Best Fishing Gifts 2016

Nice-Lake-Wallpaper

Shopping for the angler in your family can be difficult. Most fisherman that are serious about it are very particular about the products they want and many are quick to buy any new toy they desire. Here are 10 of the best fishing gifts of 2016. All are very affordable and universal!

*This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and purchase, bluegillslayer may receive a small commission.

Best Fishing Shirt

Columbia Men's Tamiami II Long-Sleeve Shirt

Columbia Men’s Tamiami II Long-Sleeve Shirt – $26-$35

Columbia makes outstanding fishing clothes. They can be a bit pricey but they are extremely comfortable, durable and lightweight. They have “Omni-Shade” sun protection technology that protects your skin on sunny days while still being light and breathable. The shirt comes in over a dozen colors and in sizes up to XXL. Columbia also makes a short sleeve version but I prefer the versatility of the Tamiami II.

 

Best Fishing Sunglasses

Flying Fisherman Maverick Polarized Sunglasses

Flying Fisherman Maverick Polarized Sunglasses – $22

Every angler needs a good pair of sunglasses. I always recommend a curved wrap-around style that allows you to see without glare coming from the sides or above. Flying Fisherman, a company based out of the Florida Keys, is highly regarded as one of the best fishing sunglass manufacturers in the world. Their sunglasses are specifically designed for anglers and very affordable.

 

Best Fishing Magazine

In-Fisherman Magazine

In-Fisherman Magazine – $10

If the fisherman in your life is still old-school and prefers books and magazines to a computer screen, then In-Fisherman is the best bet. All of the articles are written by true experts. Their articles are tangible and contain amazing innovations and ideas for catching more fish. All freshwater species are covered in the magazine.

 

Best Fishing Book

Best fishing gifts - Twenty-Eight Unforgettable Fishing Tales

Greatest Fishing Stories Ever Told: Twenty-Eight Unforgettable Fishing Tales – $12

These twenty-eight stories are incredible. Any fisherman, freshwater or saltwater, will enjoy this collection of amazing tales. The book contains stories from a variety of different authors from around the world. I can’t say enough good things about this book.

 

Best Fishing Pliers

Rapala 6.5 Stainless Steel

Rapala 6 1/2 Stainless Steel Pliers – $10

As I’ve stated before, a good set of pliers is one of the most valuable tools any fisherman has. They are used to remove hooks, cut line, adjust equipment and even open pesky bags and containers. Rapala makes a variety of affordable pliers that work great. Even if your angler already has a pair or two, they will still appreciate this gift. You can never have too many pairs of good pliers.

 

Best Electric Fillet Knife

Mister Twister 120V Electric Knife

Mister Twister 120V Electric Knife – $28

Okay, there are probably better (and more expensive) electric knives out there. However, the Mister Twister is the best value. You can also purchase replacement blades which is something you can’t easily do with most other brands. In addition to cleaning fish, these knives can be used to cut other meats, bread, foam and just about any semi-soft item you can think.

 

Best Rain Gear

Frogg Toggs All Sport Rain Suit

Frogg Toggs All Sport Rain Suit $30 – $60

Anyone that has been out on a lake or river during a rainstorm knows how valuable a good rain suit is. Rain pants aren’t the most stylish clothing item in the world but they beat wet pants. Frogg Toggs make great sets of no-frills combos in a variety of colors.

 

Best Water Shoe

Teva Men's Churn Performance Water Shoe

Teva Men’s Churn Performance Water Shoe – $76

Going in and out of the water and don’t wear waiters? Water shoes are your answer. These work great when docking/undocking a boat or hiking through wet terrain. Unlike most water shoes, these actually don’t look too bad as well.

 

Best Home Fishing Decor

Ambient Weather BA212 Weather Station

Ambient Weather BA212 Wall Mounted Weather Station – $28

If you’re looking for something for a home office or den, this is the perfect gift. As most fisherman know, fish generally get active when the barometric pressure is falling (and in some cases rising). This is an affordable item that also looks great.

 

Best Key Chain Item

 

Backcountry Line Nipper

Backcountry Tackle Line Nipper – $8

This affordable and practical item is a great small gift. Every dentist will tell you – it’s terrible to bite line with your teeth. Don’t do it! A nipper allows you to make clean, close cuts on your line and has a pin that is great for painted over jig heads.

 

Do you have any great gift ideas for an angler in your life? If so, share them below. Also, what’s are some of the best fishing gifts you’ve received?

Late Summer Bluegill Strategies

Late Summer Bluegills

As the dog days of the summer roll by, fishing strategies change. By late July, water temperatures in most places have reached their peak. The days begin to get a little shorter. Fish change their habitats. Knowing how to target late summer bluegills can lead to some great action on the water. Here are some late summer bluegill strategies.

Go Deep

While small bluegills stay shallow all year round, big bluegills move deep in the summer. Locate large humps, the edge of sunken islands or deep weed beds. Bluegill can be as deep as 40 feet (or deeper) when water temperatures are warm. Larger bluegills will school together and be intermingled with bass. Pike will likely be in the neighborhood as well. Early in the morning, bluegill may be a little shallower but will certainly move to deep humps as the day goes on and the sun warms the water.

Try Spoons

While live baits are always a top choice, spoons are a great alternative when you haven’t stopped by the bait shop lately. Spoons can be both vertically jigged and retrieved. Try a Johnson Splinter Spoon with a modified hook. Swap out the standard hook with a smaller, single hook setup. A simple Eagle Claw Aberdeen hook works great. Add a small plastic trailer to finish off a great presentation. I suggest Berkley PowerBait Power Nymphs but really any small plastic works if moves cleanly.

Stay Mobile

Bluegill schools move fast in the summer. As mentioned earlier, fish will start out shallower when water is coolest in the early morning and move to deeper water as the sun comes out. When you catch a fish, get your bait back down to the same spot right away. If you go 10 minutes without catch another, move on to different location or another angle on your hump or weed bed. If the fish are at least somewhat active, you should catch multiple fish in the same area.

Don’t Forget About Slip-Bobber Rigs

Slips are great for controlling depth and keep a bait in a single spot. While it can be challenging working with 30 feet of line while slip-bobber fishing, it can be extremely rewarding. Walleye fisherman use these rigs regularly to catch slow bite ‘eyes. Floats are great ways to locate fish. After catching a fish or two, use a marker and analyze the spot, time of day and depth. This allows you to replicate your success for future trips out. I recommend using an unweighted Thill Pro Series Float and add your own weight based on your bait, depth and body of water.

Conclusion

While shallow water fishing in the spring and early summer is a blast, your best bet to locating big bluegills is in late summer. Large humps and deep weed beds are your best bets to locating these fish. Remember to move on if you aren’t catching multiple fish in one spot and take note of the depth, structure and time of day that you are slaying them at. Enough talk, get out there and fish!!!

3 Most Valuable Pieces of Equipment for an Angler

via flickr alex_ford

via flickr alex_ford

What’s your MVPE – Most Valuable Piece of Equipment? Today we’re looking at the most valuable fishing equipment every angler needs. Items like lures, hooks, rods and reels are too general and are not included when considering an MVPE. An MVPE candidate is an item you can’t leave home without, is used frequently, and helps you catch fish.

Here is our list of the three most valuable fishing equipment items:

1. Needle Nose Pliers

A good pair of needle nose pliers is incredibly handy. They are essential in retrieving hooks in soft
mouth fish (catfish, bullheads, suckers, carp, etc.) and hooks that are lodged further down the throat of
a fish. They also are valuable in straightening hooks, cutting fishing line, tightening loose nuts and many
other things.

Featured Product:

Rapala Fisherman’s Pliers – $8 – $10 Amazon
Valuable Fishing Equipment

2. Sunglasses

Sunglasses provide three important functions. First, they provide protection from the sun. UV light is incredibly harmful to your eyes. Nearly all sunglasses, including most cheap ones, provide at least some UV protection. Two, polarized sunglasses allow you to see through glare on the water. This gives you better views of your line and fish/vegetation. Three, they make you look cool. Even the goofiest person can look good in a sharp pair of sunglasses.

Featured Product:

Flying Fisherman Maverick Polarized Sunglasses – $20 Amazon

Most Valuable Fishing Equipment

3. Camera

BluegillSlayer.com is a huge advocate of C.P.R. – Catch, Photograph, and Release. Cameras provide you with the ability to share memories and document amazing trips. You can show the world what you’ve slayed without actually killing the fish. Nearly all modern cell phones take at least decent photographs. Digital cameras are very affordable and can take excellent shots. Action cameras like go-pros provide amazingly high quality video. Cell phones, digital cameras and go-pros all also have accessories that make them waterproof – a must if your clumsy or just don’t like the idea of wasting a few hundred bucks.

Featured Product

FRIEQ Universal Waterproof Case – $10 Amazon

Best fishing equipment

Honorable Mention

Sunscreen

Why it should have been included:

There are few things worse in life than a bad sunburn. It’s always one of those “in hindsight” things where you wish you would have used it (or more of it). The sun has always been a sneaky enemy of fisherman. Many anglers start out the day before sunrise and forget to apply it as the day goes by.

Additionally, some of the worse sunburns you experience occur on cooler days or days with some cloud cover. Between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM, the sun’s UV light is the strongest, regardless of conditions or temperature.

Why it wasn’t included:

Sunscreen is important for all outdoor activities, not just fishing.

Hats

Why it should have been included:

Hats provide UV protection, allow you to see better and can cover up a bad bed-head look.

Why it wasn’t included:

T-shirts, pants and boots are all just as important if not more so.

Fishing Net

Why it should have been included:

Nets make handling toothy or extremely active fish easier. Trying to handle a Northern Pike with a crank bait in its mouth is virtually impossible to do by hand. Also, it’s always tough to miss getting a picture of a great fish because you weren’t able to get it in the boat.

Why it wasn’t included:

You don’t really need one to shore fish. You also don’t need one to catch bluegills and other smaller fish.

 

Conclusion

There are endless new products and things in a fisherman’s tackle box that are useful. Tell us in the comments below what your MVPE is. Thanks for reading!

 

Yo-Zuri Snap Bean Review

Yo-Zuri Snap Beans Factory Picture

I first heard about the legendary Yo-Zuri Snap Bean years ago. I heard many stories of it’s fantastic ability to slay all kinds of fish – bluegills, bass, crappies, trout, and just about any fish in fresh water. The kicker is it is ridiculously small – either 1/16th oz or 1/32nd oz. I decided purchase the Snap Bean and give it a try. Here is my review and summary of the Yo-Zuri Snap Bean.

The Package

I bought my Snap Beans at a local Cabelas store. I thought they might be in one of the crankbait aisles with all of the other Yo-Zuri products but they weren’t. I had to ask an employee who just happened to know exactly what I was talking about. He guided me to the panfish section and we found one remaining set – the Tennessee Shad version. I personally have always liked this color scheme so I was fine with it.

Yo-Zuri Snap Beans Box

The package comes with two lures – a 1/16th oz and a 1/32nd oz. It’s a little odd to me that they’d come together like that – I’d prefer two of the same size in different colors or just a one pack that was cheaper. I paid $6.99 for the pair. This seems a little steep for two very small crankbaits. However, they are difficult to find and are very popular so I understand the price.

Size

Yo-Zuri Snap Bean Size

It’s really hard to comprehend how small these little guys are until you have them in your hand. They are tiny. As you can see from the picture, the 1/16th oz is about the size of a quarter and the 1/32nd oz is just bigger than a dime. There is one treble hook located on the back end of the lure which seems a little large, particularly for the smaller size. I’m sure you could do some modifying if you’re ambitious.

Yo-Zuri Snap Bean in Action!

I went to a local lake that has some decent shore fishing to test it out. The lake has large amounts of small bluegill so I figured this would be a perfect trial run. I noticed immediately that it was extremely difficult to get any distance on casts. I was using a lightweight rod and reel combo on 4lb test Berkley line and I could probably not cast more than 15 feet max with the smaller 1/32th oz Snap Bean on.

As far as the action was concerned, I was very impressed. It’s always a concern with something that small that it will run funny or not run at all. However, it had a very good wiggle to it. That being said, if there were any specks of moss or weeds on it, it would change to an unnatural motion. I think that’s to be expected though.

Snap Bean Back of Box

It’s also worth noting that Yo-Zuri Snap Beans are not floating lures. The package says they sink 4-6 inches per second. I found that it sinks much slower than that. In fact, it almost seemed like the 1/32th oz pretty much floated an inch or two under the water.

Does it Catch Fish?

I absolutely slayed the small bluegills! It was pretty impressive. Just about every time I had a clean cast without any moss or line twist on it I had a strike. I did miss quite a few strikes which I’d attribute to the small size attracting smaller gills.

Bluegill caught on snap bean

Small Bluegill on 1/32 oz Snap Bean

Like I said earlier, though, I was at a lake with an overabundance of small bluegill and I was fishing during spawning times. I caught over a dozen small bluegills and two crappies in probably 45 minutes on Snap Beans. I also was experimenting with some bobber rigs but had much less luck with that.

Crappie caught on Snap Bean

Crappie caught on 1/32 oz Snap Bean

I still want to test it on open water or on a river and try to land some larger fish. The casting distance and sinking ability concerns me, though. I don’t see it being a deep water bait and so it might be reserved for bluegills chasing insect hatches and shallow water situations. Also, because of the price, have concerns over using them in shaggy situations like sunken trees and rocks but that goes for all crankbaits. I have quite the collection of found river crankbaits that people lost while the water levels were high. One final concern is that I’ve been told the snaky pickerel has an appetite for the snap beans. Because they’re so small, it really wouldn’t take much for a Northern Pike to cut you off and swim off with half of your $6.99 purchase.

Summary

I really enjoyed my time fishing with these little guys. I would categorize them somewhere between a novelty item and a go-to lure. The fish seemed to love them and I believe you can probably catch just about any species of fish on them. The only downsides are your casting distances and the rather high price for such a smaller unit.

3 Bluegill River Fishing Tips

bluegill river fishing tips

River fishing is almost like an entirely different activity than lake fishing. Elements like water levels, current, changes in structure, and recent weather like heavy rainfall all dramatically affect your ability to catch river fish. Bluegill river fishing, in particular, is challenging. Locating concentrations of bluegills on rivers is much more difficult to many than on lakes. Also, many believe that river bluegills simply do not get as big as lake gills. While that may be the case in many areas, several state records were caught on rivers. Here are 3 bluegill river fishing tips to help you land more river bluegills.

1.Tight Lining

“Tight lining” is a technique many fishermen use on rivers that involves a sinker and live bait off the bottom. Floats are extremely effective ways to catch panfish on lakes but current on rivers makes this challenging. Many river fisherman prefer tight lining to keep baits in honey holes or spots where fish are likely to pass through. Use the lightest weight you can that will still keep your bait in place. Attach a nightcrawler or cricket to a #8 hook about 9 inches above the sinker.

2. Think Like You’re Ice Fishing

Anyone that has experienced river ice fishing know how challenging and rewarding it can be. Ice anglers focus on backwater channels and dips in the river where a sand bar or natural curve come into play. This can be a good spring and early summer tactic as well. Early season bluegill will be concentrating in these shallow areas to spawn (or attempt to spawn). In-fisherman created a great graphic that shows where gills congregate. Later in the summer, oxygen depletion can set in to backwater areas which causes fish to move back into the main channel of rivers.

3. No Live Bait? Try Spoons

If you’re out of live bait or just don’t like using it, try spoons. Small ice fishing spoons work best when concentrating on bluegills. A 1/12 ounce Acme Kastmaster is deadly. For river fishing, you may want to modify it by changing to a single hook (from a treble). The nice thing about the Kastmaster is it can be cast and retrieved as well as vertically jigged. Cast out down current and retrieve slowly. It’s important to keep your bait up as snags on rivers are ruthless and a good way to be out of a few nice spoons in a hurry.

Bluegill River Fishing Tips - Acme Kastmaster LureLet me know if you have any bluegill river fishing tips and tricks in the comments box below. As always, get out there and fish!

Locating Spring Bluegills with Fishfinders

Locating Spring Bluegills

Spring is a great time to catch fish for bluegills and other panfish. With temperatures rising and the brutality of a cold winter coming to a close, the light switch turns on and fish change their mindset towards feeding to build energy for spawning. While bluegills begin to get more active around the 50 degree water temp mark, they won’t begin to spawn in most places until the water reaches around 60 degrees. In most places this happens between early May and as late as August. Between the time of post-ice out/winter and spawning, bluegills being to bunch up and get shallower, following bait fish, larvae and hatching insects.

Finding Bluegills with Fishfinders

Fishingfinder technology has come a long way over the past 20 years. In the early fishing electronics days, fish finders were primarily just depth finders that might show a blip if there’s an object that somewhat resembles a living creature. However, today fish finders are amazing tools to help locate, track and navigate to fish. Many have color displays, gps systems, uploadable maps and even side imaging. Locating spawning bluegills with fish finders can make a huge difference between catch a few fish and slaying a school. Here are some techniques for locating spring bluegills with Fishfinders.

Basic Fish Finders

Fish finders can be a relatively inexpensive investment. The three big names in Fishfinders are Lowrance, Hummingbird and Garmin. All three of these brands include entry level fish finders that show depth, water temperature and other features for less than $80.00.

As stated earlier, bluegills will be most active with water temperatures above 50 degrees. They will begin spawning at 60. Water temperature can vary a surprisingly large amount on a lake, depending on sunlight, water depth and structure. Bluegills will almost always go to the nearest, warmest feeding areas in the spring. By keeping an eye on water temperature, you can locate the warmer spots, which should lead to more active fish.

Basic Cheap Fishfind

Garmin echo 100 Fishfinder

Keeping an eye on water depth is also imperative for any fishing. In locating spring bluegills, focus on depths of 4 to 8 feet. 4 to 8 feet is a very wide range in the world of lake fishing. Unfortunately, fish are still fish and their patterns can be random. Start at the shallower areas in the 4 feet range. If you aren’t locating any biters, move a bit deeper. When you catch a few fish, note the depth and focus on areas similar to the one you caught fish in.

Higher-End Fish Finders

All three of the big names also produce unbelievably advanced Fishfinders. If you’d like to spend a few thousand, you can. Some of the best features of higher end Fishfinders include: GPS, uploadable maps that you can mark, detailed imagining and side-scan sonar.

Side-Scan Sonar

Bluegill Beds Side Scan Sonar

Amazing Image of Bluegill Beds Located Using Side Scan Sonar from In-Fisherman

Side-Scan Sonar has been a revolutionary development in the serious angler industry. Side-scanning has been around for over 50 years. It was first developed to help crews find and recover wreckage debris and treasure hunters locate lost ships. It works by emitting a fan shaped pulse toward the bottom of the body of water it’s on. By doing so, you get a nice image of the floor from an above-down perspective. For most systems, a blind spot is left directly below the boat. For fisherman, this tool gives a unique look into structure, depth changes, humps, and so much more. It also can give you an amazing look at bluegill nesting areas. Bluegill nests are saucer-shaped areas that are about the size of a large dinner plate. Locating large amounts of nests is an obvious indicator that bluegills are present.

GPS/Maps

If you’re a dedicated angler and you’re in it for the long haul, being able to identify specific spots and mark fish can lead to huge successes down the road. Without GPS, no matter how good you are with paper maps and locating a spot, you WILL be off and it’s nearly impossible to come back to the exact same location and angle you were at during a previous outing. Modern GPS Fishfinders have the ability to save all kinds of data and they are amazing resource to become a more knowledgeable bluegill slayer.

Go fish!

Regardless of whether or not you want to spend money on fancy Fishfinders (or even fishfinders at all), the most important thing is to go outside, get some fresh air and catch some fish!

INFOGRAPHIC: State Record Bluegills

State Record Bluegills

Bluegillslayer.com compiled a complete list of state record bluegill. The below infographic summarizes some of the interesting data discovered. If anyone is interested in the raw numbers, please let me know. Share, like and tweet!

Bluegill State Record Information

Check out some other recent articles on bluegillslayer.com as well:

Spring Bluegill Fishing Tips

5 Bluegill Baits You’ve Never Tried

Thick Cover Bluegill Fishing

Spring Bluegill Fishing – 3 Essential Elements

Spring Bluegill Fishing

Springtime brings excitement to the lives of eager fisherman. Watching ice melt or checking extended forecasts becomes an hourly ritual in many parts of the country. The anticipation of getting out on an open lake or casting from the banks of the local river can get the most patient person giddy for fishing. Many believe early spring is the best time of the year to catch trophy fish. Bluegills are no exception. Here are 3 essential elements to spring bluegill fishing

Water Temperature

spring bluegill fishing temperature

A light switch flips on in those first few warming weeks once the water hits that perfect temperature. Many believe that magical temperature is 50 degrees. Some have it down to an exact number like 52 or 53 degrees. When the water reaches that magic number, bluegills begin to migrate from their wintering holes to the closest shallow areas they find with some cover. Most modern depth finders or fish finders have temperature gauges. If you’re bank fishing or wading, try using a common cooking thermometer.

Water temperature also varies greatly based on which part of a lake or river you are on. Shallow areas on sunny sides will almost certainly be up to a few degrees warmer than other locations. That degree or two can make all the difference. Start at the warmest location first. Early season Bluegill tend to congregate to these locations.

Structure

Finding habitat is vital in any season. Spring is no different. Despite being aggressive, predatory fish, bluegills still worry about being eaten. And rightfully so. Muskies, northern pike, catfish and even large bass can chomp down on 8+ inch bluegill with ease. Cover varies from water body to water body. In some lakes, rock piles and sunken logs can be the ticket.  Weeds typically aren’t too prevalent in early spring but you might find some hardy weeds off the bottom. Docks and boat houses that are near deep water can also hold schools in the right settings.

Spring Bluegill Fishing Sunken tree Cover

Sunken trees can provide cover for concentrations of spring bluegills. photo via Joelk75 flickr

Structure is vital to spring bluegill fishing because it’s the best way to find concentrations of fish. You might stumble across a bull in transit or get lucky in a spot. However, to catch multiple fish, you need structure. If you aren’t having luck with a specific type of structure, mix it up and try another type. Rocks or trees or weeds.

Presentation

Presentation, in fishing terms, is the lure or bait you use, how you use it. Obviously, there’s no way you’re catching a fish without presenting something it wants to eat. Spring bluegill fishing is a great way to test out different presentations. A variety of techniques will work.

Despite this, there are a few consistent elements that all bluegill fishermen should apply. The best advice is to fish slow. In any season, bluegills aren’t known for following baits long distances or striking from far away. In the spring time, this is double true. They can be slow to make a run at a jig or bait. It’s almost as if they are debating it in their small fish mind. Little or even no movement can land a large amount of bluegills. Consider utilizing a float to control depth and movement.

Common early spring bluegill fishing live baits include wax worms, red worm/night crawler pieces, and crickets. Small leeches can also work very well but bluegills are masters at pecking them off. A number 8 hook works really well. Never go bigger than a number 6 hook if you’re looking for just bluegills.

Spring Fishing Atlas Mike's Glo Scents

Some fishermen have great success using artificial baits as well. Small plastics and Berkley power grubs will frequently catch fish. A surprisingly few amount of panfish anglers use bait sprays. Bait sprays give you’re your jig that little extra kick that can be the difference between a small nibble that’s spit out and full slurp. Berkley Gulp! Alive! Attractant Spray is widely available and comes in many flavors. Atlas Mike’s Glo Scents is another cheap oil that does the trick.

Go Fish!

Spring bluegill fishing is fantastic. You can’t catch fish sitting on your couch or at your computer. Get out there and slay them!

Thick Cover Bluegill Fishing

Thick Cover Bluegill Fishing

Dense cover is ideal for panfish. They are safe to feed nearby. Think of lily pads, thick weeds and other heavy vegetation as a wooded forest – full of places to live, hide, and pounce on prey. This wooded forest is full of both large predatory fish and small minnows, larvae, nymphs, tadpoles and more. This creates the perfect bluegill fishing environment.

Large, fat bluegills stalk prey in the shadows of cover, rarely seeing artificial lures, boats and fisherman. Fishing in these parts requires different equipment to catch these elusive beasts.

Finding Fish

One of the biggest problems with fishing thick vegetation is mobility. Kayak and canoe typically works best when sneaking into pockets inside these holes. Motorized boats can quickly be damaged by tangled propellers and get stuck in narrow or shallow stretches. Flat bed or small paddle boats will also work in the right environments using a push pole or paddles.

Fortunately, locating fish is these thick forests is not challenging. Find the edge of one habitat that leads into another. For example, find reeds that line the edge of lily pads. According to several research studies, lake fish are more likely to live in areas with diverse vegetation. Small critters like invertebrates, tadpoles, and minnows have more places to hide (or so they think) near the surface of the water. However, bluegills hide in the shadows, waiting for that one wrong move by prey.

Locating Bluegills in Cover like lily pads, reeds, cattails and weeds

Target edges of one cover to another.

Listen for the popping sound. Bluegills will make a slurp or popping noise when feeding. In thick vegetation, this comes from them plucking grubs or worms off of the bottom of lily or dollar pads. If you consistently hear the noise, you know they are there and they are active.

Equipment

Next, using a float like a thill shy bite is both fun and an effective way to catch bulls. It serves two purposes – 1) It allows you to identify bites easily and 2) It allows you to regulate the depth of your bait or jig. Try suspending your bait in different depths. The best place to start is about half way in thick cover.  If your float does not stand straight up, you know you have it set too deep, a fish is on the line, or you are caught or tangled on weed.

Thill Gold Medal Mini Shy Bite Float Bobber

Thill Shy Bite Float

The bait and line you use can vary on the location and season. In summer weather, small leeches, worms or soft plastic jigs are most effective. In the spring, maggots can be the ticket to slaying big bulls. As for line, 4 to 6 lb line works the best to give you a combination of strength and sensitivity. If you’re not a budget fisherman, splurge and purchase braided line. Braided line tends to be much stronger and doesn’t stretch. This makes cutting through weeds and battling fish a little easier.

A proper hook strategy is also critical to catching fish and not weeds. The hook you use should have just enough space shown to hook into a bluegill’s mouth nothing left to snag onto. Big bulls will attempt to take off for the weeds or deeper water. Avoiding getting hung up on snags is a must in order to catch these big boys. The preferred hooks are a #10 or maybe a 1/64 oz weighted jig is all you need. This may seem tiny but keep in mind how small bluegill mouths are. Some anglers also will bend their hook in slightly to ensure it wraps along the mouth of the fish.

Other Thick Cover Bluegill Fishing Techniques

Using flies can also be a tactic for catching slop bluegills. Casting poppers is both fun and natural in these environments. The thud of the popper hitting on top of a lily pad will sometimes get the attention of a bull and they’ll strike it the second it hits the water.

Other strategies include using small spoons like lindy frostee spoons or a Johnson Sprite but replace the treble hook with a smaller #10 or #8 size hook. Horizontal jigs like Bait Rig’s Slo-Poke and Kalin’s Ultimate jig can be fun to use. Try dancing the jig with a worm or grub tipped on the end. Make sure to you either have a clear path to reel it up or you’re close enough to be able to lift it out of the water.

Original Johnson Sprite Spoon

Johnson Sprite Spoon

Get out there and fish!

Regardless of the strategy, thick cover bluegill fishing is a challenging, yet rewarding tactic. Big fish live in places that are hard to reach. Fishing reeds, weeds, and lilies can be a great way to catch monster, dinner plate sized bluegills

Hybrid Bluegill

 

Big Hybrid Bluegill

MD DNR

What are Hybrid Bluegill?

Hybrid Bluegills are a cross between purebred bluegills and other members of the sunfish family. The most common hybrid bluegill is a cross of a female green sunfish and a male bluegill. This hybrid bluegill will have the general shape of a bluegill but will have more of a spotted scale pattern on the gill plate and body, whereas a traditional bluegill has a more distinct set of stripes. Purebred bluegills have more of a distinct red patch on their throat. The hybrid bluegill’s mouth is much larger than a regular bluegill as well.

 

Denton Taylor via flickr

Note the large mouth size. Photo: Denton Taylor via flickr

Pond Stocking Hybrid Bluegills

The bluegill hybrid species (bluegill/green sunfish) is common in pond stocking. This is due to their notoriously aggressive nature and large size. Their tremendous appetite allows them to grow extraordinary fast. Hybrid bluegills can grow at rates of ½ lbs or larger per year. This creates an amazing and enjoyable fishing experience.  Despite the large size and aggressiveness of the fish, there are some downsides to stocking hybrid bluegills. The biggest one being reproduction limitations. Offspring of hybrid bluegills will be extremely skewed towards males. About 9 out of 10 bluegill hybrid offspring will be male. This means re-stocking and monitoring of fish numbers. Additionally, hybrid bluegill species will compete directly with largemouth bass for food and habitat.

Other Hybrid Bluegill Species

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, over 20 different combinations of hybrid sunfish have been found in natural environments. A study done by the Illinois Natural History Survey was able to produce 12 combinations of red-ear sunfish, bluegill, green sunfish and warmouth hybrids. The results showed that while these combinations are possible, environmental factors play a large part in determining hybrid success. The study also concluded that hybrid species are not sterile and can produce offspring.