Bluegill - Big Bluegill

Do you love big bluegill?

It is quite sad that a man who would get in a time machine from the 1600s would DESTROY a US angler with most of our manufactured horrible tackle. US Tackle industries offer us perfect tackle to have a below-average and horrible fishing outing.


While world fishing tactics have not changed in 400 years, simple technology shifts between 1900 and present materials - and the tackle company's want for mass production have set fishing back. These technology shifts have buried our fishing skills because the generations of anglers who fished properly here are long gone.


The fact is, George Washington would also beat you if he stood next to you based on his methods. While a colonist, he had access to proper techniques and fishing tactics. George was not a fly angler - this was reserved for gentlemen and kings - of which he would take no part in. Others tried to say that he did in fact fly fish, but they were trying to spin his hobby in a positive light. The General preferred live bait.


Back to our time traveler man. He would bring with him his cane pole and with this method could NOT be out-fished by us in 90% of situations. These situations only include the need for distance casting - otherwise, get your rod, your jighead, your float and your lure and prepare to be humiliated by your new time traveler friend. 


Two things would slow our time traveler up- one is the thick cartilage lip a gill possesses. I have seen this slow down European competitive anglers when they first get here. I have even beaten a set of them in the US Open because their hooks were too narrow and to weak. The gills took a number of outings for them to get their setup right so the hook would get past that set of bony lips and/or not bend out. With their newer fine lines and thin hooks, they also were no match for the strength of the bluegills. The Achilles heal for the angler from the 1600's would be the braided cloth or horsehair line they used as these were thick. For the challenge to measure out- we would give him some mono to fish with.


He MIGHT be able to beat us straight up without the mono, but to get this right, we would upgrade his line a little to keep the experiment fair.


While we would give him some monofilament line, the rest of his equipment, knowledge and approach would baffle us. Our time traveler would only posses horsehair braid - a very thick line, but his techniques, bait, hook and float would be too much for you.


I know this too - the tougher the condition, pre-coldfront or in cold water fishing, the more the humiliation might grow - it might be 10 to 20-fold. The old school angler is used to tough fishing and subtle takes as the population has always been large where he fished. Many anglers and only a few pond opportunities which were pay lakes. Every bit of land was claimed by someone and most waters private, the rest of the commoners had to find heavily fished spots - this is all they had.


Over the past few years I have been studying tackle history and the history of US fishing. I also was taught by someone who ran with some of the great anglers in England when they were older and passing their knowledge on.


The way I used to fish and the methods I was taught vary so greatly. There are other methods available and more tackle available to us. I


If this interests you - look for a bright flash in the sky. More history yet to come.

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you got my attention.Always interested in various forms of fishing and catching.Creative little essayJohnny!

Nice catch on your Ice Out John - I am really jealous. Our warm front hits this week so maybe I get the gear ready for next weekend and ice out! Thanks, I was inspired by some antique books I picked up and some vintage hooks. 


There hasn't been any reverse pressure on our fishing industry because - not many people are aware.


While it might take a few weeks to arrive, I have a complete set of hooks from a salesmen's book to compare hooks from 100 years ago to today's hooks available in Walmart. I can't wait. There will be a couple of flashes in the sky coming.

Thank you-

Allright... I'll rise to the bait... If Founding Father George hops in his time machine and joins me next winter, I'll spot him some mono and still take him to school. By the time he's chopped his first hole with an axe, I've already drilled 6-8 with my auger. And yes, he can use a plumb weight to find bottom, and if it brings up weeds then he'll know he found the weedline. If it comes up clean, then poor George has to move and repeat the performance until he finds a suitable area. Meanwhile, I'm hopping from hole to hole with my sonar looking for fish. No fish, I move on. George is gonna' spend a lot of time staring down an empty hole. Once I find fish, I pull  the flip up shanty over my head, and presto... I'm in the dark, hidden from the fish, and more importantly, out of the wind.

On a frozen lake in the dead of winter, the wind can really howl. I don't care what super-sensitive 200 + year old float he brought with him, if he's exposed and trying to detect the subtle bite of a lethargic Bluegill in January while the wind whips his line around and blows snow on top of his float, he's in trouble.

While he's struggling, I'm sitting in my 21st century collapsible and lightweight shanty, fishing with an adjustable strike indicator (spring bobber), that is so sensitive I can tell the difference between 2 maggots or 3 on my hook. My sonar tells me when a fish approaches the bait, it also can tell me the fish's mood... does it charge up and engulf the bait, or warily look it over for a bit? That can tell me if I need to change my presentation, or lure. Poor george is still on trial and error. Sure, his approach can put fish on the ice, but my way will do it easier and faster.

I realize that you were probably thinking about non-ice, bank fishing. However that's the problem with making broad, all-encompassing statements. There are usually situations whereby another, different approach will yield better results than the one you are currently using.

I will agree that we can learn from the past, and that technology and mass-production is no substitute for experience, or time spent on the water learning what works and what doesn't. But as for me, today's modern spin on an old sport has enhanced my fishing experience, not detracted from it.



You summed it up in your 2nd to last paragraph. Not only was I not talking about ice fishing, not many people are.


This said, I have ice fished with two of the top anglers in North America and worked with a member of the Ice Men TV series - defending World Champions U.S.A. My teacher took me out on the ice a couple of times, we filmed an episode of Midwest Outdoors together with a man I consider a top North American ice angler - he does not compete, but would be one of the best. The guy who I get my ice fishing knowledge from won 2nd place in the Individual World Ice Fishing Championships. I can speak to a little ice fishing.


Electronics are not allowed in competitions, so you would have to unplug your batteries and fish next to George a little less confident. This unplugs a lot of your argument and very expensive luxuries. One of the first things I was taught in ice fishing is that the lag in the electronics causes a delay in the angler's reaction. Both of the top ice anglers I was taught by, concurred that the electronics can be much less effective than watching your line or rod. Reaction time was slowed with the video - bites were missed.


So you and George would then be left on the ice depending on knowledge, experience and proper guesswork - the General may or may not lend you a plummet to check your depth.


I don't know if he would use an axe or spud bar, but I think this is may be your strongest argument for innovation in the auger . They don't let you use gas in a tournament either, so you would be hand-cutting those holes.


Lastly, whatever shelter you would drag, would need to be left on shore as really excellent ice anglers kneel and block their holes with the back, legs and body. They don't have time to be going in and out of shelters. There are no shelters in competitions.


Sorry but broad-sweeping generalizations are a two-way street. While I wasn't talking ice fishing, I did have a a teeny bit of knowledge on the subject.


Ice equipment off the shelves has a ton of garbage in the mix and doesn't help you either as much as you would think. I have been shown/taught fished ice tactics that are not on the shelves either - some don't use a float - none used a reel.  None of the rods I used are sold in North America. The mini reels are nice for anglers to purchase and rods are mini versions of Summer, but are not the choice of top anglers. They are however very profitable to sell - thus companies are not going to make the shift to sell you the equipment that catches more fish.


The exact same arguments I was beginning in open water fishing tackle hold true. US Lines are starting to improve, and there are some Swedish, Finnish and Russian goodies available to ice anglers finally. Frabil has some nice stuff but the US ice market is also filled with manufactured garbage as well..


I was quite pleased that you found a chink in the argument, but I am going to stick to the open water and am so happy the ice is out here as of this weekend.


I hope you enjoyed a spirited response - if I get motivated next Winter, I will have to reveal some of this and share. The worst thing we can do as an angler is think we have all the knowledge and can not improve. There is good stuff still out there.


I know I personally could use a few more sessions with top anglers. I don't know it all, but I know some.




Ahh, I think I see where we differ.  You approach fishing from the viewpoint of a competitive bank angler. I would wager that the vast majority of American anglers do not. I believe that George would, first and foremost, fish for his supper rather than to win a competition. This is not to belittle his skills, as I'm sure he did the best he could with the equipment he had available to him. I am also sure that at the end of our day fishing together, I would be hard pressed to convice him to return to the 1700's without taking some of my gear back with him.

I enjoy learning from others, and I gain a different perspective from another angler's point of view. So in the spirit of an intelligent debate, not a heated argument, I will address some of your concerns, if the moderators so approve.

Ice fishing, while not enjoying the participation that soft water does, is certainly a pretty popular pasttime in my area. Many people enjoy the chance to continue the sport they love in the winter months. So on to the gear, bearing in mind that the following is not to be taken under the context of competitive bank fishing. I fish to target quality bluegill over quantities of smaller bluegill. One particular species only.

Since we're fishing for supper, I will be using my sonar, and I would be glad to explain to George how it works, and show him that modern electronics have very little lag time, and operate in very near real time. I will show him how I can differentiate between sizes of fish, based on the strength of the signal return. Again, we're targeting bigger fish only. He would be able to watch as the fish rose up in the water column towards his bait. At that moment he transfers his attention away from the sonar and watches his rod... this is where the super sensitive strike indicator comes in to play. The electronics help find the fish, not catch it. That part's up to the angler.

Now on to the shelter. If you dig around for the best known winter panfisherman here in the states, you'll probably get the same names over and over again. One of those will be Dave Genz. Generally regarded as the father of the modern day ice fishing revolution. Dave invented the Fish Trap, the forerunner of today's flip over style shelters. When your sonar shows a hole with fish, pull the shelter over and flip it over your head and your hole..... presto, no wind, no light, and near instant mobility if you decide to move. No need to go in and out. I think George would be impressed at the yankee ingenuity.

It is very true that broad generalizations can get you into trouble. That's one of the problems with the internet, it can become very easy to pass off one's passionate beliefs, or opinions as absolute fact. I have no doubt that you are a dedicated and talented angler, and I am sure there are aspects of your techniques which I could adapt to my own style of fishing. However, to state unabashedly that American tackle manufacturers produce junk, and have contributed to what is perceived by you as a poor fishing performance, is just too over the top for me. Modern contrivances don't make the fisherman, they only assist him or her. Remember, most of us probably fish in a style very different than you do, and some of what you consider paramount to success might be of limited benefit to other fishing styles.

I look forward to your sharing of soft water tips and techniques with us. I am sure we can learn some new tricks from one another, time travel notwithstanding.




: )


True and thank you for excellent natured discussion. 

Never heated - or the loss of knowledge through the cracks will wreck our conversation - nicely done!!!


Doing a little more research (inspired by our conversation), I found that a theory on the selection of the site at Valley Forge was in fact done by the General as he know the shad would run up the river and provide an early Spring meal to his troops.


The Brittish made attempts to block the river's migration route with nets knowing the shad run was to come - but records had this shad run closer to April. Shad anglers knew better and that the records may have been slow-on the draw (non-anglers & farmer's notes). The theory holds that Washington fished for these Shad which might have powered his starving forces to victory as the nets to block the migration were put in too late by the Red Coats (wading red coats).... 


A secret shad society. This would mean the bream might very well have saved America (bream being any flat silver fish at the time). This is a theory and most all holds correctly only when checked the bones from the shad could not be discovered in their garbage. My thoughts are that these would not have remained or that the shad were packed and taken outside of the fort after being salted. Life is rough when you have to eat salted shad. Ever eaten one - if they taste like shiner - ick!


Yes, granted not many will fish competitively - but all anglers wish to improve. As for products invented- they might not serve competition, but when they serve the inventor more - look out. Competitive anglers don't always bring products to market. Many TV and fishing show types push the products forward into market. The market buys what is on the shelves - and by no means do I mean your fishing is garbage or your equipment is garbage- I am simply saying there is much better. The problem is that even the Ice Men and the USA fishing team would get their sponsors (do get their sponsor dollars) from these US Companies.


Every ice angler on the team carries the tackle from those sponsors and wears the patches - but at the end of the competition, they have used other stuff to catch their fish. It is a fact. I am not making opinion on the tackle, just passing on what the great anglers do and have done.


In the television circuit, marketers are known for taking fish from groups to boost their television catch. Products as seen on TV, sometimes are poop dressed up. It is this which my competitive juices are focused on. When someone is catching on the bait - but then selling the thing the bait is attached to... arghhh.


I compete against  - junk - so all anglers will be benefiting from competition. This is not to take away their accomplishments. Creating a market for ice equipment- AMAZING!! Well done for them as this is not the largest group to market to and is seasonal - two strikes against bringing product to market. I guess I would use tricks Like having a group of anglers give me their catches or keeping fish alive in coolers and filming them for their tv catch - truth. Then again - NO I WOULD NOT. What I catch, is what I catch. If I can't make it in an honest fashion- I don't want it.


Speakers take techniques from their competition and work them into their own presentation- theft. Company owners having boats pull up with fish so they can pose with a giant fish - lies . Disney fishing drives the marketplace. I battle that for the everyday angler. Shore anglers, bait anglers, bluegill and panfish anglers. Fact vs. fantasy. Us vs. marketing and fluff. I thin you are on my team on this one.


You might see a :30 minute fishing show that is not condensed from 4 days of fishing. I will issue you this- believe nothing you see on TV that is NOT on the clock. For my show, I will also pick public waters- not a private pond. Showing techniques and tactics in the toughest of fishing is competition-type condition. Compressing a weeks' worth of fishing on remote waters is TV fishing.


Yes- thank you Tony - great points and where we do share information and common bonds, they are not wrecked by our conversations. Because, in the end we are great Bluegillers not mambie/pambie aristocrats, royales or bass-only anglers. Just good folk - good anglers.



Nice Johnny. Youve really struck to the core of my thinking - its like you've read my thoughts.

I enjoy and believe in the newer technologies, but they are no better than the way they are used.

We enjoy many things that I believe are better than the tools of our elders. But much of what we have strikes me as more hype than substance. Learning how they did things before we got here lays the foundation for our own success.

I'm really looking forward to your updates.


P.S .You may enjoy the thoughts of an old woodsman named, "Nessmuk." He had some very interesting ideas on fishing that have stuck with me since I first read them as a youngster. Google him.


Well thank you- all this ties together (yes pun!).

A flasher is no better than a plummet for finding the depths - all old-time fisherman used this trick to place a weight on their hook and then bump the bottom.


This is something I wasn't told until I was 38 years old by an Englishman. To me, that is just crazy. The basics of finding the depths and knowing the contours. I have spent so much time watching electronics while fishing when perhaps a better, more accurate way of getting the contour in my head was to use a piece of lead.


I can tell you this- precision is something I was taught and that is lacking in today's sport. (not for long)... I will research Nessmuk. I can think back to a day when I used to roam the state parks in SouthEast Minnesota and there was a woodsman trout fishing legend called Wild Bill.  I used to pass plaques about his angling and massive brown trout and then just go chuck stuff at the creeks. Well - ole Bill knew - he knew.

Precisions takes time and patience - something most of us have to work at. Fishing is an experience of the moment, one to be savored second by second. As we rush around a lake or stream looking for the the "hot spots," how much success and enjoyment are we leaving behind?


Personally, Im a fan of the miniature sonar equipment available to us today. I've recently learned of a unit that is WIRELESS, which you cast with a rod! You cast it anywhere a rod can reach and it will send back what it sees beneath to a readout device. It will show the depths, contour and hopefully what fish are there. No plumb weight will do all that.


At the same time, this does not make it "better..." it is only a refined tool. Most of us today cannot add two numbers together without a calculator, even though we all learned mathematics without them at some point. Knowing how to use a plumb weight and collating the basic information it provides DID suffice at one time, and it could again. The intuition it develops might be the better part, in fact.

Certainly, no one else is doing it and that is often the edge you need - doing what others are NOT.

I have one of Nessmuks books around here, somewhere. If I can find it, I'll loan it to you.

Getting exact bottom is key -then adjusting to where the fish are having it. Yes, with a plumb and a clip on your reel, you can even find a break at 23' deep at the base of a pond 60 yards away from you. When you find that break, clip the line and then you can hit the spot from shore every time.


The plumb is more precise than electronics - but one key I find is that there aren't spots that are hot- you can make any spot hot with a little attractant and patience, you can tip the lake towards you and all the fish will swim downhill right at you.

We'll have to agree to disagree on the plumb vs. sonar debate. The weight will tell me the exact depth of the water, to be sure - and from the bank that could be a key aid. In fact, I've always done just that using a slip bobber. I didn't know there was a science behind it.

But even a rudimentary sonar unit allows me to judge depth AND see the fish themselves, providing I have the means to deploy it. Knowing  where the mud is AND where the fish are seems like something a step beyond... What I think is crucial, though, is that BOTH share a place in our arsenal.

On that we can agree. Personally I embrace technology and the "old school" ways.


As for attractants, I am most surely bowing in your direction. I dont think there is any doubt that when YOU set up a buffet table for hungry fish, you have taken control. That really is what we are all after, in the end - control.


Were you able to get out with a whip pole today?

No fishing today - I will put in the first bait order of the year and I still need to make my schedule and get that out.

I have so much to do this Spring, I will have my fishing cut into for sure.

A post here should let you know I have been to the garage, got my rig bag out and started to tie some leaders - the start of Spring. I had to finish a website for a client.


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