waters from Texas to the mid Atlantic. Speckled trout are an aggressive fish that will readily hit artificial lures.

Sarasota speckled trout fishing

The top nine speckled trout fishing lures are the Bass Assassin Sea Shad, Gulp Shrimp, Rapala X-Rap, MirrOlure MirrOdine, Johnson Sprite spoon, 52M series MirrOlure, Gulp Jerk Shad, Rapala Skitterprop, and the Clouser Minnow fly. This selection of artificial baits will cover most speckled trout fishing applications.

Speckled trout fishing tackle

Both spinning and conventional tackle can be used for anglers speckled trout fishing. However, most opt for spinning tackle. Lighter lures are easier to cast and spinning tackle in general is more versatile. Anglers can click on the link below to purchase a good outfit for those in the market for new equipment.

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1) Bass Assassin 4″ Sea Shad Baits

There is no doubt that the number one speckled trout fishing lure is the jig and grub combo. This is a simple yet extremely effective artificial bait for a wide variety of species. It consists of a lead head jig with some type of soft plastic grub body. Jig head weight is determined by the depth of water being fished. One quarter ounce is a good all-around size.

top 8 Sarasota fish species

Grub bodies come in a myriad of shapes, colors, and styles. Most imitate either a bait fish or a crustacean. Most strikes are elicited as the lure is falling. The vibration and action of the tail simulate a wounded bait fish, shrimp, or crab. One great feature of the jig and grub combo is that the plastic tail can be quickly and easily changed. This is very convenient and allows anglers to adapt to ever-changing fishing conditions.

Capt. Jim’s favorite soft plastic bait is the Bass Assassin Sea Shad. He primarily uses the 4 inch size. These baits are available in many different color patterns. The Shad style tail gives it an excellent swimming action and good vibration. It is a fairly easy lore for even novice anglers to use to catch fish. Glow/chartreuse, New Penny, and Red/Gold Shiner are his favorite colors.

2) 3″ Gulp Shrimp

The Gulp line of baits have revolutionized fishing with soft plastic lures. They really do bridge the gap between live and artificial baits. Soft plastic lures have been scented for decades. However, the gulp baits are different. The lure bodies are actually made from the scented material as opposed to the said just being added.

Best Speckled trout fishing lures

Capt. Jim’s favorite Gulp bait is the 3 inch Gulp Shrimp in the white/chartreuse color pattern. This lure stands out very well against dark grassy bottom. It is almost always fished on a jig head, similar to other soft plastic baits.

Sarasota anglers

One very effective way to fish the Gulp Shrimp is to rig it under a noisy popping cork. These floats are very popular in areas where the water is a little bit murkier. These corks make a lot of noise and rattle when twitched sharply. This attracts fish from a long distance. The gulp shrimp is rigged on a 1/8 ounce jig head 2 feet to 3 feet under the float.

3) #8 Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait

Number three on Capt. Jim’s list of top speckled trout fishing lures in the #8 Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait. These lures are about 3 1/2 inches long and closely mimic in size and shape the bait fish that speckled trout feed on. These include sardines, finger mullet, pin fish and grunts, and glass minnows. Olive and ghost (white) are his favorite color patterns.

plug fishing Sarasota

This bait floats at rest that dives down to to 3 feet upon retrieve. This makes it an excellent choice when speckled trout are feeding on bait fish in fairly shallow water. This can be both oyster bars and shallow grass flats. On high tide stages schools of bait fish can often be seen peppered up on the surface. This is a prime situation to cast the X-Rap out in search of a large speckled trout.

The X-Rap is also a fantastic bait to use when trolling. This is an excellent technique to use when speckled trout are scattered over a large area. Simply idling along with the bait out 100 feet behind the boat will produce speckled trout and other species. Once fish are located, anglers can work the area more thoroughly.

4) Mirrolure Mirrodine

The MirrOlure Mirrodine is a very simple looking lure. However, it is extremely effective for speckled trout and other species. This is a suspending bait. That means that after being cast out it will slowly sink down in the water column. When the bait reaches the desired depth, it is worked with a twitch and pause retrieve. The bait will suspend motionless in the strike zone. Speckled trout fineness irresistible and will strike with abandon!

fishing charters Siesta Key

This bait closely imitates a scaled sardine, thus the name. However, it is also similar in profile to pin fish, grunts, threadfin herring, and other bait fish. Capt. Jim prefers the 17MR-18 Mirrodine, which is silver with and olive back. This lure works terrific whence speckled trout are found in water between 3 feet deep and 5 feet deep.

5) Gold Johnson Sprite Spoon

The gold Johnson Sprite spoon is number five on Capt. Jim’s list of top speckled trout fishing lures. Spoons have been around a long time and continue to catch fish to this day. The Sprite spoon is an open water spoon. The primary difference is that it comes with one trouble hook as opposed to a single hook with a weed guard.

Spoons are very effective artificial lures for a variety of reasons. They can be cast a long way which allows anglers to cover a lot of water. Spoons are used to cover the entire water column. They have excellent flash and vibration as well. Finally, they are very easy lures for novice and inexperienced anglers to use. The spoon is available in silver as well. However Capt. Jim prefers gold for speckled trout fishing.

Top saltwater species in Florida

The bait is simply cast out, allowed to sink several seconds, then worked back in using an erratic retrieve. The entire water column can be fished by varying the time with which the lure is allowed to sink. The spoons can also be trolled effectively. Anglers should always use a swivel or snap swivel when fishing with a spoon to reduce line twist.

6) MirrOlure 52m series plugs

The 52M series MirrOlure has been a productive speckled trout fishing lure for a very long time. It is similar to the MirroDine and that it is a suspending bait. However, it has a larger profile and is designed more to imitate pin fish, grunts, and larger forage. This is an excellent bait for fishing the open grass flats and 4 feet of water to 8 feet of water.

Top Florida saltwater game fish

Capt. Jim prefers the 19 color pattern. This pattern has a green back and gold sides. It is an excellent combination for speckled trout fishing in a variety of watercolor conditions. If the water is very stained, anglers can switch to the CH or chartreuse color pattern which will stand out better in the dirty water.

This bait is fairly easy to use. It can be easily cast a long distance. The lure is allowed to sink a few seconds then worked back in with a hard twitch and a significant pause in between. Most strikes will occur as the bait pauses and sits there motionless. This mimics a wounded bait fish and will draw strikes from game fish.

7) 5″ Gulp Jerk Shad

The 5 inch jerk Shad is next on the list of Capt. Jim’s favorite speckled trout fishing lures. There are times when speckled trout want a larger soft plastic bait, and this one fills the bill. Like other gulp products, it has the advantage of being scented. Capt. Jim likes white, but just about any color will catch speckled trout when properly presented.

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The jerk Shad is a versatile artificial bait. It can be rigged weedless on an unweighted swim bait hook and work extremely shallow through grass and over oyster bars. It can be used on a weighted swim bait hook as well. Anglers can then swim the lure slowly through fairly shallow grass. Finally, it can be rigged on a 1/4 ounce jig head and fished over deeper grass or in deeper channels.

8) Rapala Skitter prop

The list of top speckled trout fishing lures would not be complete without a surfaced plug. Speckled trout are known for their affinity to attack a top water bait. This is especially true early and late in the day in shallow water. Some of the largest speckled trout taken have fallen prey to this angling technique.

There are many fine top water plugs available. Capt. Jim prefers the Rapala Skitter prop for a couple of reasons. This bait has a propeller on the rear. When twitched, it puts out just the right amount of splash and noise. These baits have more built in action then do the classic “walk the dog”style baits. This makes them easier to use for novice anglers, which is important for a fishing charter boat captain.

There are couple tips which will help anglers be more successful when fishing this bait. Many anglers fish top water plugs to quickly. With the bait such as the Skitter prop, it is important to let it set few moments between twitches. Also, it is very important to wait until the weight of the fish is felt before setting the hook. Understandably, many anglers get excited when they see a fish blowup on the plug and jerk it out of the mouth of the fish.

9) Clouser Deep Minnow fly

The last bait on Capt. Jim’s list of favorite speckled trout fishing lures is actually a fly: the clouds or deep minnow. Fly fishing for speckled trout is both enjoyable and productive. The clouds or minnow closely resembles small bait fish that are found on the flats were speckled trout feed.

fly fishing in Florida

This fly consists of a hook, weighted eyes, and some type of dressing. The dressing can be synthetic care or bucktail. If this kind of sounds familiar, it is. In reality, it is just a version of a buck tail jig. It fall slowly through the water column that is retrieved back in using quick strips with a pause in between. It is most effective when used in water 6 feet deep or shallower.

In conclusion, this post on the top nine speckled trout fishing lures will help anglers catch more of these popular and beautiful inshore saltwater species!

Top 6 Spanish mackerel fishing lures

Top 6 Spanish mackerel fishing lures

This post will list Capt Jim’s Top 6 Spanish mackerel fishing lures. Capt Jim has been running Sarasota fishing charters since 1991. He loves chasing Spanish mackerel and considers them an underrated game fish. They fight hard, attack lures and flies with reckless abandon, are beautiful, and are excellent table fare when prepared fresh. Spanish mackerel are found all along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Spanish mackerel fishing in Florida

Capt Jim’s best 6 Spanish mackerel fishing lures are the #8 Rapala X-Rap, Crocodile casting spoon, Clark trolling spoon, Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits, Gotcha lures, and Diamond jigs. Spanish mackerel are aggressive feeders. They feed in clear water and use their razor sharp teeth to kill or wound prey. Then, they come back through and clean up the scraps. This makes flashy, fast moving lures the best choice when pursuing Spanish mackerel. Anglers can read more about Spanish mackerel fishing in this link.

Spanish mackerel fishing tackle

The best choice for most anglers fishing for Spanish mackerel is a 61/2 foot to 7 foot spinning outfit. Often times fairly long casts are required. 10lb monofilament or braided line works well. The good news is that most anglers who fish inshore salt waters throughout the country already own suitable equipment. Capt Jim likes the Penn Conflict gear. Anglers can click on the link below to shop,

2500 Penn Conflict/Offshore Angler Inshore Extreme Spinning outfit

Light conventional tackle is better suited for anglers who like to troll for Spanish mackerel. Conventional tackle handles the strain of planers and larger plugs. Anglers can spool these outfits up with 30 lb monofilament or braided line. This outfit is also ideal for bottom fishing for other species as well as vertical jigging. The Warfare 20 is an excellent and affordable light conventional outfit.

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Leaders of some type are required for Spanish mackerel fishing. Capt Jim uses a flourocarbon leader between 30lb and 50 lb test, depending on fish size and water clarity. Spanish mackerel will cut off lures, it is just part of the game. Steel leaders are an option. However, Capt Jim would rather get more bites and lose a few baits. In clear water, steel leaders will usually result in fewer strikes.

1) #8 Rapala X-Rap Slashbait

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing

The #8 Rapala X-Rap Slashbait is number one on Capt Jim’s list of top Spanish mackerel fishing lures. It is his “go to” bait! Often times, Spanish mackerel are feeding on smaller sardines, herring, and glass minnows. These plugs closely mimic this small forage. White is the top color, with olive being second. Anglers should match the color to the water color and local forage.

Sarasota Spanish mackerel fishing

These lures are extremely effective when both cast and trolled. Anglers can blind cast using a fast, erratic, aggressive retrieve. Also, they can be cast into feeding fish. This is great sport! Rapala X-Raps are also very productive when trolled. This can be done simply on spinning tackle. Anglers need only let out the plug, count to ten, and drive around. This is an excellent technique in shallow, inshore waters to locate fish. Also, they work well when trolled behind planers.

2) Casting Spoon

Florida Spanish mackerel fishing

The Crocodile casting spoon is a terrific lure! It is number two on Capt Jim’s list of top Spanish mackerel fishing lures. One ounce is a great all-round size, though anglers can go up in weight if needed. These lures cast a mile and are a great choice when mackerel are popping up quickly. Crocodile spoons wobble enticingly and put out a lot of vibration. They are also effective for blind casting. Trolling is also extremely effective. Anglers should use a swivel to prevent line twist when using spoons.

3) Clark Trolling Spoons

Clark trolling spoons are extremely effective when fishing for Spanish mackerel. They are long and slender and have a tight wiggle. Clark spoons can be trolled at fast speeds, up to 10 knots. They are very light, however, and it is not really an option to cast them. Clark spoons come in many different sizes to match the local forage. Some type of device is used to get the spoons down in the water column. Trolling weights and planers are most often used. Anglers can learn more about light tackle trolling in the linked article.

Spanish mackerel fishing in Florida

Planers are clever devices that take a lure down, then “trip” when a fish is hooked. A #1 planer with a 20 foot long 40 pound test flourocarbon leader works great with a Clark spoon. This will dive down five to seven feet. Once the planer hits the rod tip, the fish will need to be hand lined in the rest of the way. Same goes for trolling sinkers. Generally speaking, the longer the leader, the more action the spoon will have.

4) Bass Assassin Sea Shad Baits

Bass Assassin Sea Shad baits are number 4 on the list of top Spanish mackerel fishing lures. These soft plastic baits catch just about every saltwater species, and Spanish mackerel are no exception. Anglers blind casting while drifting flats and passes catch mackerel when fishing for other species. They also work well when casting into schools of bait as well as breaking fish.

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These baits are very economical to use. Spanish mackerel will tear up the grub. However, unlike a bucktail jig, the tail is easily replaced. Even if the entire jig gets cut off, the angler is out less than a dollar. It is hard to beat that these days! 4″ is the best size. Bass Assassin baits come in many different colors. All of them can be productive, with glow/chartreuse being Capt Jim’s favorite, followed by red/gold shiner. 1/4 ounce to 1/2 ounce jig heads are most often used, though anglers can go larger if depth or current dictates it.

5) Gotcha lure

The Gotcha lure is a well-known and productive lure for catching Spanish mackerel. This is particularly true on the east coast. Surf and pier anglers use them extensively. They cast a mile, have a lot of flash, and the hook-up rate is excellent with the treble hooks. They are also reasonably affordable. The best Gotcha lures for mackerel have the chrome finish.

top 8 Sarasota fish species

The Gotcha lure is very easy to use. It is cast out, allowed to sink, then brought back in as fast as possible with hard, aggressive jerks. The bait will flash and roll and attract Spanish mackerel to it. obviously, it works great when cast into breaking fish. This lure is primarily designed to catch Spanish mackerel, and it does the job well!

6) Diamond jigs

Diamond jigs are a bit of a ‘secret weapon” among charter boat captains in my part of the world. They do not look like much, nor do they have a lot of action. However, they are extremely effective in a certain application. That is when Spanish mackerel are feeding on glass minnows in clear water. They can be extremely fussy then and can be difficult to fool. The Diamond jig has just enough flash to get them to bite. They are light, therefore most often trolled as opposed to being cast out. One ounce works well when the bait is small. Larger versions are often used by anglers vertically jigging over structure.

In conclusion, this post on the top 6 Spanish mackerel fishing lures will help anglers catch more of these speedy game fish!