The 10 Best Lures for Panfish: Baits for Bluegill, Crappie and More

Panfishing is a popular pastime for anglers of all skill levels and for good reason. These small but feisty fish can be found in large numbers in many bodies of …

Panfishing is a popular pastime for anglers of all skill levels and for good reason. These small but feisty fish can be found in large numbers in many bodies of water and make for a great meal or simply a fun catch-and-release experience.

To catch panfish consistently, you need the right lures. In this article, we’ll take a look at the 10 best lures for panfish, including the best artificial baits for bluegill, crappie, pumpkinseed, and more. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or just starting out, these lures will help you reel in more panfish on your next fishing trip.

Our 10 Best Lures for Panfish

Mepps Aglia Spinner
Mepps Aglia Spinner
Mepps Aglia Spinner
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Mepps Aglia Spinners are a popular lure for many species of fish, not just panfish. They feature a spinning blade and a colorful, eye-catching hook that can be tipped with bait. These spinners are versatile and can be used in various water conditions, as well as for a few fish species.

  • Blade spins easily even in slow currents
  • Attracts fish with its vibration and flash
  • Durable construction
Rebel Wee-Crawfish
Rebel Wee-Crawfish
Rebel Wee-Crawfish
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The Rebel Wee-Crawfish is a small hard bait that is designed to imitate the movement of a crawfish. It can absolutely help you catch bluegill and perch, as well as larger game fish like bass, and is one of my personal favorite panfish lures on the market today.

  • Realistic appearance and motion
  • Dives quickly to reach deeper water
  • Durable construction
Beetle Spin
Beetle Spin
Beetle Spin
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The Beetle Spin is a classic lure that is simple and effective when sunfish or bluegill fishing. It features a beetle-shaped body and a spinner blade that creates a vibration and flash that fish simply can't resist. You'll find it's extremely easy to use, highly versatile, and effective in a variety of water conditions too.

  • Spinner blade creates flash and vibration
  • Beetle-shaped body attracts fish
  • Easy to cast and retrieve

 

Rapala Ultra Light Minnow
Rapala Ultra Light Minnow
Rapala Ultra Light Minnow
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The Rapala Ultra Light Minnow is a small hard bait that is perfect for catching panfish of all types, especially perch. It has a lifelike swimming action that mimics that of a small baitfish, making it irresistible to hungry fish nearby. The realistic 3D eyes make this one of the best artificial fishing lures for aggressive species or other panfish that normally prefer live bait.

  • Realistic swimming motion and appearance
  • Wide range of color options
  • Durable construction
Berkley PowerBait Power Nymph
Berkley PowerBait Power Nymph
Berkley PowerBait Power Nymph
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The Berkley PowerBait Power Nymph is a soft plastic lure that is designed to look and feel like a real insect. It is perfect for catching panfish like bluegill and trout, as well as other small game fish. This lure is also infused with PowerBait scent for added fish attraction, helping you catch plenty of panfish, small bass, and other species.

  • Scented to attract fish
  • Realistic appearance and motion
  • Available in a range of colors
Rebel Pop-R
Rebel Pop-R
Rebel Pop-R
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The Rebel Pop-R is a topwater lure that creates a popping and chugging action when fishing that most panfish love. It is a versatile lure that works well for a variety of panfish species, including sunfish and bluegill. The realistic design and loud popping sound when it moves through the water make it great for vertical jigging as well as suitable for shallow water.

  • Creates a popping sound and splashing water to attract fish
  • Realistic appearance and motion
  • Can be fished vertically
Bobby Garland Baby Shad
Bobby Garland Baby Shad
Bobby Garland Baby Shad
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The Bobby Garland Baby Shad is a soft plastic lure that is specifically designed for panfish of most types. It has a lifelike swimming action that mimics that of a small baitfish or diminutive gamefish, making it irresistible to hungry panfish. The durable material, along with the realistic 3D eyes and range of colors and sizes, make it a great addition to your tackle box.

  • Lifelike appearance and motion
  • Scented to attract fish
  • Durable and long-lasting
Panther Martin Spinner
Panther Martin Spinner
Panther Martin Spinner
Our Score

The Panther Martin Spinner is a classic inline spinner that is versatile and effective for catching a variety of panfish species, trout, and largemouth bass. It features a unique blade design that creates a vibration and flash that fish can't resist. The dressed treble hook and highly balanced design make it one of the best casting lures around.

  • Spinner blade creates flash and vibration
  • Available in a range of sizes and colors
  • Effective in a variety of water conditions
Zoom Tiny Fluke
Zoom Tiny Fluke
Zoom Tiny Fluke
Our Score

The Zoom Tiny Fluke is a soft plastic lure that mimics the action of a small baitfish. It works well when rigged on a jig head or drop shot rig and is perfect for catching panfish like bluegill and perch, as well as largemouth bass, trout, and other species. The salt-impregnated flavor for added fish attraction and lifelike swimming action make this one of many lures I would personally recommend.

  • Realistic appearance and motion
  • Scented and flavored to attract fish
  • Can be rigged in different ways for versatility
Strike King Bitsy Minnow
Strike King Bitsy Minnow
Strike King Bitsy Minnow
Our Score

The Strike King Bitsy Minnow is a small hard bait designed to imitate the action of a fleeing minnow along the weed line. It is great for catching panfish of all types, as well as smaller bass and big bluegills. The realistic 3D eyes are one of the best features, but the high-quality treble hooks give this lure an erratic retrieve that most fish love chasing down.

  • Realistic swimming motion and appearance
  • Available in a range of colors
  • Durable construction for deep water

Best Lure Colors for Panfish

In a clear water column, natural colors such as brown, green, and silver tend to work the best in most situations. In stained or murky water, brighter colors such as chartreuse, pink, and orange can be more effective.

During the spring, when panfish are spawning, using colors that mimic their eggs, such as white or yellow, can be particularly effective since they will be hyper-active in noticing these colorations.

How to Work Your Lures for Panfish

Panfish can be caught using various fishing methods, but the most common approach is the slow and steady casting and retrieving. Start by casting the lure at a reasonable distance and letting it sink to the desired depth in the water column.

Once the lure has settled, use a slow and steady retrieve speed with occasional pauses or jerks to mimic the natural movement of prey. Make sure to vary the speed and action until you find a pattern that works for the specific type of panfish you’re targeting.

Additionally, it’s important to pay attention to the water temperature, weather conditions, and time of day since these can all impact the panfish’s feeding behavior and willingness to take your bait.

Lure Choice for the Different Types of Panfish

white crappie caught on boat floor
Crappie can be tricky to catch and prefer small jigs, active spinners, and minnow imitations that mimic their natural prey.

Crappie

Crappie are known for their finicky nature and can be difficult to catch on some fishing trips. They seem to respond best to small jigs, active spinners, and minnow imitations. Look for lures that mimic their natural prey items, including small minnows, insect larvae, and even tiny shrimp.

These fun little fish are also attracted to shiny and bright-colored lures, so go for reflective spoons and blades, bright pink or yellow-colored lures, or any soft plastics that have glitter embedded in the material.

Bluegill vs Sunfish Feature image
Bluegill are flexible eaters and can be caught using various lures such as small jigs, spinners, and worms.

Bluegill

Bluegill are opportunistic feeders and will strike at a variety of lures, including small jigs, spinners, and worms, without being too picky. They are known to be attracted to bright colors such as chartreuse, orange, and yellow.

Small poppers and topwater lures can also be effective for surface-feeding bluegill, though you may need to adjust your fishing trip schedule to find the right time of year when bluegill in that area are staying near the surface of cover water, lily pad clusters, and more.

When do Perch Spawn feature image
Novice anglers can catch perch using small jigs or spinners that resemble small minnows or insects, as well as small grubs and leeches.

Perch

Perch are often caught by beginning anglers using small jigs or spinners and can be a great species to target on your next fishing trip. They are attracted to lures that resemble small minnows or insects most often but will take small grubs and leeches too.

Bright colors such as chartreuse, orange, and yellow can be extremely effective, as well as natural colors like brown and green in a vertical presentation around dock pylons or other structure that provides good cover for these fish.

Rockbass

Rockbass are often fished for and caught using small jigs or spinners tipped with a worm or minnow. They are also attracted to lures that resemble crayfish, such as soft plastic craws or small jigs with a crayfish pattern.

These fish can be great fun for experienced and beginning anglers to target. They will strike at the slightest movement, making them a terrific choice for anglers that might not have the most patience.

Sunfish

Sunfish, also known as pumpkinseed, are usually caught using small jigs or spinners tipped with a worm or piece of nightcrawler. They are attracted to bright colors such as chartreuse, orange, and yellow, which is a common theme of many panfish species.

Small poppers and topwater lures can also be effective for surface-feeding sunfish. Anglers like using lures that make noise since sunfish not only fish by sight but also by sound and vibrations in the water.

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AUTHOR
Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village. Jeff is based in Pennsylvania and loves exploring the waterways of that state in pursuit of smallmouth bass, largemouth, panfish and trout.
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