Tired of windmilling small sunfish when all you really want to catch are big bluegills? Take a tip from Team Northland member and ice fishing ace Gary Roach, and tweak your panfish jig strokes to keep silver dollar sunnies at bay.
“People think you can’t catch big bluegills when schools of small sunfish are harassing your bait, but you can,” says the iconic Northwoods fisherman. “The trick is in how you work the jig.”
When Roach sets up shop over a promising flat, weedbed, or other fish-holding areas, he tips a small teardrop—like a 1/32-ounce Northland Gill-Getter Jig—with one or two waxworms or euro larvae and drops the setup down the hole. “When sunfish of all sizes are present, the key to keeping the 4- and 5-inchers off your line is keeping the jig moving,” he reveals. “Shake the teardrop in continuous, ¼- to ½-inch increments while slowly raising it in the water column,” he continues. “Big bluegills have larger mouths and aren’t afraid to hit the jig on the move, but little ones prefer to wait until it stops moving to attack.”
Roach notes that the right rod and line are critical to the presentation, as well as strike detection.
“I use a light jigging rod spooled with 3-pound monofilament line, so I can watch the rod and line moving while I’m jigging,” he says. “When the line stops dancing while the rod is still jigging, set the hook right away because another big bluegill has taken the bait.”