Don’t bother with those goody panfish, target the bulls
Small, dink bluegills are insufferable. Giant gillstrue bullsare another story altogether. I can recollect with perfect clarity every hump-headed, 12 -plus-inch bluegill that I have ever caught. The listing necessitates one hand to indicator. The last occurred on a fishery known to grow 2-pounders. The battle was tremendous. No jumps; just powerful, determined runs. My expected big bass morphed into Brutus. He measured 12.5 inches and weighed 2.1 pounds. So, what can be done to tempt more policemen? Try these tactics this spring.
1. THINK BIG
Upsizing your enticements can increase your odds of connecting with some of the largest bluegills in any fishery. During the pre-spawn period, when big male gills first move onto the flats to stake out their own future spawning grounds, soft-plastic swimbaits will provoke strikes from territorial policemen. Favorite lures in this category include Storms Suspending WildEye Swim Shad. At 3 inches, these baits are outside the experience of most panfish anglers, but they are just large enough to cause a reaction from policemen. At 1/4 ounce, they cast well on light line, and their suspending nature helps keep them from snagging bottom on a slow retrieve.
The technique used in conjunction with these swimbaits is simple. Locate 2- to 6-foot flats adjacent to traditional spawning sites. Fan cast the flats by making long castings toward the shoreline. Retrieve the entice just fast enough to keep it off the bottom, with an occasional twitch of the rod to vary the action of the paddletail. Big bluegills will chase down these baits from a distance.
2. GO DEEP
Once policemen are in full spawning mode, they are less likely to chase horizontally moving enticements and are best left alone to spawn the next generation of trophies. With the spawn completed, big gills vacate the flats and push off to deep outside weed edges. In these areas, you can target policemen by casting parallel to the edges with sinking lipless rattling baits, blade baits, and tailspin enticements. These can be fished with a yo-yo retrieve to covering multiple depth ranges. Top-producing enticements include a 1/4 -ounce# 5 Rapala Rippin Rap, 1/4 -ounce Rat-L-Trap, 3-ounce Johnson Thin Fisher, 1/4 -ounce Big Dude Blade Bait, and Biwaa Divinator Mini. The size, flashing, and/ or noise of these enticements will describe big bluegills out of the weeds.
In lagoons that absence weeds, the biggest gills in the system are often pelagic and key on stone structure. Nomadically wandering in open water, they opportunistically feed on minnows and young-of-the-year panfish that get pushed against mid-lake humps and points, as well as on bottom-dwelling crayfish and hellgrammites. At 10 inches or bigger in size, bulls have no dread. They are no longer prey for bass or walleyes. Instead, they have reversed roles and are now predators of young-of-the-year fish.
Bull bluegills are not schoolers. Instead, they travel in small pods of similarly sized fish, often accompanied by several bass. Target these policemen in the same manner you would bassby drop-shotting. While finesse plastics can be used to occasionally fool savvy deep-water policemen , nothing outproduces a lively whole nightcrawler or leech nose-hooked with a size 8 VMC Spinshot hook. Use the lightest weight possible to maintain bottom contact, and no-stretch braided line for maximum sensitivity. Bluegills are suction feeders and can breathe in and spit out a bait in a blink of an eye.
For a more active approach in deep water, hire a spoonful and bait. Top spoons for this approach are compact rattling spoons such as the Acme Rattle Master, VMC Rattle Spoon, and Clam Rattlin Blade Spoon. Tip them with either live bait or the more durable and heavily scented Gulp! Waxies. Work spoons by allowing them to sink to the bottom. Give them a couple of quick pops to get the spoonful rocketing 3 to 4 feet off the bottom, then slow down the retrieve by hopping the spoonful back to the barge about 6 to 10 inches off the bottom with each hop. Continue working the spoonful until it is directly under the barge. With the spoonful suspended a few inches off the bottom, shake the rod tip to get the spoonful rocking backward and forward. This slight rocking motion is often enough to draw a strike.
3. WATCH THEM FALL
Panfish anglers often forget that they need to impart lively action to their jigs by changing up materials in order to vary their fall rates. Whether its marabou, rabbit, or deer hair , no particular jig material runs under every conditionhowever, there are dramatic differences among them that astute panfish anglers can use to their advantage.
Marabou is a popular panfish jig material due to its soft undulating action in the water. Stimulated originally from fine stork featherings and now from less exotic chicken featherings, marabou compresses with each pull of the jig and expands out on the intermission. Contracting tightly on the fall, marabou has minimal water resistance to slow the jigs descent. The resulting fast fall rate helps get your entice to the bottom quickly for deep-water policemen while avoiding smaller suspended gills. To slow the fall rate slightly and bulk up the appearance of jigs, add a plastic trailer like a Slab Jiggies Realistic Minnow. At hours, bigger is better.
Rabbit hair jigs are coveted by top bluegill anglers who fish cold water. Rabbit hair inhales less than marabou and, therefore, maintains its shape better in the water, falls more slowly, and fish big for its weight. Tip these jigs with a large leech or half a crawler for the ultimate slow sinking jig-and-bait combination. Top quality rabbit hair jigs include 1- or 1-ounce Mr. Derks Buggy jigs. While originally designed for steelhead, these high-quality jigs are deadly on trophy gills and crappies.
Somewhere between the fall characteristics of marabou and rabbit is deer hairgenerally referred to as bucktail. Bucktail holds its shape in water, is durable, and has a moderate fall rate. The most well known of all panfish bucktail jigs is likely the Original Pinkie jig by Little Atom. These have a darter-style head that lends a side-to-side action to them with each twitch of the rod.
While the descent rate of jigs is important for garnering “members attention” of policemen, equally important is the seem of fishing jigs at rest on the bottom. Trophy bluegills are like a magicians worst heckler. They will race up to a suspended jig and then stop on a dime inches from the bait. With pectoral fins waving, they hover in placemeticulously investigating every minute detail of the offering. Their unblinking eyes search for any mistakes in the presentation. However, by laying a jig on the bottom, theres less opportunity that flaws is likely to be detectedsuch as they might with a jig that is spinning or moving in an unnatural manner or suspended just a little too high or too low. Instead, bulls in accordance with the offering on the fall are presented with naturally exhaling fibers and a wiggling live bait on the bottom, where the majority of members of their food naturally resides or originates. A vulnerable bait is often too much in order to be allowed to resist.
4. THINK LIKE A BASS ANGLER
Giant gills have different feeding habits and a different mentality than small ones. Once they get big enough that they dont fit into a bass mouth, they begin to feed like bass. They are up earlier than small gills and cruise the flats looking for smaller fish that have yet to react to the changing lighting. Bull bluegills also feed later into the evening for similar reasons. Smaller fish are susceptible to being feed, whereas policemen are not on the menu. Topwater baits like a Storm Hopper Popper or Heddon Tiny Torpedo play to the curious nature of gills, and the disturbance they make on the surface will describe “the worlds biggest”, most aggressive fish. By thinking of policeman bluegills the same way you would about bass, you can better decipher their places and figure out how to catch them.
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