“One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small and the pills your mother gives you don’t do nothing at all”...Grace Slick, The Jefferson Airplane, 1977.
If you want to catch big panfish, you’ve got to think small. A number 4 hook rigged with a big nightcrawler, sitting under a bobber the size of a baseball won’t get the job done, not if you want to be a panfish machine.
Think Small Jigs for Catching Bluegill
Mick Thill, a man instrumental in bringing groundbreaking panfishing methods to America from England and who once beat the USA over the head with our own crude oversize American tackle developed what panfishing has become today. Small hooks, ultra thin floats and micro line.
Hold out your hand, palm facing you, that is pretty much the size of a good bluegill and the tip of your middle finger is the size of the fish's mouth. This fish will only eat what he can fit in its mouth and most of the time if you ever watched a bluegill feed, they suck in the food from one to two inches away!
If you are an ice fisherman, you are probably already using ice fishing lures all year round.
If you have never ice fished and want to catch quality panfish this month, you need to scale down, way, way down. Three pound line, ultralight soft tipped rods and teeny tiny jigs with grubs or redworms for bait are just what the doctor ordered.
“Take two Gill Pills and call me when the livewell is full”, Dr. Poppee Says.
Which bluegill jig do you recommend?
Pick up a few Gill Pills made by Custom Jigs & Spins. They come in two-pack “Snack Packs”, and are available with size 14, 12, 10 and 8 hook sizes. (The higher the number, the smaller the hook size). I like to use the size 8 and 10 for open water fishing.
Bait is pretty simple; waxworms, spikes, or half a redworm work best for bluegills. Perch and crappie prefer small minnows. You can also add plastic like Custom Jigs & Spins Finesse Plastic or Gulp Alive.
To bob or not to bob?
There are two schools of thought on bobbers. Mick Thill preferred pencil thin floats. Lindy makes one called the Thill Shy Bite which really works well.
The gist of it is that it needs to be weighted just right so that only the red tip shows above the water. When a fish pulls it feels no resistance. This is key to catching the larger fish since it is the resistance that spooks them and then they spit out the bait.
My other buddy, Cowboy Kevin, Giddy up Guide Service likes to use a small pear shaped plastic bobber the size of a quarter. This creates a nice splash and when you give your line a twitch, makes another splash or pop that attracts the fish.
Cowboy Kevin catches lots and lots of panfish with this method.
I like both methods, sometimes the splash attracts them and other times they want a super silent stealth approach.
Whether you fish from shore or a boat, shallow water or deep, the method is the same. Make short concise casts around cover like fallen trees, piers and weeds. You want to try to establish a pattern of where the fish are located and then fish similar style areas. Underhand casts and short flip casts are the rule.
Try tungsten jigs for catching fish
Lately, I’ve been using tungsten jigs like a 5mm Chekai and a size 8 Glazba, especially the Glazba. I will use these jigs without a bobber and I can pitch them and slowly retrieve them. A slow steady retrieve is a must. Soon you’ll need to add a repertoire of retrieve motions to attract fish since fish will act more favorably to retrieves that emulate injured prey.
A tungsten jig will also help you cast farther and have better control on a windy day. You might think that you need a small bobber to cast, but believe me, you will catch more fish tight lining a jig as and feeling the hit as opposed to waiting for them to take the bobber down. If it’s windy you’ll soon learn that the bow in your line is a strike indicator. Once that bow disappears...set the hook!
So this month, take a few Gill Pills, Chekai Jigs and Glazbas and go fishing. Once you start catching quality panfish you can progress to larger species since their habits are very similar. Fish around piers, weed edges and fallen trees. Whether you fish from shore or by boat, be super quiet and try to think like a fish!