After unhooking another decent bluegill, I baited back up and dropped the jig down the hole. Just as it disappeared from view, the line straightened and the battle was on. The big gill angled away from the hole and fought in a circular motion. Slowly I gained and the fish came into view, a huge plate-sized bluegill battled hard until the very end. A few pictures and then a quick release. It is hard to let a 10-inch bluegill with frying pan written all over her go, but it is for the good of the ecosystem to keep only the five- to eight-inch fish.
It's all in the jig
Why is it that some anglers have all the luck? Well, my friend, it’s all in the jig. Choose the right jig and your bucket will fill; keep on the wrong jig and you better have some good snacks on hand, since you won’t catch anything! Not only is the right jig important, but you must know how to jig your jig, for the most enticing action of the moment.
A fish’s mood can change like the wind and the wind will sometimes change a fish’s mood. In determining what is the hot jig for the moment, you have to impart a little strategy. Weedy bays will hold bluegill early on in the ice season (at first ice) so let’s end the location discussion right now and focus on the jigs that trigger shallow water early-season bluegill.
Catching aggressive fish is easy. But how do you know if a fish is aggressive? Again, jig selection is key. Use a larger jig or spoon like a 1/16th Slender Spoon with several maggots on the treble hook or a red Wedgee Finesse Plastic and try a few holes looking for aggressive fish. Rarely will a Slender Spoon be the hottest ticket for bluegill (like it is for crappie, walleye or bass) but it will help you find a hot bluegill hole.
Once a good hole is found, it’s time to refine your presentation. Don’t gear down the tiniest jig immediately, instead choose a size eight Demon, 2-Spot or Rocker, tipped with a wax worm. This is still a big presentation for bluegill, yet it will help you weed out the smaller fish.
Fishing the weeds edges
Weed edges are great spots that hold bluegill. A wall of weeds makes a great ambush point for a bunch of fish, plus as bluegill travel throughout the day, they will travel along weed edges like an underwater highway.
Custom Jigs and Spins Finesse Plastic and lures like the Shrimpo and Ratso are excellent choices for the weed edges. A soft bobbing motion of your rod tip is all that is needed to trigger a big bluegill into striking a plastic bait. The bobbing motion of the wisp tail of the plastic is the trigger to get the ‘gills to strike. You need to try and hypnotize the fish and even the shyest ones will move on the lure.
Fishing the weed clumps
When a storm blows through, the barometer takes a plunge and the fishing slows, bluegill will move right into the thickest weeds or clumps. Under tough conditions, fishing the edges of the clumps just wont’ do, because the bluegill just won’t move from the sanctuary of the thick weeds.
When fishing the weeds you need a heavy, compact jig like a size eight Demon or a size eight Rat Finkee.
You literally bounce the jig down right to the bottom of the weed stalk. Bluegill are usually hunkered down on the bottom and will eat anything that flops in front of his nose.
The dead finkee
Two years ago Poppee invented a no-jigging method of jigging that has turned into one of the most productive jigging methods ever. He takes a size six or a size eight Rat Finkee and globs three or four wax worms on the hook. This mess is lowered to the bottom and held one to three inches off the bottom. The jigging motion is no motion other than a basic shivering action if you aren’t wearing enough warm gear.
Try the Dead Finkee technique when you are catching smaller fish higher up. Time and time again Poppee and I have gotten bigger bluegill right off the bottom, while smaller fish are up top. Don’t make the mistake of trying to dead stick or float a Finkee. You will always catch more bluegill while holding the rod, even if you are trying to hold the rod motionless!
Match the hatch
Freshwater shrimp or little larvae boogers are a favorite food bluegill. Custom Jigs’ Shrimpo is a perfect imitator of the little guys. New this year is a size eight Shrimpo which is a perfect size addition to the line up. Often times switching sizes up or down will trigger more strikes when you think the bite might be over.
Here’s hoping that a few of these jigs and jigging motions will put a few more fish on ice for you this winter. Remember, be versatile, try different styles and colors, and try to adapt your techniques to the fish’s mood and you will do well this winter.