Pan fish seek thick weeds for food and protection from larger predator fish and fish hawks. Anglers know the pan fish are in the weeds but can’t give a good bait presentation without weeds fouling the bait. Once the summer progresses up here in Minnesota, the weed beds grow all the way to the surface in 5 to 6 feet of water, forming a dense mat on the surface. Under that mat roam foraging, hand-sized bluegills and some crappie. Several years ago my cousin Chuck Swenson called me and said, “You’ve got to try this. It’s unbelievable how effective it is.” Both my cousin and I have each had close to 50 years and thousands of hours of Minnesota fishing experience yet had never heard of this type of fishing in heavy weeds. After Chuck told me this unknown method, my son and I went out and tried it and caught two limits of bluegills in short time while we were laughing in disbelief.
Here’s the inside scoop.
TACKLE SETUP: I like a spin cast reel with a 6-foot rod, a flexible tip and a 10-pound monofilament line. First, tie a brightly colored winter ice fly about 3 feet up from the end of the line. Then, tie on a fair-sized bobber at the very end of the line. Remember, tie, don’t clip, it to the line; your bobber may slip off when you cast it if it’s clipped on. You are now set and ready to fish.
CASTING: Cast the bobber on top of the weeds. This system works both from shore and from a boat. After the bobber has landed, tighten the line by cranking your reel until the ice fly is lifted off the water, then slowly move the rod tip toward the bobber until the ice fly rests on the water’s surface. Repeat this lift-and- drop presentation at various weed locations until you find feeding panfish. The large bobber does two things: First, it allows the fisher to cast farther due to the bobber’s increased weight; second, it acts as a resistant anchor when the ice fly is lifted off the water.
Pan fish are always looking to pick off some hapless insect that mistakenly landed or fell into the water. By raising and lowering the rod tip the ice fly draws the attention of vigilant eyes below. If pan fish are present below, the ice fly will usually only be on the water for 1 to 2 seconds before you see one take it. After an immediate hook set, reel quickly, and keep the rod tip high to prevent the fish from becoming tangled in the lower weed stems. Once pan fish are found in heavy weeds, action is fast and furious. You’ll limit out in no time!
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by Sharon Swenson / Jul 6, 2014