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10 Tips For Panfish: How To Catch More Bluegill



Look Shallow

I have seen bluegill nests in clear water less than 2 feet deep, so start your search for bluegill in shallow mud or gravel banks. If you are fishing a pond, concentrate on the shallow end rather than the pond's dam.


Sight Fish

Clear water allows you to sight fish for bluegill. Nests are easy to find in water that has 2 to 3 feet of visibility. The spawning beds are located close together in a small area and look like moon craters. You will usually see the males circling the nest, attacking anything that comes near them.


Go Live

Nothing beats the real deal for spawning sunfish. My favorite live bait is cricket, but wax worms and red wiggler worms are also great for bluegill. Nightcrawlers also work for spawning bluegill, but you need to pinch off a piece of the worm. Otherwise, the panfish will keep nibbling off parts of the whole nightcrawler, and you will never get a hook into the bait thief.

Think Small

Whether you are using artificial flies on a fly rod or plastic lures with spinning or spincast tackle, you should scale down in size to one to two inches but never more. Bluegill has a small mouth, so you need to present a small lure that the fish can engulf quickly.

Go Light On Tackle

You need to use light line (2- to 4-pound test depending on water clarity) to deliver live bait or artificial lures to the bluegill nests. In gin clear water, you might have to scale down to a 2-pound test. For most applications, a 4-pound test will allow you to throw the lightweight lures and small live bait rigs smoothly and accurately to the spawning beds. Ultralight rods and reels are best for fishing with light lines and small baits. You can find a perfect setup below.


Affix A Bobber

Spawning bluegill usually hover slightly above the nest, so you want your bait to stay right in front of their nose. Affixing a small bobber above your bait is the best way to keep your bait at the correct depth. Keeping the lure off the bottom and suspended right in front of the panfish’s nose will trigger the most strikes from spawning bluegill.

Start Outside & Move In

When casting to a spawning area, make sure you cast first to the outside edge of the beds rather than throwing to the middle of the nest cluster. Catching the spawning bluegill on the outer beds prevents from disturbing and spooking the fish in the center of the nest cluster. So you will have a better chance of catching more bluegill from the spawning area.

Find Cover For Bigger Fish

The biggest bluegill will always spawn in the hardest-to-reach spots, usually under a laydown log, overhanging tree limbs, brush piles, or weed pockets. The best way to catch these fish is to dip your bait next to the cover with a long (10 to 12 foot) panfish pole.

Fish Afternoons

Bluegill are aptly named sunfish because they are most active on sunny days. The water temperature is at its peak in the afternoon, and bluegill get more active as the water temperature climbs throughout the day. So you can sleep in and start fishing for bluegill after lunch for the best action.

Be Stealthy

Fishing pressure tends to make spawning bluegill spooky and more challenging to catch later in the spring, so you need to take a stealthy approach. Keep noise to a minimum whether you are fishing from the bank or in a boat. Keep a low profile to make sure you avoid casting your shadow over the spawning beds, and try to make your bait enter the water as quietly as possible.

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