I haven’t used this method a lot, but I decided to experiment with it a little bit during a fishing trip Wednesday to a spot I knew had nice, big crappie and a plethora of good-sized panfish. After trying just about everything I could during the winter to try to coax a bite out of lethargic panfish, I had an array of tackle to choose from. What worked the best, ironically, was an unpainted jig head tipped with a waxworm about a foot under the water, but I also had a good deal of success running a 3-inch Reaper from Top Secret Jig Company in gray with a chartreuse tail, both with a bobber and without it.
I started the day fishing a crankbait just to see if the bass were up close yet. I ran a Storm Arashi Square 3 in the shallows and caught a decent one up by the bank. I could literally see him come up and strike the bait, despite it being a fairly cloudy day. It helped that I had some polarized lenses attached to my prescription glasses. He actually hit the crankbait pretty hard, but came off as I got him up to the bank.
After about 10 minutes without a bite, I switched to the jig-and-bobber setup but had little success early on. I had a couple fish get away because I wasn’t paying attention to the bobber, but after a while I hooked into a pair of small bluegills using the unpainted jig and waxworm. I had another pole set up with the Reaper and walked to a different spot with some cover, bouncing the jig along the grassline on an ultralight Shakespeare crappie pole. I couldn’t find any crappies, but I hit about eight small largemouths in the process in just a matter of minutes — a pair on my second and third cast in the spot. I used a quick, twitching motion with the ultralight pole to give the bait an enticing swimming motion. It looks funny watching the tip of that limber pole bounce around, but because it’s so light it looks like you’re putting a lot of motion into it when really it’s inching along like a minnow off the bottom.
After I had my fill of dinker largemouths, I headed back around to my first spot and hit a few more bluegill and some more bass on the waxworm. Those waxies are a seriously underrated live bait. You can get them at a pet store in a small cup that you can easily carry in your pocket, yet you get about 50 of them and they can live for a long time in the fridge. You can even tip them on the hook above your plastic jig to give it an enticing smell that panfish go nuts for. I’d barely have my pole in the water for 10 seconds at times before the bobber would start slowly sinking straight down or turning on its side and darting away. I also hooked up a Mr. Crappie rattling bobber over my Reaper and jigged that about. The rattling actually drew in a few more bass, and I watched one as he came up to investigate my jig and then started to swim off. I twitched that bobber real quick and he was on that jig in the blink of an eye. I then watched him pull the bobber in the shallows, unaware of what was coming, and I yanked the rod sideways and hooked him right in the side of the mouth. He immediately flopped out of the water in shock.
I moved to a different, deeper spot and got out my Aqua-Vu underwater camera. I hooked a large bobber on the cable about a foot above the camera and tossed it out. It can be a bit difficult to get distance on your throw. The best way I’ve found is to let out a bunch of cable, set the view screen down or hold it in one hand and hold the camera in your other hand and make an overhand baseball throw. It may be easier to completely unhook the camera cable and hold the end of it, but I haven’t tried it yet.
I got it out a good ways and quickly figured out which direction the camera was facing when I saw bluegills start coming up to investigate the camera after tossing in the bobber. They were looking at the camera, meaning the bait had to be behind the camera, so I cast again to the opposite spot and soon saw them looking at something in front of the camera. I couldn’t see my small setup — an unpainted jig head with a wax worm won’t show up super well on video — but I watched the bobber moving toward my camera and saw that a big bull bluegill also was swimming toward it. I set the hook and watched as the bluegill went straight up. That was awesome.
A little bluegill was playing with the waxworm when the big brute of a crappie charged him and scared him off. He chomped on that waxworm and started taking off, and this time the bobber was moving with more speed than it had been. It went down, I set the hook, and I had an epic battle with the big slab before getting him to shore with a holler. He was a chunker.
I threw him on my stringer with the bull and fished that spot for about 30 minutes, but the battle with the crappie seemed to scare off all the small gills. The water was filled with sediment he had kicked up, and before long it started to get dark and cold.
I decided to do a little truck fishing — I hooked up a night bobber about two feet over a Bobby Garland Mo’ Glo and tipped it with a waxie and cast it in the water, then jumped in my truck and turned on the heater as I watched the bright red bobber move about in the water. I sat there for a while, and the bobber got very still. I reeled it in and replaced the waxie on the tip, then cast it back out. No sooner did I close the door of my truck than the bobber did a nose dive and the bright red light vanished under the black surface of the water. I jumped out, slammed back the baitcaster I was using and hooked into another nice crappie. Though he wasn’t as big as the first one, he was still a good-sized slab and put up a heck of a fight. I pulled him to shore with a laugh and threw him on the stringer.
All in all, I cleaned three nice-sized fish that night, though I had hooked into probably two dozen in the process. I am now a believer in the jig-and-bobber method for prespawn fishing.