Catching Giant Gills: What we've learned over the last couple of years
We are hooked on fishing for huge bluegills. Ounce for ounce, very few freshwater fish fight as hard as bull bluegills. Over the last couple of years we have shifted techniques from more traditional hook and worm set ups to more aggressive pursuits - like plastics and hard baits. We have to give credit to Al and Dan Lindner for introducing us to the concept of fishing for gills with crankbaits.
Rapala: Rippin Raps and Ultralight Minnows
This spring, we caught more giant gills on crankbaits than any other technique. Most people can’t believe it when I tell them we target gills and crappie with crankbaits. But it’s true - the Rapala ultralight series is an unbelievable trap for catching panfish. We have found certain colors and sizes to be super productive for these beautiful fish. We prefer to throw #4 rippin raps and #4 ultralight minnows (you’ll have to book a trip to see what colors we like to use!). Instead of fishing ultra light rods and reels, we tend to go more medium light because of the need to move these big fish quickly out of heavy weeds.
Plastics: Charlie Brewer Slider 1.5” Grub
Our other favorite technique is fishing with Charlie Brewer’s 1.5” sliders on a keitech 1/32oz tungsten jighead. Big gills are predators - they eat bigger prey like young of the year fry. So instead of thinking of them as panfish, consider that a big gills is more like a walleye or a bass.
Braid + Fluoro leader
Other key details to this approach are using Gamma’s Torque (braid) paired with a section of fluorocarbon leader. This past year we got tired of getting bit off by pike, so we used a 30lb fluoro leader. The heavier leader didn’t affect our ability to catch the gills, and we got to keep our baits when a toothy critter attacked.
Catch and Release the Big Ones
The gills we are catching are massive. And it is so important to release these monster males to continue to propagate big gills for the future. The 7-8” fish are so thick on the body of water that we fish, that it’s easy to get plenty of good meals off of these while releasing the 9-10+”ers for the future of the fishery!
Next Year: Book a Guide Trip for Giant Gills
We are so excited about gills that we are offering guide trips to specifically target these fish. As with our other trips we will be promoting selective harvest - don’t book with us if your goal is to stock your freezer. We are excited about our clients having a meal or two, but more of our goal is to teach the technique and help people grow as fishermen.
We hope these articles are helpful for you - we would love to hear from you! Feel free to leave a comment and we’d love to help you become a better fishermen (or maybe you could help us too!). Thanks!