Catching panfish usually isn't that difficult. Catching large/quality panfish can be a challenge! I recently started using a drop shot technique, commonly used for bass fishing, while fishing for sunfish species (especially bluegill). I did a little research into how people use the technique for panfish, tried a few different methods and the one I will be showing you here is the one that seemed to work the best for me and my family. I embedded a video of my family using this technique to catch some nice fish. We were using live crickets in the video for bait, but I have also used small soft plastics such as grubs, artificial crickets and tube baits with good results. With live crickets, the pace of the action is really fast! Using this technique has resulted in catching more fish overall and a greater number of large Bluegill than we normally catch in the same area.
Here are some reasons why I think panfishing with a drop shot rig makes a difference:
- the presentation has a more natural appearance
- because the hook is attached to a dropper line, there is less initial resistance when the fish take the bait
- higher % of hooksets
- less bottom snags because the hook isn't on the bottom
- bigger fish caught (we normally catch smaller fish in the same areas)
We are using ultralight spinning reels/rods, 6lb test fishing line, aberdeen hooks, BB sized split shot weights and live crickets in the video.
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Now, let's first look at and then set up a dropshot rig for panfish!
Step 1: The Basic Setup (Overview)
In this step, I am just going to show what a completed rig looks like, and talk about the hook and weight sizes/types. In the following steps I will show the setup process using paracord (instead of monofilament), a carabineer (instead of a hook) and a clip (instead of a split shot weight) to make the process easier to see.
The length of the dropper line (from the main line to the hook) isn't super critical. You just want enough line for your dropper so the fish can take the bait/hook with little to no initial resistance. I would make it at least 2" but it could be much longer if you like.
The length of your line from the hook to your sinker will vary depending on your specific fishing conditions. If you know the panfish you are targeting are suspended 3' off the bottom, you will want to use 3' of line between your hook and your weight. In our case, the fish were very close to the bottom of the lake. A 6"-10" length of line from the hook to the sinker worked really well for us on the day we were fishing in the video.
The hook size will vary with the bait you are using. In the case of live crickets, a size 8 Aberdeen hook is a good choice. I prefer to use regular Aberdeen hooks (not the light wire Aberdeen hooks) instead of cricket hooks because we occasionally will catch a bass or catfish while fishing for panfish. You don't want to lose a good fish because your hook was bent or broken.
Weight size will vary depending on current, depth of the water or wind conditions. For the most natural presentation, try to use as light of a weight as possible. I like to use a BB sized split shot weight because it allows the bait to drop more slowly and naturally and you will often catch a fish as the bait is still dropping to the bottom.
In the following steps I will show the methods for tying up the drop shot rig that I use.
Step 2: Creating Your Dropper Line
Here is how to tie the dropper line in this particular dropshot rig. I am using paracord to represent fishing line and a carabiner to represent the hook for clarity. To create the dropper line, I simply used a surgeon's loop knot. Start out by doubling the line back on itself to form a loop. Now, simply tie a double overhand knot and pull it tight to create the dropper line. The knot itself is pretty simple but you will need to tie it in a way to ensure you have the correct length you would like to use for a dropper line. I find a 2"-5" dropper line length works really well for me for panfish. You will also need to leave plenty of line length for your sinker line so your hook is at the distance from the bottom you want to be at. In the video, I knew the fish were near the bottom so I used a sinker to hook length between 6"-10".
Next you will need to attach the hook to the dropper line...
Step 3: Tying Your Hook to the Dropper Line
To attach the hook to the dropper line, I used a palomar knot. To tie this knot, run the dropper loop through the eye of the hook. Next, tie an overhand knot and leave plenty of length of your tag end/loop and pull the tag end/loop over the hook and then pull the knot down tightly. Now your hook is attached to the dropper line.
Next we will make a stopper knot for the split shot weight...
Step 4: Making a Stopper Knot for the Split Shot
Here I am using a clip to represent a split shot weight for clarity purposes.
You will want to make a stopper knot for the split shot so the weight doesn't easily pull off the end of the line if it gets stuck under a rock. To make the stopper knot, simply tie a double overhand knot at the bottom of the line. Pinch your split split shot onto the line and your rig is complete!
Step 5: You Are Done!!!
Give this setup a try sometime and see what you think! Here are some of the fish we caught on this drop shot setup. As you can see, the last picture clearly isn't a panfish. We occasionally catch catfish and bass using this method too so that is why I recommend using regular Aberdeen hooks. They are strong enough to handle larger fish.
Thanks for checking out my Instructable and tight lines!