Do you love big bluegill?
What a great Thread!! My head is about to expload with information!
I was one of those live bait only fisherman 4-5 years ago and "accidently" discovered that artificials can be just as affective if not more so. It happened "accidently" because I was out fishing for Northerns with my Dad and didn't plan of fishing for Gills. When he decided to take a nap I pieced together some small feathered jigs tipped with Berkly Power Wigglers (wax worm look alike) out of some Ice fishing stuff I happend to have with. I proceeded to hammer gills and crappies. It was an eye opening experience, but the truth is I never would have even tried artificials if I had my Nuky Blanky with (crawlers).
So...........leave those crickets home for one trip and just goof around with some lures till you find something you like. There is no bad day on the lake no matter how many you catch. Besides, you may actually find it a very freeing experience! I haven't used live bait for panfish in the 5 years since that day and have never been skunked either.
I will also repeat what another patron had mentioned and that is get to know the lakes you fish, every lake has it's secrets to where the fish are holding and why they are there. I can't tell you how many trips I have taken where I am told the fish aren't biting only to look around and see those same folks fishing the wrong spots. Believe me I am no expert if I can catch them anyone can catch em, but taking time to learn the fish's behavior in any body of water can pay dividends. Fishing artificials can help with this because it forces you to slow down and pay attention to details!! Good luck, I can't wait to see you post the pictures of your "artificial" catches!!