4lbs. test is where it all begins for me when I am going to takedown a big slab Bluegill. Many anglers overlook these small powerhouses, but once you have really hooked into a truly large bluegill, you are hooked for life. These mighty, bold and beautiful fish are an absolute blast to catch. Whether you are taking a child fishing for the day or specifically targeting these little monsters yourself, you will definitely have a wonderful time.
I often get a lot of questions about my rod, reel, and tackle I use while hunting down these fierce little beasts. I have been using these same set-ups and tackle for as long as I can remember. I will start with my Rod and Reel combos, I have a Berkley 5ft UL Lighting Rod matched up with an Ardent Krappie Kings reel. This is my go to for throwing one of my all time favorite lures the Worden’s Rooster Tails, (In-Line Spinner), I will expand on this technique a little later. My second combo is a Cabela’s Copper River 5ft UL paired with an Ardent Krappie Kings reel. This rod and reel combo makes for an amazing pair to throw a bobber on with a red worm suspended down about two feet. The key is to play the drag, and be patient once that slab in on the line. I have landed many Panfish on these Ultra-lights, and quite a few fish over the 10lbs. mark as well.
I always start out with my favorite lures, my trusty and reliable 1/8oz. Rooster Tail. My preferred colors are White, Yellow, Brown, and Black. If the water is clear, I will throw a Black Rooster Tail. The black does not alarm the Bluegills, but they cannot resist the shine of that small blade screaming through the water. I fish so often with these lures that I have a dedicated Plano box just for them. These lures have helped me land quite a few slab Bluegill over the 2lbs mark, from all over the southeast. Fast paced, flashy, high impact, and nonstop action is why this is my go-to.
Live bait fishing works very well for Shell Crackers and Red Ears in the spring and fall. Some of the most effective live baits that I have found for these little beasts are night crawlers, red worms, and crickets. The way I rig up for fishing with live bait is super easy. I tie on a VCM #6 Octopus hook, and then about two feet up I place a weighted bobber. Bobber location is also dictated by water depth, clarity of the water, and where the fish are located. There is one live bait that I always have in my arsenal, and it is red worms. Red worms are a guarantee that I will succeed at putting panfish in my kayak. The only way I can describe fishing with Red Worms is simply irresistible. The fantastic thing about live bait is plentiful, and it is also cheap.
There are various habitats that panfish like to reside in, and here are a few of my favorites that I often target. Without a doubt I love to fish in and around cypress trees in swamps around South Carolina and Florida. The cypress trees make for an excellent location to target, and I always produce huge numbers when I target this arena. My number one way to fish the cypress trees is with the bobber set-up that I talked about earlier.
Another area I concentrate on is bluegill beds. I will focus a good bit of my attention on the bluegill beds both during and after the spawn. I enjoy this technique because the fish are very aggressive and protective of anything coming into the bedding area. Some of the best locations to find beds are sandy area, sandy points, and grass lines. Usually after the females have laid their eggs they will move just outside the bedding area, and the males will take guard of the eggs, putting their life on the line. If you are not having luck with fishing the bedding area, cast just a little bit deeper, this is where the huge slab females will be waiting to devourer anything that comes within striking distance.
One other location that will produce big numbers of quality fish are docks and blow downs. These areas provide ample amount of protection for the panfish, but they provide great fishing locations. It is not uncommon to catch over ten fish off of one dock or blow down. If the numbers slow down, just move on to fish another dock or blow down. Chances are that you can come back later to that same location and start landing panfish again.
Water temperature, and season are just as important if not more important than anything else that has been covered so far. Spring is when the action heats up, and the fish go into fighting mode. This is when the action heats up, and the big quantities of fish are extremely active. I will target the bedding fish, and if that does not produce the slabs I am looking for, then I will move my presentation out to a little deeper water. Typically the larger fish are hanging out in the deeper water just beyond the beds. It is not uncommon to land 20-30 Bluegills in an afternoon in the Spring.
Through summer, the action will still be steady in cooler and clear waters. This means that I fish deep reservoirs in the mountains that surround me to find the best action. The numbers will fall off, but this is when I usually always catch the monster “Slabs” that you hear people talk about. These are the Bluegills that everyone wants to feel at the end of their line. These are the Bluegills that can make you work like there is no tomorrow to land them. These are the Bluegills that I always look forward to finding; they will rip out drag, and will not give up.
As fall rolls around, the action will heat up just like it did in spring with big numbers of quality fish being caught. A great place to locate bluegills in the fall is off of long points, where they can come up to the shallow water. The long points make a great area to find the bluegills feeding aggressively on live bait. This time of the year I will always have a live bait set-up with me, and my choice of live bait is a night crawler. Another great area to find these powerhouses is along rip-raft around bridges. Again, my choice of live bait will be night crawlers or crickets. Once you find the fish they will be feeding aggressively to try and fatten up for winter.
It amazes me at how many people over look these aggressive monsters. This is just the tip of the iceberg into fishing for these beautiful creatures, but I hope that these techniques will help you get started into a life time of fun and adventure. . I have been catching the small gladiators as far back as I can remember. One thing is for sure, it never gets old hooking into a “slab.” Whether you are taking a child fishing for the day or specifically targeting these little monsters yourself, you will definitely have a wonderful time!
Do not ever look past the light tackle, when I am on the water I will always have at least one, if not two Ultra Lights with me on my kayak. Be patient and play the drag, and you can pull in some huge fish!!!
-Countless Bluegill over 2lbs, a handful pushing over 2.5lbs
-11Lbs Bowfin in Sparkle Berry Swamp, SC
-4 Black Drum over 10lbs, with one pushing just over 15lbs at Pawleys Island, SC
-Kris Moran and I landed +300 slab Bluegills in San Mateo, FL
– Just this past Saturday over 2lbs Shell Cracker, potential SC Citation