Bluegill - Big Bluegill

Do you love big bluegill?

I've pondered this question for a long time now. Are lures designed to catch fish, or the angler him/herself? I've been tinkering around with incorporating flyfishing techniques into my spinning gear arsenal, and with some free time on my hands this morning, I thought I would conduct a little experiment.

When it comes to presenting your bait/lure with as natural a presentation as possible, the flyrod truly comes into its own. The ability to lay that fly gently on the water's surface, then have it slowly fall through the water column is key to triggering a strike, especially on cautious, or wary fish. It simply needs to look realistic. Or does it? Perhaps it's not the exact appearance of the lure or fly that triggers the strike, but could it be how that fly moves through the water instead?

The downside is, of course, the room needed to cast this fly..... I typically see fly anglers with a whole lot of empty space behind them, or wading out to create the needed space, or perhaps utilizing a float tube. I want that ability with my spinning gear.... no wading or floating, and if the tree branches are rubbing the back of my neck, no problem.

I have experimented with weighting flies with fine wire, tipping them with live bait for added weight, using a casting bubble, and having a custom spinning rod made from a 3-weight fly rod blank. All of these methods have produced fish for me, but I'm still tinkering with the particulars. A casting bubble, or float, will get you the distance, but at the expense of stealth... after all, a big kersploosh isn't very natural when an insect hits the water's surface. What if that commotion scares off the really big, smart fish?

For now, the best solution I have found involves micro jigheads. I use 1/100oz, and 1/80oz. My initial thought was to try and replicate popular wet flies in a jig form, but they still sink too quickly. Then, earlier this morning, I decided not to concentrate so much on what the fly looked like, but rather how it fell through the water. I needed to slow their descent. I call it my B and P jig..... as in bits and pieces. Total construction time was less than 15 minutes from conception to finished product. For sure, you won't be seeing it on the cover of Fly Fishing Monthly, but maybe that's the whole point.

I started with a 1/100oz jighead. I took two pieces of black floss about 3" long, and tied them with, get this, square knots... right behind the head, and at right angles to each other. I trimmed the free ends to about 1/2". For the body, I used a 1/4" hole punch and some black foam pipe insulation. The kind that comes in 4' lengths at any home improvement store. It had a 3/8" wall thickness, so each punch gave me a "body" that was 1/4" in diameter, by 3/8" long. I placed a tiny drop of super glue on one end and threaded it on the jig's hook, sliding it up against the black thread tied on earlier.

To finish it off, I took two pieces of red floss and simply tied them to the bend of the hook. More square knots, and another drop of glue. I trimmed these to about 3/4". That's it, all finished. With my 4.5' ultralight, I could cast this jig around 23', in my backyard test area. The 1/80oz jighead should get me up to around 30'.

Only one thing left to do....take it to the water. I purposefully chose lake #6, which is actually owned by my brother-in-law, as it is neither fed or managed. More experimentation is needed, but the initial results were very encouraging......despite what the "fly/jig" looked like............

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I couldn't agree more LOFR, sometimes it certainly seems that presentation, rather than appearance, puts more fish in the boat.

Very cool discussion.  I was interested in this as soon as it was posted by Tony, but for some reason can rarely post on here with my iPhone.  

Excellent analytical tutorial Tony. Will have to make a few of these myself to test the waters over here. Unfortunately, our waters is not as calm and not as sheltered. Plenty of crazy commotions over here. However, the unique of ultra slow decent is the key, regardless. Will try it.

Hey Tony...I have been doing the 100th and 80th oz thing for about 10 years now, and I have to agree that the 'fall rate' through the water column has a lot to do with the success of the lure, weather a jig, fly or live bait.

Everyday is different, and what works on Sunday might not get them on Monday. The 'hard and fast rules' of bluegilling simply do not exist. The attitude of the fish can change and an aggressive bite can quickly turn neutral, even negative, in a few short hours...or less! One day, they will hit a fast moving crankbait, then...it's that slow-fall jig-fly effort. And again, a live worm or cricket seems to be the saving grace on some trips.

That's what makes gilling so fun and exciting, especially for big fish. I sometimes wonder, when I tip my jigs with bait, at what point does the jig cease to be an attraction and then become an 'anchoring point' for a prime, live bait, which seals the deal for an inquisitive sunfish thinking about striking. There are times when I can catch a ton of fish on the jigs plain, with no bait. And there are times they will not commit, unless there is a livebait offering on the hook of the jig. And that difference can be within the timeframe of a single, evening trip!

So, now that we have answered few, if any questions on the topic, let's go fishin'!

Good points Jim. I too have wondered aloud on the jig-tipped-with-live-bait issue. What aspect of that combination is inducing the strike? Every ice angler I know tips his/her jigs with spikes or waxies, I know I am a firm believer on having a little "wriggle" to seal the deal.

I've made up some more size 10 B & P jigs, where the only difference is the amount of foam in the body.....same colors and size for all of them. Therefore, the only difference should be the sink rate through the water column. If I can find some active fish, I will switch off and see if the more bouyant jigs produce more, or less action than the faster sinking ones. I'm betting the slower fall will be a better producer. I also found some colored foam, so I will make a few in different colors, also in different sink rates.

I used to ice fish with a buddy who swore by a certain jig, in a certain size.... nothing wrong with that, I know I have my favorites also. Except in this case, he supposedly made an observation that SOME of these jigs, contained a white ring around the painted on "eye". Keep in mind, these were size 16 jigs..... I never noticed any difference in the catch rates myself, but he was absolutely convinced, to the point he would pull them all of the shelf and scrutinize each one, looking for the white ring. Personally, I think it was more of a printing error, or misalignment, not intentional on the company's part.

Having unshakable faith in a particular bait, or lure, can be taken to the extreme. And, I believe, be detrimental to fishing success.

Tony...I, too,  have seen some anglers who absolutely swore by a certain bait or lure, and would not deviate from it no matter how many fish were hitting another option. Boy, that sure does limit your chances for success!

I tell ya, if the kid down the bank from me is tearin' em up on hot dog slices, then I'm goin' for the meat! I will use what works on any given day to achieve success. I have my preffered tactics, but I am not a purist or sold completely on any one method that as 'never-fail'. Some are better, and more applicable than others, while some techniques are more seasonal or regionally specific. If we pay attention and go with the flow, we will all be better bluegill fishermen. Last 2 trips I went hi-tech...#10 Aberdeen wire hook and a worm, for skittish, bedding gills. Some took jigs, but old-school worked better.

I hear ya' Jim.... I'd use barbecue flavored pork rinds for bait if they were producing Bluegills.........

All of the above are correct... That's the fun of it...  The choices we make on any given day...  and that's why they call it fishing and not catching...

Here's another wrinkle. One many occasions I have watched while our BG fed on commercial pellets. Initially, when the first wave of feed hits the water, they will attack it and just make the water boil. Then, after a few minutes their frantic activity slows, and they start leisurely cruising up underneath a pellet and slurping it down.  Why then, do I notice them pass up on some pellets, yet swim over to the next one and gulp it down? These pellets are all the same... same formula, and same size. What is it that they see, that they don't like? Or is it a case of fixation, as in I have seen them swim over to a pellet 3-4' away, swimming right by several that were closer just to get that one particular pellet.

Is this behaviour vision orientated? Eventually, all of the pellets are consumed, including the ones that were previously ignored. I have even watched while a single fish "worked" an area, swimming right past some pellets, only to return and devour them a few seconds later.

 

Ever tried to observe the ripple on the pellet on impact? Similar to c-response due to live bait or something moving in the water, the response of the predatory creature is to pounce anything that moves or creates movement. Pellet that is sitting around may not create the ripples that initiate the response for grabbing the prey, however, soon enough, when all resources depleted, whatever is left will be chased after, even if it's stop moving. Might want to test the ripple/movement in the next feeding.

That's true Leo, the initial surge of pellets hitting the surface certainly creates the perception of movement. Once all the feed is thrown however, then the impact disturbance ceases. That's when the fish seemingly fixate on certain pellets while ignoring many others.

The feed I use is fish meal based, and is quite oily, perhaps it's a case of the oil leaching out that does the trick? Maybe there is a subtle movement of the pellet as it begins to break down, and the BG are keying in on this?

I guess to steer this back around to where I started, I'm wondering if I'm witnessing the fish responding to external cues, (something with the food/lure itself), or if it's a case of fixation. A type of single minded focus that drives them to pursue one particular item, (live bait, lure, pellet), while ignoring everything else?

How picky are they? Does intelligence drive their actions, or is it just instinctual?

Intriguing deliveries. Remember, all species attempt to perform close range inspection on stationary prey, which include cues from sight, sound, and taste, and touch. Oil and the breakdown of the meal create the taste. Sight could be the subtle breakage of the meal due to water saturation, as well as the shadow cast by the pellet and oil layer. Since sound is avoidable, it could focus on touch via the lateral lines along the body, which is displacement of water as the pellet expands.

 

We can't expel the BG the ability to learn and adapt. This is why they've been around for so long. However, what is learned became instinctive. This is the case of the chicken or the egg scenario. Truly intriguing to discover how much of this is learned vs instinctive. You can get your PhD on this Tony ;-)

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