The beauty of catching panfish is that you can have a full day of sport and not have to be too specific. Bluegill, sunfish, small perch, and the different colors of crappie, they all count!
Still, to ensure you keep catching all day, you will need the best ice fishing lures for panfish, and I’m here to help.
I’ll talk you through what you need to look for, how to choose, and even show you some great suggestions that I have in my own lure box.
Disclosure: At BonfireBob, we recommend products based on unbiased research, however, BonfireBob.com is reader-supported and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on this page. For more information, see disclosure here.
Choosing Ice Fishing Lures for Panfish – A Quick Guide
What do you need to look for when choosing panfish ice fishing lures? Well, there are a few qualities that will ensure that you are ice fishing optimally.
Here’s the kind of thing that I think is really important when choosing lures to catch panfish…
Do you know why they are called ‘panfish’?
This is the name given to any non-game species that is small enough to fit into a pan.
Smaller fish have smaller mouths.
Panfish aren’t going to expend lots of energy trying to eat something that is too big, and you’ll find that smaller lures work far better than big ones.
Pick an ice fishing lure that is small enough that it doesn’t overwhelm the fish.
Do you think it is bright or dark underneath the ice?
Even if you are ice fishing in the day, conditions beneath the surface are undoubtedly darker. For that reason, you are going to want to pick a lure that is easy to see.
I find that anything bright works, especially pink or chartreuse lures.
A little bit of sparkle doesn’t go amiss either. If you like, you could even consider using something that glows in the dark for a little extra visibility.
As I’ve just said, it is pretty murky down there when fishing in the depths of winter.
When it is all quiet under the ice, a lure that rattles could be ideal and acts like a little dinner bell for a hungry panfish.
Many predatory fish can sense vibration through a lateral line running along their bodies. In the natural world, vibration normally means a small baitfish going through its death throes. You can recreate this with a lure that has plenty of movement.
When it comes to great ice fishing lures for panfish, this ticks nearly all the boxes.
You see, it’s like this.
A fish’s vision isn’t quite like ours. They are much better at picking out light on the ultraviolet scale. As a result, anything with a UV coating stands out like a beacon. These panfish spinners are covered in a UV finish, making them really easy to see under the ice.
And there’s more.
The fluttering blade will create enough vibration to attract attention, and once they get close, they won’t fail to miss!
I like that they have a decent weight too. This lets you drop them through your fishing hole and get down to the bottom quickly before jigging them up methodically.
Want a top tip?
Replace the trebles with a single hook. You’ll get far fewer tangles when jigging vertically.
These lures are great for a range of panfish species. They are highly visible, with excellent movement, and sink well. The holy trinity of panfish lures in one package. Give them a go!
These lures have that quality in abundance. They are very much a visual lure. But once marabou is suspended in the water, it looks super lifelike.
There’s plenty to love.
These lures sink like a stone. They could be one of the best ice fishing jigs for panfish out there. Allowing you to fish at any depth with ease.
Visually they will do the trick. With a range of nice and bright colors, along with a little tinsel sparkle in the tail, they can’t fail to attract attention.
I particularly like the realistic holographic eye. There is something about them that seems to encourage a strike when all else fails.
Pink and green seem to work a real treat, but my all-time best performer has to be simple silver!
Marabou has long been a popular choice for predatory species hunters. You’ll see it feature in lists for all the best lures, especially those for trout. While panfish are not gamefish, they’ll still work really well, and they are great value too.
In this box, you’ll get an assortment of premium lures designed specifically for catching panfish. Expect to find a nice mix of panfish jigs, spinners, plugs, buzz baits, and lures. They are even kind enough to include instructions on the most effective way to fish each lure.
And it works.
Every time you go fishing, it will be like Christmas. These mystery boxes are packed full of fish magnets. They rotate the selection too, so if you want to try a new box every month and feel overwhelmed when faced with aisles full of ‘the best’ fishing lures, it’s a great option.
Variety, when ice fishing for panfish, is exactly what you need. These mystery boxes might be varied, but they are consistent in one thing… Provided you with the opportunity to catch plenty. They also make for a great gift!
That’s how I’d describe this lure set for ice fishing. Every lure in the box is designed to look like a real-life minnow, and with a choice of colors, you’ll easily be able to match what the fish are feeding on under the surface.
And do you know what’s great?
You’ll get 24 in a pack! That’s pretty amazing value considering what you get for the money. They come with their own case, making storage and stowage really easy.
The lures are actually pretty small, so no worries with frightening the fish away. The rubberized tails swim really effectively, and the weighted heads make them ideal for jigging.
Aside from swimbaits, you’ll also get a few buzz baits. These little blades work really well to create a lot of commotion, all backed up by excellent visuals of the accompanying minnows.
Lots of lures for the money, and they are just the right size for most species of winter panfish. They look pretty realistic, and I’ve even had fish chase them all the way up to the surface. They are pretty much the closest thing you’ll get to actual live bait. Well worth a try!
We all have days where the fishing is a little slow. Here’s how to get around it.
Drop your lure size right down. And I mean, go really small.
An example of what you’ll need to do this. Micro ice fishing jigs, such as these.
These double sides jigs are super simple to use. Just drop them down and give them a little jig. They flutter, flash, and fall through the water and are absolute dynamite when it comes to catching panfish.
I’d opt for a mix of both the 2cm and 1.7cm lures. That way, you can fish for bigger species, and if you find that the bites slow down significantly, you can go a little smaller to switch the fish back on.
The standout feature of these lures is the finish. They are bright, bold, and will work well in anything other than the darkest conditions. They are another that features a realistic 3D fish eye.
Oh, and before I forget, the hooks are really great quality too!
Sometimes when fishing for panfish, the simple solutions are often this best. These are prime examples. You should catch plenty with these simple panfish jigs. They are some of the best ice fishing lures for panfish, no doubt!
Remember how I talked about glow-in-the-dark lures being a really great option for ice fishing? This was exactly the kind of thing that I had in mind.
These little flukes are made of soft plastic and wiggly enticingly. You can fish them a couple of ways, either jigged up and down or left fairly still, allowing the current to do its work.
Go for chartreuse glow if you want a proven fish catcher; I’ve caught using these even in the murkiest ice fishing conditions.
And there’s more than just the visuals.
One area that can occasionally get you more fish is the scent. And these really pack a pungent punch. Fish can follow the scent trail all the way to your bait in practically zero visibility. As a result, you should see a significant increase in your hook-up rate, even if you predominantly fish in poor conditions.
One thing that should be noted. This is a pack of ice fishing lure bodies only. The jigheads aren’t supplied. While this might mean a little extra expense, it also gives you options as they work with any pan-fish jigheads, allowing you to fish your way.
This has to be one of the best ice fishing lures for low light conditions. The combination of movement, visuals, and even a little scent means that they are my go-to choice whenever the water is a bit dark.
The size is perfect too! Stick a pack in your bag for when conditions are less than favorable.
Remember how I was saying that the most expensive panfish lures are not always the best.
Here’s a case in point.
What’s the best color of lure to use when ice fishing for panfish?
It does depend on the venue and the conditions, but I have always had massive success with a ‘pink tuxedo’. If you want to go with chartreuse, you can include this, too, as this budget pack comes with an assortment of brightly colored jig heads.
What do they fish like?
These are essentially mini paddle tails. They aren’t super lifelike, but for some reason, panfish seem to love them.
When would you use them?
Here’s a bit of advice. I tend to get these out when fishing over weed beds.
Two reasons. First, you can rig the hook point into the body, stopping you from getting tangled in weeds. Second, because they are so cheap, it doesn’t matter so much if you lose one.
The best budget lures for ice fishing for panfish. These are really affordable yet still do just as good of a job as some more premium brands.
They are a perfect size, easy to see, and great to bag a few panfish. Great value and easy to use. What more do you want?
The key to catching panfish when ice fishing is to give yourself plenty of options. The best ice fishing lures for panfish need to be the right size, easy to see and have at least one feature that panfish find attractive.
With plenty of cheap options out there, you are spoiled for choice. My list of panfish ice fishing lures should get you a fair-sized bag.
While you are here, why not check out my other ice fishing lure guides? I cover everything from pike lures all the way through to the best lures for walleye. What’s your favorite species? Let me know in the comments.