For pure fishing fun, it’s hard to top scrappy bluegills. At a young age, many of us discovered the thrill of having them pull our bobber into the depths. More experienced anglers may begin to curse the tell-tale tap of a ‘gill on a bass lure, but it’s only because we’ve forgotten just how much fun—and delicious—catching a stinger of these feisty panfish can be.
|The thump of a bull bluegill on an ultra-light rod never gets old. Swimming a single-tailed grub through the weeds is often enough to entice a strike.|
Crickets and worms are consistent producers, but using artificial lures is a more engaging tactic that often produces the biggest bulls in the area. While these fish are aggressive, the most important ingredient in any bluegill lure is compactness. With tiny mouths, bluegills simply can’t get their lips around a big lure. If you keep this requirement in mind, they will strike a wide variety of artificials.
After years of fishing for these diminutive gamefish, I’ve found five offerings consistently yield the best results. Here’s a rundown on these top choices and how to fish them:
A grub paired with a 1/64- to 1/8- ounce lead head jig is, without question, the single most productive bluegill lure. The best grub bodies are short and stubby— featuring either a single or split tail. Top colors include pumpkinseed, motor oil, smoke, chartreuse and orange. The whole lure should measure an inch or less.
A slow, steady retrieve is most effective, although pausing occasionally can help in deep water. If this tactic isn’t working, try to really slow things down. Put a bobber on the line so the lure can suspend as you inch it back.
While a plain grub is usually best, sometimes the same lure rigged on a safety-pin spinnerbait frame, such as the famous Beetle Spin, is an even better bet. This setup provides a larger offering and the spinner adds some flash. It can really make a difference when the water is murky or fish are feeding aggressively.
Though a steady retrieve is usually best, sometimes a stop and go presentation works well. Cast out, let the spinnerbait sink near the bottom, and then begin a smooth retrieve. Half way back, or when you come to a log or weed bed, pause suddenly. Bluegills will nail the lure as it drops.
3. Inline Spinners
Another top choice for cloudy water or feeding fish is an inline spinner. Some I’ve had good luck with include Mepps, Blue Fox, Panther Martin, and the Worden Rooster Tail. Choose small models and stock a variety of blade colors. Silver, gold, black, and fluorescent hues should all have a place in your tackle box.
Retrieve spinners slowly and steadily. Reel just fast enough to get the blade revolving. Strikes are often belligerent.
4. Carolina Rigs
You’ve likely used this setup for bass, but Carolina-style rigging is also a productive way to catch bluegills. Rig an egg sinker weighing 1/8- to 3/8- ounce ahead of a barrel swivel and bead, with the lure trailing 18 to 36 inches behind.
For the lure, a good choice is a thin plastic worm in the two- to four- inch range with pre-rigged hooks or a single exposed hook. Another option is a small grub, hooked through the head, just 1/8-inch in from the tip, on a size eight to ten short-shank hook. This setup is especially appealing to fish on heavily-pressured waters and clear lakes. But be forewarned—you might hook into an eight-pound bass!
Small versions of these wobbling chunks of metal can be excellent choices for bluegills in both lakes and rivers. Cast to cover or eddies in streams and retrieve just fast enough to make the spoon undulate seductively. Silver, gold, green, and black are the best colors.
For fish holding in deep areas in winter or summer, slab-type jigging spoons are especially effective. Position yourself above your quarry or likely structure. Lower the spoon to the appropriate level, and then jig it slowly and rhythmically up and down. It should move 6 to 18 inches with pauses between the lifts. Most fish will strike on the drop, so be ready. If a bull bluegill is nearby, a thumping take is almost guaranteed!
For more info on kid-friendly panfish setups check out 5 Easy Ways to Make the Most of Summer Bluegill Fishing on Bass Pro Shops 1Source.