Big, Bad Bluegill
The fightin'est critters in fresh water

by Don Jordan


Bluegill in small lakes and ponds have start bedding in May and June, bringing these most tasty of our fresh waster fishes into reach of every angler with the desire to chow down on a good spring dinner of fried ‘gill fillets served up with a wilted lettuce salad.

Even better is that once they’ve entered this season, bluegill become one of the most aggressive fish in the lake, not matter what their size. Throwing caution to the wind, both sexes will attack just about anything dropped into the water near its nest. This means that anglers who favor artificial lures can drag a lot of bluegill to the boat right now.

djbiggillcropped.jpg (14887 bytes)While nesting ‘gills will attack small plugs and even bass-sized artificial lures this time of year, the two best bets are small jigs and tiny jig/spinner combinations.

JIGS: Since bluegill nest in relatively shallow water, you will need a light jig head—no more than 1/32nd oz. and possibly as small as 1/64th oz. Either the plastic grub body or the tube jig body will work just fine. The plastic body can be any of several colors, and you should have a good color selection to use when you hit the lake. The stand-by colors are yellow, chartreuse, red, black and white. I always start out with chartreuse, preferably with silver sparkles molded into it. Most plastic bodies you find these days are two-color versions: chartreuse/white, red/white, yellow/black are all good combinations for ‘gills.

SPINNERS: There are several panfish-size spinners on the store shelves these days. There are two that I have used extensively: the Beetle Spin and Mark Fish’s Fish-N-Spin. Pick up the 1/32nd oz. size for bluegill. The Beetle Spin has been around for over 20 years and is still a very successful lure that will catch all species. The Fish-N-Spin hasn’t been around that long, but it is just as good as the Beetle Spin and, sometimes, better. The main difference is that Fish’s bait uses a tiny willow leaf spinner blade that causes less disturbance and flash and is more effective on shy ‘gills. You can find Beetle Spins at most stores, but you’ll have to call Mark Fish in Bedford at 812-275-6574 to buy the Fish-N-Spin. It’s worth the effort.

HOW TO: With either plain jig or jig/spinner rig, you’ll need an ultralight rod and reel able to cast such light baits a reasonable distance. New ultralight rods up to 7-feet long are perfect for tiny baits as the extra length translates to extra distance on your cast. After making your cast to a set of bluegill beds, begin retrieving immediately, but make your retrieve slow and steady. Don’t do a lot of starting and stopping and rod twitching—slow and steady until you get a strike. Crank just fast enough to keep your lure off bottom or out of weed tops. There will be no question when you get a strike. Don’t jerk hard. The fish will usually hook themselves.

DJ’S TIP: If you find ‘gills striking short and you are using a tube jig, trim some of the trailing plastic to create a shorter jig body. If they’re still striking short or just making passes at your lure, add a bit of redworm or a beemoth to the jig. With a little bit of live bait, the jig becomes as near to a sure thing bait as you’ll ever find.

It’s easy to find bluegill beds if you’re fishing where they nest along the bank. When fishing a strange lake, go around the shoreline casting your jigs or spinners until you start catching fish. Keep at them until they stop, then move on along the bank. In a small lake or pond, you can make several circuits and catch more than you want to clean.

If you are disturbed about catching fish as they’re spawning, rest easy. Bluegill are among the most prolific fish of all, and you can take hundreds from most lakes without making a dent in the population. The very best bluegill lakes always have either a good population of medium to big largemouth bass or flathead catfish. Flatheads especially seem to keep lake populations in balance by gobbling up smaller fish.

There is only one other means of catching bluegill during the spawn which generates as much or more action than jigs and live bait—fly casting. Tune in next week for a fly casting for bluegill primer.

Indy 6/6/98

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