Bluegill - Big Bluegill

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Old School - Bobbers / New School - Floats

Bad Bobbers

What comes to mind when you think of that word?

Round, red& white, styrofoam, pencil-style yellow & white, with the spring on it? I shudder when someone uses that word, but that is what most people visualize as their bite indicator. I dislike it so much, I'm going to bleep it out cause it is a bad word. If you have explored the b*bber, you might use a bubble float to cast out. You are in the advanced crowd with some of the slip b*bber people, you have modified your rig and escaped the fixed, clunky contraption that is the cheapest, worst bite-indicator in the world.

Side note-bite is a horrible term too, while gills and fish might clamp and hold prey, or mash it, most of the time they suck their food in without biting. Bite is not the greatest of terms, but we use that too. Are they biting, probably did they feed or did they suck, but that doesn't sound so hot then.

Oh- please take no offense if you fish a bobber all the time. Please consider there might be something better. You'll have to trust me on that.

Too Bobbery

Back to the b*bber). Advanced setups for the b*bber allow you to decrease buoyancy of the device by either adding water into your casting bubble (removing air), or you add a stop knot and split shot to cast and slip your float to fish deeper water. Cool term I use is a slider. There are two ways I fish floats. Floats? This is the preferred term over b*bber. The difference between a float & a b*bber is floats catch 10x more fish. Skeptics, stay with me, I can prove this statement and will. I don't wish to offend any of you who might love your favorite b*bber, but it's a fact. There are days where a round red & white, pencil, or even custom-shaped fancy Rocket b*bber won't catch you squat. Squanto, zip, zilch, skunk, empty-set, close your eyes nothing, is what you would catch during cold-fronts, after cold rain or in tough, low-feeding conditions. That Rocket b*bber setup laying on its side is one of the worst-don't get me started.

Cold Spring Fishing

Case & point, I teach people fishing all around Chicago's urban waters. During the month of March, water temperatures are in the high 40's and fish feed lightly, in fact, very lightly. They don't suck the bait in because their gills don't move out as far with their metabolism slow. They have been feeding on very tiny stuff all winter which is easily taken in with a subtle sip and short gill movement.

One March day, I was setting up a float rig for a student. He had purchased the brown balsa floats from Lindy (Thill Gold Metal). While I have much more sensitive floats, this was the student’s gear. I figured, with me setting this average float up, I could make it sensitive by adding shot and putting 97% of the float down in the water. My float uses 1/8 of the shot necessary to sink the “shy bite” Lindy float. So I set it up as best I could. Barely the top of the orange tip was above the water.

That was the day I truly realized what good floats, with proper setups can do for your fishing. I fished this pond many times for 8 years. I knew the fish. The hook was right, the leader thin and the bait was excellent, fresh & lively. I couldn’t get a bite on that gear for minutes. I did catch a couple of fish for him and showed him what to look for. The trouble was, with the subtle bite, his “indicator” wasn’t indicating much at all. It sat there like a hunk of wood. I could easily see a red & white b*bber blanking on this day the fish were C-O-L-D.

I setup next door to him using some of my own floats which were far smaller and which included a thin stem at the top. This nylon stem is about 1/10th as wide as the tip of that brown Lindy float. As stated, I used much less shot to sink all of the balsa under water leaving only a tiny, thin orange line above the water line. My float was so sensitive, I could see the weight of the hook & bait when the line straightened out.

We fished our 4 hour club session. I did get up a few times and wasn’t fishing the entire time. My neighbor did well, caught 16 fish and did have a couple pounds of fish to show for his first day. Remember, urban gills are small so think 1/4 lb. fish. He was very pleased with his 3 lb. catch. He had not caught anything previously. On the spot next door, I bagged near 200 fish and came in at 36.5 lb. A proper float, beats any off-the-shelf solution 20:1 during slower feeding periods.

Lift & Drop Takes

The major reasons a float destroys the b*bber - “lift takes” as well as “drop takes”. Sadly, many reading this have never seen a “lift take”. Few have picked up on the “drop takes”. “He’s nuts, I’m a great fishermen” - “I’ve fished more than him, I’ve seen them”. It’s not your fault my veteran friends! I never saw one until someone got me fishing proper floats.

Let me tell you what they are and get you really excited to set one of these up this Spring.

Lift Take

the Lift
The “lift” take is when your bait has reached depth so all the line is straight beneath your float. Remember a few paragraphs ago when I said I could see when my single maggot (spike) and hook reached depth. Why? My float is sensitive and my rig is subtle so the bait falls slowly with a tiny hook. (Large hooks drop like anchors!). Light wire hooks nation- they present a bait more lively, more natural than shoving a thick, steel rod in and exploding your bait. Back to the float up top. This slow-falling bait (light hook) is spotted by our sight-feeding friends the bluegill. This usually entices them to investigate. As their face approaches the very lively, wiggling, natural-looking grub, the move in for the “take”.

Remember also that this is cold water. Our friend the gill moves slower to intercept. The grub reaches depth and my float settles to its final spot. The stem slunks half-way down to the water surface (you can see it with my floats).

What happens next is what causes the “lift”. In cold water or when fish come from below the bait (like on the bottom), the fish either stops right at the bait or it rises up slowly at the bait. When the fish “takes” or sips the grub in, they erase the weight on my line beneath the float and my float LIFTS! Upward bite indication. Crappies are notorious for this and bluegills do it too when they rise out of cover. They might swim a few inches upward with your grub in their mouth. Up comes the float.

With the Rocket B*bber, it lays there flat on the water surface - no indication at all! With round b*bbers, you might see the b*bber top tip, but then again, you probably will see nothing but a bobbing chunk of plastic. Pencil floats, like the “shy bite” are just too heavy and clunky. Their reaction is far less when compared to a good float.

the Drop Take

Finally, we are at the “drop take”. Common in warmer water and aggressive conditions, the fish hit the bait on the drop! They see it and want to beat their competition to that food. They swim fast and intercept the bait, sometimes up near the surface even.

With my floats, since our bait is falling slowly, the float will very slowly stand up from a 20 degree angle to straight upright. If the float stem stays at any angle, it is very likely your bait has been picked-off early.

If I fish at a 3 foot depth, the bait might take 6 or 8 seconds to reach that depth. When I flip the rig out, I make sure the hook line is straight when it enters the water. As the shot and grub fall, my sensitive float angles from sideways to straight up.

If the float stops straightening before 6 seconds - that’s a take. If the float doesn’t straighten up at all -that’s a take. If the stem doesn’t settle down, that’s a take.

Simple science to this rig. Reduce the split shot on the rig, reduce the buoyancy of the float and reduce the amount of pull needed to sink the rig (or lift it), and create an easier-to-eat food for the bluegill, crappie, perch or any fish! Using tiny shot and a very light hook, there is less resistance for the bait to travel in the water.

See What's Happening

Even the most subtle, cold-water bite can be accounted for up top, on the water’s surface for our eye to see. More importantly, so we can set the hook prior to the bait being ejected. Since fish don’t bite, and because they suck their prey in, they also spit the bait out faster than you can blink! A natural rig, encourages a longer bait hold by the fish. A natural rig allows you better reaction time whereas a clunky bobber offers you many ejections and fewer fish. With all the resistance created by the bigger split shot, (and most of the time larger hook), your hook might not even travel into the fish’s mouth. Setting the hook with your bobber might result in what is commonly called “a bite”- oops, “missed him”.

New Tackle

I will be featuring this tackle coming up this Spring which will really put you in the advantage on the water. I will also be creating some videos to demonstrate the stuff in action so you can see it live.

In May there will also be a chance to bet with me in my quest to catch a bunch of fish with this technique. I will be fishing for charity coming up this Spring in a 24-hour bluegill-a-thon. While there will be a few species mixed in such as golden shiner, crappie, bullhead and hybrids, I will catch close to 85% bluegills to see how many I can catch and how much we can raise. I will need your help.

Bet With Me for Kids

I will need your help coming up and you can bet with me if you want to donate some money to charity. I will have a link which goes straight to the Children’s Memorial Hospital Fund (503c) for families who have really sick children. The families are at the same time suffering from financial woes of massive medical bills. Devastated by the possible loss of their children and going deep into debt, these families suffer and suffer. Many go past their insurance and owe hundreds of thousands of dollars.

While many of you like myself have had a tough few years financially, I hope this year our country is out of the worst and picking up steam. If you absolutely can not help, well my thoughts are with you too. Downsized after December, when my company let go 65,000 employees, I decided to do this. Start a cause and do what I want with my time. If you are in a tight spot, well cheer me on, and pass the word to some others is all I ask.

I would hope fans of catching fish have read this wanting to learn. Pledge .10 cents a fish. How about .25 cents a fish? I will be fishing for 24 -hours this May and you can pledge just a dime per fish with me to help some families. Do you have 3,000 dimes? If you are wondering about the math, stick with this, and remember this is for very sick children.

Checkbooks Ready

.25 cents a fish might cost you $750 dollars, if things go as I plan (which they seldom do right?). You are perfectly able to put a cap on your donation pledge. While I would love to have incredible catching success and large donations to help these families, I don't wish to trick you.

The tactic I will use was taught to me by a World Champion angler. I have practiced them on 3 continents. The tactics are deadly and if you are doing the math quickly, I am hoping for 3,000 fish caught in 24 hours. This tactic helped me to a 1st place finish on day one of the US Open bank angling series in 2,000, while others spent too much time on big fish, I trusted this method.

I will be using one line, one hook in the water at any time. Each fish will be landed one at a time.

Join me this Spring - ditch your b*bbers in a recycling bin or just put a boot on them. I don’t even think they are good for recycling. I hope that I can catch an enormous number of fish in that 24-hour period and that together we can raise a lot of money for these children and families.

Seriously, if you want to help this great cause, do bet against me. Have the money set aside as I do intend on catching as many of these fish in a public pond as I humanly can in that time-period.

Email me and when everything is set for this 24 - hour attempt, I will help you register on the First Giving website to pledge your donation per fish.

Fish Accounting?!

The event will be video taped as well as have a staff of witnesses to keep count for the entire 24 - hour period. You can bet a straight amount (pledge a donation) or you can bid .25 cents per fish for example. Wondering if I can catch 1,000 or 3,000? Is there anyone that would pledge $1 a fish. I will do my very best. I have watched as a 5-year old passes to cancer and seen what it does to their family. You are really not betting against me, but helping a great cause. Stay tuned.

I will put the link on here as well and ask that you all pass this link and encourage others to help.

Thank you for reading & Get Fish'n -


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Comment by robsabloke on March 13, 2010 at 12:43pm
Very interesting. Having grown up in England and lived for float fishing for Bream and Roach... I look forward to learning more from these blogs. I've fished for many years and taught a few youngsters myself when i lived in Chicago. There is Nothing like watching a float 'Glide' under the water. Look forward to contributing to this group.
Comment by Johnny wilkins on March 4, 2010 at 2:34pm
Radio show featuring float fishing on ColdWater venues. This show is for anyone who lives near a city or experiences "tough bites" in cold water situations. Call in segments for question & answer, live chat, online questions and some fun. Show airs live on Saturday 3 PM Eastern, 4 PM Central and will run 1 hour. Free show you can listen live on your computer or you can listen later on-demand for free. The show is called Fishing School and I invite you to listen in, call in or post your float fishing, live bait questions here or any fishing question. I will try to answer every question on the show or afterwards.
Comment by Johnny wilkins on February 9, 2010 at 4:14pm
key there - #12 hook and good rig for the kids!
Flys are hatched bugs, and I am a big fan of the grubs, bugs- that's where its at. We will be adding kids fun event for sure. I have my hands full with proposals and launching!
Comment by jim cosgrove on February 9, 2010 at 4:11pm
john i live in the same area.i give those little plastic bobbers to the kids in the forest preserves so they can cast the flies i give them.they are amazed when i pull out fish after fish on my fly rods.i cut off their no.2 snelled hooks and 1/2 oz. rubber cores and tie on a no.12 fly a few micro shot and a little round bobber.cast it out twitch it in pretty soon they are filling buckets with those stunted runts.good luck with your event.i do agree with some of the comments .maybe an event where the kids fish for c.m.
Comment by Jeremy R. Mayo on February 9, 2010 at 10:52am

I know what I was gonna say!


Comment by bluegillboogieman on February 8, 2010 at 1:22pm
Yes, I'll look at the link for the charity when you post it. Probably a set amount, not risking more than I want to. That 5 year old girl turned 36 today. She won the local youth fishing tournament two years running, all with butterbeans. If a small body of water is full of stunted fish, a youth fishing tournament with prizes for butterbeans is a great thinner outer! Just help 'em get rigged up right and get out of the way. They'll put a dent in overpopulation in one day if you advertise free for kids, mom and dad can help and give away some prizes.

Comment by Johnny wilkins on February 8, 2010 at 11:14am
I missed an element - there will be no one assisting me with this catch. Just me and a roped-off area so others will be 30 feet away. I will only be handed food or drink for myself. No assistance- 24-hours me, the fish and one hook. How many can I catch. Can you help with a pledge? Could you please think about a list of people to pass this on to when the time comes?
Comment by Johnny wilkins on February 8, 2010 at 10:40am
I am loving your comment so much - I really appreciate it. I am usually funny and it is supposed to come of clever. It isn't so I am taking your advice and editing that out to be "bet on the kids". Everyone in these forums is my sort of people and this blog will also go out to the rest of the world. Near me there are a lot of people that go fishing, without learning anything, without asking and they sadly catch 1 or 2 aggressive bluegills (if that). At my local park the bluegills are pretty stunted. It's not the easiest. Many of you are blessed to have fishing with very good to excellent sized fish along with quantity.
Thank you boogieman for the feedback- I find it very helpful and you did it in a nice way I really appreciate it. To answer some of your questions before my editing - One line in the water, one hook yes on some chumming, but no fish parts. YES YES, a 5-year old with a cane-style pole can and should be ripping fish one-after-another as you said. Is this girl winning a competition with that method? It's most likely the same as I am using it's simple.
And I especially love the quill reference, probably my favorite. I haven't even arrived at the portion of my blog where I ask, which is your favorite- porcupine or peacock? I love this forum and thank you for reading all the way through!
Comment by bluegillboogieman on February 8, 2010 at 6:54am
You catch one fish, I lose my bet. You catch 3,000 fish, I lose my bet 3,000 times more. I understand pledging for a good cause, but betting? This is an interesting blog and I look forward to seeing your float technique. No way is anyone in their right mind going to take a no win bet though. I'll bet you can rewrite this blog and loose the betting jargon and maybe get some pledges. I would like more details about the rules. Only one line in the water? Only you bait up and unhook? Is chumming taking place? I've seen a five year old girl haul in butterbeans almost non stop till they blew the whistle. Twice! As in two years running? OK, she was six the second year. I'd come a lot closer to pledging for a kid fishing (with parental baiting and unhooking) than I would a big ole guy I don't know trying to prove a technique to me. Just some bait for thought. I'll be watching my quill to see if you suck it in and spit it out or run with it.

Comment by JBplusThuy on February 8, 2010 at 12:18am
Those floats sound very nice. Are these something you make/sell, make/don't ell, or do you buy them somewhere?

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