Seasonal Transitions for Bass and Panfish


There comes a time each year when the “window” between open water fishing and ice fishing is really close—or closing.
This is when a lot of anglers put away their gear, figuring that open-water fishing is done for another year. This isn’t the
case, as some terrific action for both bass and panfish can be had, as all species feed up in preparation for the long winter

I recently experienced some of my best crappie and bluegill fishing of the year in quest of crappies at a large pond I
frequently fish.

It was rather warm for a late-autumn day, and as on most of my late-season trip, I arrived at my destination
about mid-day, allowing for the temperature to improve.

I started fishing by probing the deeper water near the dam for a short time. But with only a couple of very small bass being
caught after a half hour or so, I decided to move on down to the shallower end of the pond. After making a few casts at
the mouth of a small bay, I felt a solid strike on jig-and-twister-tail combo, and soon landed an 11-inch crappie. I continued
fishing this bay for about half an hour, with the result being seven 11- to 12-inchers caught and released.

My car was parked nearby, so I loaded up my gear and drove a little further, almost to the end of the five-acre pond. I
parked on a knoll about thirty yards above a small dock. I decided to walk down to and try my luck nearby, in water that
dropped off into about eight feet.

I decided to change lures, switching to a 1/32-ounce red Road Runner with a grub body. This proved to be “the ticket,” as
the slow drop of the diminutive bait before starting a slow retrieve proved very effective. Over the next hour, I landed
about 20 nice-sized white crappies, all in the 11- to 12-inch range. Everything on this outing was released, as I had
another commitment after leaving, and didn’t have the time to clean any fish.

Two days later, I had a couple of hours to try my luck on either bass or bluegills at another pond near my home. Arriving
there late in the afternoon, I started off using a small spinner-jig combo in an attempt to connect with a bass. But after a
short time, I grabbed my bluegill rod, a 6’ 6” Fenway medium-light HMG series rod, teamed with an ultralight Mitchell reel.
My lure and bait of choice was a Custom Jigs & Spins 1/16-ounce Flu Flu jig tipped with a juicy wax worm.

You can be among the first to get the latest info on where to go, what to use and how to use it!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

This combo proved to be just what the gills wanted; in less than an hour, I landed six big bluegills, half at 8 inches, and the
rest measuring 9. I fished the jig suspended about 20 inches under a Mr. Crappie Rattlin’ Bobber. All of the bluegills were
caught in fairly shallow water of about five feet. But during this transition time of year for bluegills, crappies and bass, I
knew that fish are very much affected by changes in the weather, and I was prepared to move to deeper water if the
shallower locations failed to produce.

A lot of panfishermen, especially those that fish for crappies, prefer minnows for bait. I will use minnows on occasion, but I
much prefer to tempt both crappies and bluegills on artificial offerings—sometimes with a waxworm or Crappie Nibble
added to “sweeten” the lure, particularly when using jigs. In addition to the aforementioned lures, the Cubby Mini Mite is a
very productive bait. Another that I often rely on to entice panfish is the tried-and-true 2-inch Berkley Power Minnow on a
1/16-ounce jighead.
During this transition time of year, I have spent many a fishing trip with largemouth bass being the main objective.
Surprisingly, some of the best bassin’ action can occur under very-cold-water conditions, as chilly autumn temperatures
trigger the bass’ need to store up fat in preparation for the long winter to come.

I have experienced some really good
action with water temps in the mid- to low 40Fs, and sometimes as low as upper upper 30s. When you think that a slow-
moving jig-and-pork or plastic trailer would be the best choice, it’s often the opposite, with a Rat-L-Trap or bladebait like
those from the Blitz Company being very productive.
Over the years, I have caught a good number of bass late in the season in very shallow water, on lures such as Mann’s

Baby One Minus. But here again, be prepared to fish deeper water, especially under the coldest conditions. Then switch
back to fishing shallower areas if the weather turns a little warmer, especially in brighter sunlight conditions that warm the
water. I have also found that areas of a pond or lake that contain any type of green weeds will attract bass and panfish in
the late-fall and early-winter periods.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few other good late-season bass baits, with one being the Natural Forage Swim Bait
teamed with a Blitz ¼- or 3/8-ounce. Swim Bait jighead. Also don’t overlook smaller lures considered to be panfish baits,
as they can be most productive under tough, cold-water conditions.

Some examples include: Road Runners with either
the Crappie Thunder body or the marabou version; The Bill Lewis Tiny Trap—the big brother of the larger Rat-L-Trap; a
1/8-ounce Beetle Spin; and various other smaller offerings that can make a big difference when the going gets tough.
I do a lot of my bass fishing using spinning tackle, especially under windy conditions, or when the finesse approach is
needed. The Fenwick rod and ultralight reel mentioned earlier work well for the smaller lures. Another great spinning rod
is a B ‘n’ M Bucks Crappie rod in medium-light action.

Don’t be misled by this being labeled as a crappie rod, as it has become one of my “go to” rods for both panfish and bass.
I like to team this rod with a Mitchell 308, spooled with 6-pound Gamma PolyFlex mono. This is the same brand of line
that I use on the ultralight reel mentioned earlier, exception in 4-pound-test on the smaller reel. For tossing crankbaits and
heavier baits for bass, I would go with a baitcasting rod, such as one of the new glass rods by Abu-Garcia under the Mike
Iaconelli series. These are great rods that are labeled DR (delayed reaction), and are especially great for fishing
crankbaits, jigs and swimbaits.