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Bluegills - You'll Smile All the Way to the Bank!

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By Stan Fagerstrom
Product Review Editor

September 3, 2014

You’ll Smile All The Way To The Bank!
By Stan Fagerstrom
Part 1
It’s probably just as well the little buggers don’t come any bigger than they do. If they did they’d run all the bass to the other end of the lake and gobble a carp or two for breakfast.
No, I’m not talking about the piranha or some other exotic critters unknown here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  The fish I have in mind are those feisty and pugnacious little devils you’ll find from one end of the country to another. We call ‘em bluegills.
I cut my fishing teeth catching bluegills, crappies and perch.  There’s
nothing unusual about that.  So have tens of thousands of other
fishermen around this wondrous country.  Most, like me,
usually concentrate on the larger species of sports fish.  Even so,
I’ll bet they still retain a fond spot in their fishing memory book for
If you’re like me, that’s especially true when your thoughts get around to
those scrappy little devils we call bluegills.  Ask an experienced panfish
angler the following question sometime: "How do you rate bluegill when it
comes to fun and fight?”
Watch the eyes of the person to whom that question is directed.  Chances
are they'll light up as mine do whenever my thoughts turn to these
interesting little scrappers you’ll find in the majority of lakes, ponds and
puddles all over the United States.   If another fish has provided more
angling fun for millions of Americans, I don't know what it would be.
Bluegills aren’t usually big.  You’ll never really enjoy fishing for them
unless you scale down your tackle to match the size of the fish.  Let’s take
a look at some of the basics to successful bluegill fishing.
I’ve caught thousands of these good eating, hard fighting panfish over
most of the past century.  I’ll share some of the thoughts I’ve come by
as a result.
You can, of course, catch bluegill on natural baits.  Worms fished on
a small hook beneath a light float catch bluegills wherever they are found.
It’s my contention natural bait isn't a necessity.   As far as I’m
concerned using it reduces the sport to its lowest common denominator.
You can catch all the bluegill you want on small artificial lures.  Provided, of course, you have the right gear and use it in a fashion that’s going to get
results.  The two best ways to go about it are with a light spinning outfit
or a fly rod.
A word about finding bluegills is in order before we get into techniques to
catch them.  If you know the lake you're on holds these panfish, ease
your boat along the shoreline and watch for feeding activity.  Bluegills
often give their location away by dimpling the surface as they feed.
They make a distinctive little “glurp” as they take something off the top.
If you spot such activity, don't run over the feeding fish.  Stay back at least      20 to 30-feet and cast into the area where the fish are.  Bluegills aren't
loners.  They like company.  All year long where you find one there will
likely be others, often lots of them.
After you catch that first one, work the entire area carefully.  Hit it
right and you may wind up catching 50 fish or more without moving
your boat.
It’s plain, old fashioned fun to catch bluegills with a light spinning outfit.
Ultra light spinning gear is made to order for that purpose.  A light action
rod of at least 6 ½-feet equipped with a lightweight open-faced spinning
reel is a great setup.  Load the reel with 2 to 6-pound test line and you're
ready to do business.
You won't catch those 50 fish I mentioned unless you know
what lures to pick and how to use them.  The most effective small lures
I've found for 'gills while using a spinning outfit are miniature plastic
I use these lures behind tiny leadhead jigs in the 1/32nd-ounce to
1/16th-ounce class.  The size jigs you'll need depends on the depth at
which the fish are holding.  If they are fairly deep, use the
1/16th- ounce head.  If they are up near the top, switch to the
1/32nd-ounce head.
Whichever leadhead you use, check its hook size carefully. A Number
10 hook is ideal for darn near all kinds of bluegill fishing.  It's small
enough to catch average or larger bluegills, but it's too big for those
teensy little guys you don't want to mess with in the first place.
I like to carry at least three basic colors in the miniature plastic grubs I
throw for bluegills.  They are black, white and yellow.  I've caught fish
on other shades, but these three will usually get the job done.
How you manipulate these grubs is as important as the color you select.
If one color doesn’t get results, switch to something else.  Let the fish
tell you what they want.
As I've mentioned, once you've got a bluegill school pinned down, stay
back and cast to it.  Let your jig sink, then start a slow retrieve.  Make
teensy flips of the rod tip as you reel.
For more than three decades I lived smack on the shore of Silver Lake
in Southwest Washington State.  The lake was loaded with bluegills.
I don't know how many thousand I caught there over the years, but it was
a bunch.  I usually fished with a barbless hook to save time and to make
it easier to handle the little scrappers I brought to the boat.
One shore I fished from now and then was elevated.  Being higher up
I had opportunity to observe how bluegill went about taking a lure.  I
found what they often did was to slide up behind a lure without touching
it.  Then they’d often follow along just a couple of inches behind the lure obviously eyeballing it ever so closely.
When I twitched the lure so it darted forward like it might be getting away,
the bluegills zipped in while turning to grab the lure going away.  That’s
why I stress the importance of flipping your rod tip during the retrieve.
Do be sure make to make those flips light and easy.
It's also important not to fish your tiny jig and worm too fast.  If
you aren’t getting hits up near the surface let the jig sink and work
it back as slowly as you can without hanging up.  Keep in mind that
the deeper the bluegills are, the more difficult it is to detect strikes.
Learn to be a line watcher.  If you sense a difference in the feeling
being transmitted up your line, or if you see the slightest little twitch
in your line where it enters the water, set the hook.
You shouldn’t have difficulty finding miniature curly tailed plastic
grubs that are such super baits for bluegills.  Stay with the really small
sizes.  If you’re fortunate to find spots where the bluegills run larger than average, and I’ve not found such spots often but they do exist, you may
be able to go up a tad in your grub size.
Always remember, however, that bluegills have a very small mouth.  I
nailed the largest bluegill I’ve ever caught one time on a Number 2 Johnson
Silver Minnow while fishing for bass.  It wasn’t foul hooked.  Somehow it had managed to get that sizeable hook into its tiny little mug.  I always wish I had
weighed that particular fish because it’s by far the largest ‘gill I’ve ever boated.
As I’ve previously mentioned, keep the size of a bluegill’s mouth in
mind when you select the tiny leadhead jigs you’ll be using with your
little grubs.  Even the smallest and lightest little jigs won’t work worth a
toot if they come with too large a hook.  Again---I consider a Number 10
hook to be the ideal size.
In my next column we’ll take a look at using the fly rod for bluegills.
It’s a super way for a beginner to get a handle on fly fishing.  It’s also
a great way for experienced fly rodders to polish their existing skills
and have a whole lot of plain darn fun in the process.
-To Be Continued-

Part 1

It’s probably just as well the little buggers don’t come any bigger than they do. If they did they’d run all the bass to the other end of the lake and gobble a carp or two for breakfast.

No, I’m not talking about the piranha or some other exotic critters unknown here in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  The fish I have in mind are those feisty and pugnacious little devils you’ll find from one end of the country to another. We call ‘em bluegills.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 September 2014 09:35

Crappie Corner - Electronics for More Crappie

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By Tim Huffman

August 29, 2014

Every fish-electronics company has special perks when it comes to mapping, sonar, scanning, GPS and other features. However, the purpose of these units is the same . . . to help you safely navigate and catch more fish in a shorter period of time.

So which company is best? Talk to a Lowrance user and he will tell you why that company is the best. Same with a Humminbird, Garmin or other brand fisherman. Again, each one has advantages but today’s great electronics and mapping programs of various kinds make them all good choices.

Last Updated on Friday, 29 August 2014 09:02

Shin’s Constantly-Expanding Options

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By Pete Robbins

August 13, 2013

Fukae hopes to be a two-tour pro in '15

When Shinichi Fukae launches his Ranger this week on Lake Murray for his ninth Forrest Wood Cup, he's likely to be among the favorites. It's not because he's a local – in fact, no one in the field hails from further away. Rather, it's because it's expected to be a grind, and when things are tight, Fukae seems to have a knack for finessing fish that won't bite, or that others don't think even exist.

That's not to say that he can't power fish, too, or at least excel when others are grinding with braid and big baits. Just a couple of weeks ago, he won the second Bassmaster Northern Open of the year on Lake Champlain, fishing his strengths – and a couple of key Yamamoto baits, the Shad Shape Worm and the Senko – to qualify for next year's Bassmaster Classic.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 August 2014 04:21

The Frustration of Familiarity

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By Ken Smith

August 29, 2014

It has taken me almost a year to write this article. Not because the words wouldn’t come, but because the emotions were so raw. As a weekend tournament fisherman, specifically one that fishes the Walmart BFL circuits, I think there are three pinnacles most of us want to reach: To win a tournament, to win AOY, and to go to the All American. I have accomplished two of the three, and I’ve smelled the third, more than once, the hardest of which was at the regional on Ouachita when after a four-hour fog delay I could only put four keepers in the boat and missed going by a pound and 4 ounces.

Last Updated on Friday, 29 August 2014 08:51

Rods n Rigs - My Top 5 Senko Lakes

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August 10, 2014

I don’t know if I’ll ever have my own reality TV show, but if I was ever forced to survive in the wild and I was allowed to take only one bait, I would absolutely demand that it be a Senko. I say this all the time, but I am convinced that there is no other bait as versatile and effective as the Senko.

Last Updated on Sunday, 10 August 2014 11:35

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