To bring home limits of panfish this spring, don’t leave home without VMC® Hot Skirt Glow Jigs and Trigger X® Boot Tail Minnows and Curl Tail Minnows. Target shallow reed edges in lakes with the former. Throw the latter in river backwaters. Throw each on 4- to 6-pound Sufix® fluorocarbon line.
So says panfish fanatic Joel Nelson, a Rapala Pro-Staffer and popular co-host on the influential In-Depth Outdoors TV show on Fox Sports North.
“I tell ya, those three baits make a pretty complete arsenal when it comes to spring panfish, especially crappies,” Nelson says. “With the ice either out, or on it’s way out, water is warming and those big slabs will be moving shallow as they start to think about spawning.”
Crappies begin to spawn when water temps near 60 degrees. Before that, they begin actively feeding in around shallow cover, like reeds, brush and downed trees. And while there’s no “magic number” to signal when crappies will begin putting on the feedbag, action generally heats up when water temps reach 48 to 51 degrees.
That’s when Nelson ties on a VMC Hot Skirt Glow Jig and starts scouting shallow reed beds. Featuring unique glow-in-the-dark skirts and flashabou fibers, Hot Skirt Glow Jigs help turn early-season lookers into biters.
“That’s my early-season staple” Nelson says. “Especially for crappies in reeds in northern lakes. It’s a dynamite spring bait for spawning fish and fish that are pushed up into the shallows.”
With a 1/16th oz. Hot Skirt Glow Jig rigged under a float on 4- to 6-pound Castable Invisiline 100% Fluorocarbon — and sometimes dressed with a chunk of crawler or a minnow — Nelson will “poke around with the trolling motor,” pitching the set-up to the edges of reed clusters near submerged rocks or other bottom-content transitions. “That’s usually the ticket, if you can find it,” he says. “And when you find the fish, typically, they’re in good numbers.”
Start looking in shallow water close to “where you caught ‘em in the winter,” Nelson says. “Basically look for the areas in the same part of the lake that are adjacent and just a little shallower, back in the back of the basin.” Although four to six feet of water is usually plenty shallow, “fish can sometimes be found in a few inches,” he says.
Hot Skirt Glow Jigs feature high-carbon steel hooks. They come two per pack in five sizes: 1/32 oz (size 6 hook), 1/16 oz (size 4 hook), 1/8th oz (1/0 hook), 1/4 oz (2/0 hook) and 3/8 oz (2/0 hook). They are available in 14 color patterns: Black Chartreuse, Blue White, Chartreuse Lime Green, Chartreuse Orange, Chartreuse White, Crappie Minnow, Hornet, Pink Pearl, Purple Albino, Red White, and four new patterns, Blue Fire UV, Green Fire UV, Orange Fire UV and Pink Fire UV.
For spring crappies, Nelson favors Red White and Pink Fire UV.
Trigger X Plastics For Backwater Panfish
In Mississippi River backwaters, Nelson targets panfish with Trigger X Boot Tail Minnows and Curl Tail Minnows rigged on VMC Boot Tail Jigs and Curl Tail Jigs.
“For bluegills and crappies, cast ‘em up shallow and slow-roll ‘em back,” he instructs. “The trick is to fish them as slowly as possible, yet still make sure the action is vigorous enough that the plastic is still wavering — rather than just coming straight back to you with no action at all.”
Featuring long, micro-thin mid-sections terminating in a boot-shaped tail paddle, Boot Tail Minnows swim with a light and subtle vibrating action. Boot Tail Jigs pre-rigged with Boot Tail Minnows are available in two-packs. Both the jigs and soft baits are also sold separately.
Featuring a long, micro-thin curly tail, Curl Tail Minnows swim with a light and subtle twirling action. Curl Tail Jigs pre-rigged with Trigger X Curl Tail Minnows are available in two-packs. Both the jigs and soft-plastics are also sold separately.
Both Boot Tail Minnows and Curl Tail Minnows come in 12 color patterns: Bubblegum, Black, Black Chartreuse, Black Pearl, Blue Pearl, Bloodred, Glow, Natural (brown), Orange Chartreuse, Pink Glow, Pearl White and Red Pearl.
Boot Tail Jigs and Curl Tail Jigs come in two sizes: 1/16 oz. (with a size 4 hook) and 1/32 oz. (size 6 hook). Each features a Power Gap hook and 90-degree hook eye. Each is available in two natural color patterns — Crappie Minnow and Mayfly — and six Ultra Glow patterns: Glow, Green Orange Glow, Orange Chartreuse Glow, Pink Chartreuse Glow, Glow Chartreuse, Glow Red. Ultra Glow colors will glow for as many as 15 minutes after charging.
As spring turns to summer and weeds push out into deeper water, the fish will follow, leaving their shallow, spawning locations. As they do, Nelson says, you can continue to target them with Boot Tail Minnows and Curl Tail Minnows.