Winter Panfish in the Rivers

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The day the 2016 waterfowl season drew to a close (Feb. 3) the air temperature hit 61F here on the Shore. Combine that with water temps in ponds and creeks ranging from the low 40Fs to 50F, and you've got great conditions for panfishing.

The next several weeks will be prime time for small water angling, and luckily there are scores of Chesapeake rivers, creeks and ponds that hold plenty of panfish eager to smack a lure on light (4-6 lb. test) spinning gear. We've put together a quick primer on lures as well as rod & reel suggestions to help you put a bend in your rod and bridge the gap between winter and spring.

In a week or two, we’ll suggest specific locations that are worth the trek.

How to Catch ‘Em

Bait--grass shrimp or minnows--on simple rigs with #10 hooks or on a jighead, with or without a bobber, will often do the trick. Panfish will devour a salted tube jig behind a jighead (3/32 oz. to ? oz. depending on depth), and medium to small minnow.
The panfish lure options are epic. Plastic grubs, skirted tube jigs, or spinnerbaits—the list goes on and on.

Lures: Here are some proven standards that should put a bend in your rod.
Marabou Road Runner (Chartreuse)
Mr. Crappie’s Slab Daddy
Betts Krinkle Jig
Johnson Beetle Spin
Mepps Aglia Ultra Lite

Rods: Choose a rod that has a soft enough tip to cast light lures yet with a stiff enough backbone to pull a slab crappie from heavy cover, or tame the occasionally chain pickerel or catfish.

Cove Chesapeake Series "The Little Big Stick": Built on a light-power, carbon graphite blank, it handles line weight from four-pound test to ten pounds and lures from 1/8-3/8 oz. Technically it is not a specialty panfish rod since it's stout enough to haul in a snapper bluefish or schoolie striper. Great rod for the money. Other solid rods choices include Berkley’s Lightning Rod or St. Croix® Panfish Series.

Reels: You want 1000 or 2000 series reel (or equivalent) with a smooth drag. Here are some solid picks. We like to load them with PowerPro braid at #5 test.

Shimano’s Sedona 1000FD

Abu Garcia Cardinal 100.

Penn Battle II

Sidenote - these posts are intended to be informational - if we have the gear we discuss, we'll highlight a link for it, but in many cases, we'll talk about gear that we may not list on the website. The intent is solid, candid posts. If we mention something here that you're interested in and we don't have on the website, shoot us an email at or give us a call at 844-TKL-COVE, we may have it in the shop. Or we can always order it for you. We do have many of the panfish lures listed above in the shop - they'll show up on the site over the next couple weeks.

Rig Right - Fish Hard

The folks at

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