While there’s no question that bait-fishing for bluegills is popular and productive, the downside is that sooner or later you run out of their favorite food of the day. And that happens far too often just as the action starts heating up!
Anglers of experience have found that substituting tiny, bluegill-sized lures can be interesting, exciting and sometimes more productive than using natural baits. Bluegills are as aggressive and territorial as even the largest of predatory species. Anything that moves is going to be investigated and, most likely, inhaled without a second thought.
Plus, bluegills normally travel in large schools; once you find them, the action can be nonstop. Show them something shiny, mobile and bite-sized and you should have no trouble filling a bucket with these colorful, tasty panfish.
Here’s a look at five of the most effective lures for catching bluegills no matter where or when you fish.
Poppers or gurglers are among the most popular lures for panfish, and bluegills just love them! These proven topwater baits are available in a wide variety of color combinations, but in most cases it’s the action of the popper, not its color, that attracts the feisty ‘gills.
Poppers work equally well in clear, dark or murky waters. The most common colors are white, yellow, red or any combination of bright hues that, for the most part, are designed for anglers to be able to see them among the weeds and grass. Black, brown and other subdued colors also produce strikes when fishing in more open water.
The key to popper success is the lure’s oversized lip, which creates a loud surface disturbance when the lure is twitched, skipped or “popped” via the constant, rapid movement of the rod tip. As the name implies, the lure works best when it is “popped” across the surface (especially near weeds or structure) in short, quick strokes emulating a struggling insect or small frog.
Poppers work best when fished on light lines — 4-pound-test is about right. Tie the popper directly to the line with an improved clinch knot and be sure to trim the line as close to the knot as possible.
Poppers are dynamite when fished near docks and other obstacles where bluegills congregate.
Offered by a number of manufacturers, the hard plastic imitation minnow in the 2-inch size is ideal for bluegill fishing in open water. Tie the line directly to the eyelet and twitch the lure in short, rapid strokes designed to emulate a wounded minnow.
Bluegill-sized minnows may have one or more treble hooks. It can help to add a small piece of bait (a maggot, grub or small piece of worm) to the hook for added enticement. Crimp the barbs down to make unhooking or releasing fish easier. The bigger bluegills can inhale a 2-inch lure easily, making it tough to remove the hooks without mortally injuring the fish.
Minnow-type lures produce best when fished just above the weeds or in open water well away from structure. These lures may be rendered semi-weedless by replacing the standard treble hooks with weedless single hooks.
Imitation minnows are available in various “fish” patterns as well as standard bluegill-attracting colors such as red/white, black/silver or gold.
The tiniest versions of these popular bass baits are so effective for bluegills and other panfish that many anglers use them exclusively with great success.
Available in sizes down to 1/32 ounce, these semi-weedless, flashy lures are designed to be worked through structure to attract the attention of big bluegills hiding nearby. These lures should be kept moving just fast enough to keep the tiny spinner blade wobbling continuously.
Spinnerbait hooks should have a slightly wider gap to ensure solid hookups, and a small split shot or other weight can be attached to the line above the lure to help get the spinnerbait down to fish suspended in deep water without sacrificing the lure’s patented action.
Top colors for bluegill spinnerbaits include yellow, white, black, chartreuse, purple and brown. Tie the lure directly to the line but change the line often to reduce effects of line twist.
Most anglers know that leadhead jigs are very effective for bluegills with a few modifications.
Size matters when fishing for bluegills. Use the smallest, lightest jigs possible — 1/32-ounce crappie-type lures are ideal. Tipped with a small plastic grub, a fish eye or live bait, these standard lures are tough to beat when fished on light line in and around weeds and other structure.
Jighead color (black, white or natural) is not important, but grub bodies should be colorful and highly visible. Water clarity often dictates color selection. Start with white, chartreuse or black and work your way through the spectrum until the fish indicate their preference.
Small jigs can be used in tandem or on spreader rigs, where legal; be sure to check regulations. In either case, be sure to tie the lures far enough apart to avoid tangles while jigging.
One advantage of using jigs is that they are heavy enough to do some deepwater probing when the fish seem to be reluctant to hit. It’s a good idea to start jigging just off the bottom and then work your way to the surface in 3-foot increments. Depending on the depth of the water you’re fishing, you may find bluegills schooling just below the surface or sulking near the bottom where the most structure exists.
Flutter spoons usually are equipped with single hooks and are designed to be fished slowly on light line so that the lure can flutter and dance at the desired depth. Most of the lures are offered in two-tone color schemes to maximize flash value and visibility under a variety of water clarity situations. Gold/silver or brass/silver are the most common color combinations, but spoons in red/black, white/red, gold/white and other eye-catching colors are available.
For bluegill angling, flutter spoons should be very small with matching barbless single, double or treble hooks. Use a stop-and-go retrieve, especially in the weeds. Most strikes will come at the beginning or end of the “flutter.”
Because other, larger fish are attracted to the unique action of these popular lures, it’s best to tie them on heavier line — at least 6-pound-test — or a leader that can withstand the unexpected strikes of larger, toothier predators.
Flutter spoons are best fished alone because their erratic action makes them a poor choice for tandem, dropper or spreader rigs. However, the highly erratic action of these time-tested lures will keep schooling bluegills interested as long as you keep the lure moving in front of them. Use barbless hooks so you can unhook caught fish and return the lure to the depths as quickly as possible.