Really Small Water
By Noel Vick
bluegills and crappies, are creatures of habit. They flock to shallow water in
the spring; deeper haunts during the summer; returning to the shallows as fall
For the most part, this armchair chronology holds true. But I've discovered a
division of brutish and hearty panfish that dwell in shallow places year round.
They lurk in residences better associated with largemouth bass and slop,
thriving in only a couple of feet of water. Tight quarters. I dub such places
Really Small Water.
Inlets are a good example of Really Small Water. Not the inflow of a well
documented throbbing creek or brook, either, because these are "community
spots", crowded venues. Rather, I search for trickling streams and purging
storm sewers, both of which introduce aquatic edibles and attract baitfish.
Hydrological maps don't always reveal seasonal inflows and rarely ever show
manmade ones. They're exposed through careful shoreline studies and time on the
The seepage of water through a bog or wall of cattails is another case of
Really Small Water. Incessant spring rains and summer downpours inject
forage-rich water into lakes, reservoirs, and rivers, and again, panfish are
drawn to such locales.
Boat harbors, be they manmade or not, contain fertile and colored water, and
accordingly, throngs of baitfish and buggy edibles. The average angler earmarks
massive multi-slip resort and public harbors, but smaller one and two vessel
private harbors often go untouched. Panfish find a safe and often shaded haven
in such places.
River backwaters are common panfish lairs. Sizable and mapped backwaters get
hit all year long, but you can avoid the boating-crowds by investigating
Look for high water pools formed behind stretches of shoreline timber. I
favor drifting along wooded stretches searching for hidden hollows of water -
not true backwaters - which potentially hold fish. Excellent hunks of Really
Beds of reeds and rushes, shoreline oriented or freestanding islands, host
panfish throughout the calendar year. Big beds get noticed, so do smaller ones.
But it's not just an ordinary field of emergent vegetation I look for. I prefer
one with pockets or openings. You will find these concealed clearings by slowly
motoring around a weed-mat. Crappies and bluegills love such hideaways, and many
Speaking of standing weeds, the inside edge - open water section between
shore and where vegetation begins - is another overlooked producer. Here,
panfish benefit from wind and predator protection, and find ample forage.
Now that you've been introduced to some Really Small Water, I must give you
the bad news. These are tough spots to hit. That is, hit with a lure, a jig to
be exact. Pinpoint casts are the only way to access these fish. Tangling tree
branches and snarling weed tips block passage to the best of the best. But with
a little practice, some finesse, and the right gear, no bull or slab is
I've all but abandoned the notion of attacking Really Small Water with a jig
alone. Even with the lightest, most abrasion resistant line, paired with a long
but firm rod and aerodynamically designed jig, it's still an ordeal to reach
fish. Any sudden gust of wind or turn of the boat puts your lure in harms way.
The dilemma is resolved by introducing a bobber, but not just any old model
will do. The right bobber, or float as some call them, affords you precision
depth control, and in this instance, added weight for improved casting distance
and accuracy. Many anglers have turned to the Rocket Bobber.
for its size, The Rocket Bobber casts for distance like nothing you've ever
used. Need 30 yards into a headwind to reach the back of a boat harbor? No
problem. Give the rod tip a soft whip and you're in; keep the trajectory low for
Casting distance is crucial because shallow-ranging panfish are easily
spooked. Often, pods of fish scatter when a careless angler motors too close.
It's much wiser to visually identify a hunk of Really Small Water, back off, and
launch a long distance assault. And the durable Rocket Bobber won't explode on
contact if you misfire and smack a rock or dock post.
I'll conclude with this tactical suggestion. Think small when it comes to
bait and lure selection. Sometimes hyper-finicky and edgy, panfish in Really
Small Water will shun gaudy jigs and large frantic minnows. Reach for a
1/64th-ounce jig. Go to tiny minnows, which I call "slivers", or wax
worms and maggots, because they're universally accepted.
By design, the Rocket Bobber executes flawlessly with light jigs - no
split-shot necessary - and announces even the slightest nibble by raising its
Pay extra care to your surroundings this spring and summer. Panfish will be
in their ordinary seasonal spots, but with a taste of resourcefulness and
stealth, you'll find finer fishing and less pressure in Really Small Water.
Author's note: The sensational Rocket Bobber is available in both panfish and
gamefish sizes. Look for it in local sporting goods and bait stores. But if you
can't find one, contact Tackle 2000, Inc., P.O. Box 2187, Wausau, WI
54402-2187 or visit their web site at www.tackle2000.com.