Spoon Fed Bluegills
By: Bob Bohland

Take a look in most angler's ice-fishing tackle boxes and you will some lures so small you can't even imagine how someone could even tie that jig on their line let alone get it out of a fish's mouth. Anglers often go to the smallest jigs they have when targeting bluegills almost instinctively. Early in the season, however, I tend to go oversize when fishing for gills; often using jigging spoons others would use for walleyes or perch. At least in my experience, during early ice (often as little as 3) big bluegills aren't looking for modest offerings.

The first step in using over-sized lures for bull bluegills is to find them. Early in the season the best place to find them is the old stand-by: green weeds. But this early in the season there are still a lot of green weeds to choose from. My favorite area to target is a mid-depth weed flat, especially if that flat has pockets of coontail or cabbage on it. Two other good areas are points that have adjacent deep water and inside edges near mid-depth flats. But these areas also need green weeds if you expect to find fish. Scouting out fish in these areas is where an underwater camera shines. Drill a series of holes and mark on your GPS where the greenest weeds are found. Often times you will be able to see right away how the fish will interact with this vegetation. They will use this vegetation for two reasons, it provides food and shelter. But fish will have nothing to do with dead and dying weeds.

Jigging spoons are a great way to get a fish's attention. They work very well for calling bluegills in from a distance. It's hard to ignore something that is darting, flashing, rattling around and looks like food. But not just any jigging spoon will work to catch bluegills. Often some modifications are needed in order to hook bluegills, which just don't have the same mouth size as the walleyes for which these spoons were designed. The first thing I will do is downsize the hook that is on a jigging spoon. Depending on the size of the jigging spoon I will use hooks as small as a size 14. Treble hooks are not always the best choice when going this small. Bluegills are very aggressive and will often get the whole hook in their mouth which makes removing a treble hook next to impossible without injuring the fish. One really successful technique I was shown was to replace the treble hook with a small jig. A size 12 Genz Bug or a size 8 Frostee makes a great replacement, and tipping it with a small plastic or waxworm seals the deal for most bluegills. The ring allows the jig to pivot into the fish's mouth when it tries to bite it. Another more popular modification for jigging spoons is the dropper. This is put together by taking the treble hook off the lure and replacing it with a length of fluorocarbon line with either a single hook or small jig at the tag end. You can use almost any length of fluorocarbon line you want but I prefer 2-6 inches. When fishing only for bluegills I tend to keep it closer to 2 in length and have even gone as short as 1/2. The point of the dropper is to attract the fish in with a large jigging spoon that provides a ton of commotion like a rattl'n flyer spoon, then they see the smaller offering and eat that.

Early ice is one of the greatest times to catch a mess of big bluegills. But big fish want big offerings at this time of year, so remember to go big, or go home. So tie on a bigger than normal offering this season and be ready to catch bigger fish than your buddies.
Good Fishin,
Matt Johnson
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