After Bite

April 22, 2013 by  

By Mitch Eeagan


Early in the spring season, before the urge to procreate was great, panfish gathered together in massive schools and were fairly easy to locate and catch. When spawning is in full swing, those same fish move back into the shallows, where antagonistic strikes from aggressive adults guarding eggs are simple to conjure up – so much so it might be prudent to leave well enough alone and let life happen without interruption.


But soon the post-spawn period will be upon us and catching these most desired fish will be tough. Or at least that’s what the majority of anglers think.


The clearer the water, the longer the rod I use for extended casting distance


The truth is, it’s not that the fish are unwilling to eat, but rather they have spread out and, although are feeding veraciously to make up for energy lost during the spawn, aren’t willing to move much to wolf down morsels as they once were.


What’s the key to catching success after procreation takes place?


Locating them with pinpoint accuracy is number one. And that isn’t as hard nowadays when a boat’s rigged with the right electronics. And then there’s using equipment geared towards casting light lures and hooks tipped with bait, yet sensitive enough to confirm there’s a fish interested in your offerings.


Gone… But Not Too Far

The all-panfish-species specialist of the Midwest is fishing pro Brian “Bro” Brosdahl. The Minnesota-based guide knows right where to drop bait after the spawn is over, as well how to summon strikes during what is thought to be the toughest bite of the year.


“A lot of people think bluegills and crappies aren’t catchable during the post-spawn period; that they’ve gone tight lipped, bellied-up to bottom and comatose after the spawn. But nothing could be further from the truth,” says Bro.


According to Brosdahl, you don’t have to look far from where they spawned, either. The first major breaks nearest bedding areas that have an abundance of cover such as weeds, wood and rock are prime starting zones.


Fast Break

For Bro, what used to take hours of motoring around in the shallows now only takes minutes.


“I used to drive all over looking for breaklines and cover. But now with Side Imaging and 360 Imaging, I can easily find what I’m after. And with the punch of just a couple buttons, place a GPS waypoint to the very places I want to cast without disrupting those areas with the boat.


“Panfish don’t need a huge mass of cover to stick by, either – a single log or a small scattering of rocks may hold several fish. And now it’s easier than ever to find these individual structures with Side Imaging and 360.”


Individual fish, too, can be seen in shallow water with the advanced technology. “You’ll see white ‘specks’ scattered along the edge of cover; those are fish.


“It reminds me of a mass exodus of teens spreading out after closing time at a popular club; a few here, one there, a couple over there.”


Over his years of guiding, Bro’s proved these light-colored shapes seen on Side Imaging are indeed fish with the aid of an Aqua-Vu underwater camera. He uses Aqua-Vu’s Micro Plus with DVR, which is always in reach as it fits perfectly in his parka’s pocket. “The camera on the Micro is small and doesn’t spook fish. In fact, I think it causes curiosity and actually attracts them,” he claims.


Cast, Lift, Set, Repeat

The gear and tackle Bro prefers during post spawn? He wields a variety of ultra-sensitive graphite rods, light line, small jigs and terminal tackle, as well live bait offerings.


Bro’s rods of choice come from the St. Croix Panfish Series. In the case of post-spawn fish, the longer models – 7 foot plus – with fast action allowing for longer casts and sweeping hooksets. “The clearer the water, the longer the rod I use for extended casting distance,” Bro adds.


If he’s spied panfish suspended over cover, Brosdahl prefers jigs nipped with live bait. Within the compartments of his Plano tackle totes, you’ll find an array of jigs – Bro’s favorites being his namesake Bro’s Bloodworms, Thumpers and new tungsten Fire-Ball Jigs from Northland Tackle. Bro ties these directly to the end of 2- to 4-pound-test monofilament, and then tips each with maggots or wax worms – the whole package suspended just above the bottom with a light float.


If the bait doesn’t get bit, Bro just lifts the tip of the long rod and lets the bobber slide across the surface. This lifts the jig up and over structure before a tantalizing pendulum-like fall.


Bro can be found reaching into one of Frabill’s Min-O-Life Personal Bait Station for a minnow, or into a Frabill Crawler Can for a small leech. “Minnows should be lively at all times, so replace them if they’re limp. Leeches are all muscle and never quit wiggling, and hard for any panfish to pass up.”


A small BB-size split shot is then pinched 6 to 8 inches above the hook when fishing in stained water, and 10 to 12 inches above when casting in clearer conditions. “I like the split-shot fairly close to the hook so that the minnow or leach can’t swim far as post-spawn pans don’t like to chase down forage,” he adds.


The package is cast and yielded a natural slow descent. Bro lets the bait set for a minute before lifting the rod tip and ‘swimming’ it back to the boat. Hits are often felt more as weight on the end of the line than a bobber plunging.


Listen up

Looking to catch panfish during what’s thought to be the toughest time of year? Listen to the words of the wise Bro and look inside cover adjacent to breaklines very near spawning sites. Use light line, long rods and work the bait back to the boat as panfish aren’t often willing to move far.

Mitch Eeagan is an outdoor writer who lives in the heart of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where he lives off his land and his harvest of fish and game.


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