Tracking down big bluegills is one of professional guide Brian Brosdahl’s specialities, so we forced him to spill the beans on his best recipe for May and early June.
“You have to find the warmest water in the lake,” Bro begins. “I’m generally seeking out muddy areas, typically on the north end, but that can change depending on which way the wind is blowing. And I’m looking for any kind of healthy vegetation. Boat harbors, canals, creek areas, are always good bets. Little creeks more than rivers. You don’t want heavy current flow.”
Big ‘gills, says Bro, “will be in some of the shallowest water you find, as shallow as maybe 15 inches. Good spots are often overlooked, because people don’t go shallow enough.
“There will be fish in 4 to 8 feet, too, but when the sun comes out, they’re going to move up to places where the bottom is black and warm.”
To find bluegills, Bro ties on a 1/8-ounce Thumper Jig, with a small plastic tail (Northland makes a wide variety of panfish-size plastics). The Thumper Jig has a “belly blade” that flickers, flashes, and flutters, helping to call up fish.
“Make a short cast with it,” says Brosdahl, “and find out what speed retrieve just gets the spinner moving. Then, use that speed as you make longer casts. Every now and then, jig it a little bit, but mostly just roll that reel handle. Sometimes bluegills will just follow it, but in clear water you can see them. You don’t have to catch ‘em to find the school.”
Time for catchin’
When you locate a pod of nice bluegills, slow down and tempt them with a small ice-fishing jig fished below a small slip-float.
How he rigs it: braided line of about 2-pound diameter as the main line, onto which he slides a slip-bobber knot, along with an extra sinker if needed to balance the float so it’s almost under at all times. Then a #14 swivel, tied to a short leader of light fluorocarbon leader, length based on depth of water being fished. Hexi Fly or Bro Bug is tied directly to the leader.
“I love the Hexi Fly with a couple waxies, maggots, or a chunk of nightcrawler,” says Bro, “because it see-saws as it falls. Then when you jig it, even under a float, it kind of darts forward.”
How he fishes it: pitch it to a target and let it settle. “To jig it,” says Bro, “just tip the bobber over real quick, then let it settle. You’re trying to draw ‘gills in to the little action, then they smell the bait and eat it.
“If that isn’t working, I like to “pop-pop” the bobber, let it settle, pop-pop again, and do that continuously on the way in. When fish come up to it, I twitch it and let it pause. Sometimes they gather around it, and the pause lets one decide to test the bait.
“When fish are right at the bait, try not to move the bobber as aggressively. You do want to keep the jig moving, though, because active baits catch big bluegills.”
This year, after the ice is gone, put your ice jigs in the boat. “Panfish are on the menu at our house all year,” says Bro, “and I’ve been using ice jigs to catch them, all year, ever since I can remember.”