Outside Chance: Slow and steady bluegills

by Jack Payne


While my favorite way to a mess of gills is slow trolling, what ends up being done the most with the highest degree of success is a slow controlled movement of the boat. Many days, perhaps most would be a better word, the gills want a slow presentation.

After years of logging and recording data it appears that the old way we fished outdid the new way that we are trying. Trolling at speeds up to 1 mph is a great way for locating fish not readily seen on a graph. For pure numbers of fish moving at .2 mph up to .5 produces more fish on a regular basis.

Many days Mother Nature provides enough wind to hit these speeds. On the days where this does not occur, drop down your trolling motor. On windy days throw a drift sock over the side. After stumbling badly just a few evenings ago on a lake that produced great catches over the past month, it was quick to see the error. Running spinners is fun but the speed was too much.

Summer fish will suspend or hug the bottom to the depths where the thermocline starts. They are easy to spot on your graph. In past seasons we would locate 2 schools of fish and let the wind push us over both schools on a controlled drift. And the result was a limit more often than not.

Slow controlled fishing requires different baits and lures than fast trolling. If you are an ice angler you most likely already have them in your box. Tear drops, small plastics and rubber or foam spiders do the best.

Fishing vertical is critical and easily done. For this type of fishing we tie on two or three Arnold Speed Snaps depending on how many rods we wish to use. When you do this tie them onto your main line with a small loop or straight and tight much like drop shot rigs. Add a barrel swivel to the top and a plain snap on the bottom.

Sinker weight is determined by the amount of wind and the depth. A quarter ounce bell sinker or drop shot sinker is a good starting point. Keeping a tight line and staying vertical reduces line tangles. Also, use rods of varying length. Run a 6 footer and an 8 or 9 footer. A hooked bluegill loves to run in tight circles and keeping the rods spaced apart reduces a fine and timely mess.

We mix our lures between Skandia Tapiola ice jigs, Moon Glitter and Black Moon teardrops, small Whip R Snap plastics and the Hot Leg Spiders, all from Stopper Lures. Also, one hard to beat bait is the Charlie Brewer 1 inch crappie grub. We tip each bait with a wax worm or a spike.

The Whip R Snap baits come in a tube with two plastic bodies and 1 super small jig head. The tail shimmies and vibrates with the least bit of wind or movement. Bonus crappie and perch will hit this bait.

Anglers will find both suspended fish and bottom hugging fish until you reach the thermocline. Then most fish will be at or above the thermocline. At depths of 25 feet or less it pays to run one rod at the bottom and another just above the depth that a graph shows.

If crappies are also in your lake then try 3 rods. On the crappie rods vertically jig a Charlie Brewer Crappie Grub and a Charlie Brewer Slider jig head. These can be tipped with a minnow but minnows can be a problem during the heat of summer.

Tie on two jigs in tandem and drop down to the level of the school on your graph. Then vertically jig up and down. When working two jigs make sure that one is lighter than the other. The lightest often gets the most hits

My records show that we land many more gills in the summer with a vertical approach than any other method. My question was why it took me so long to check back and see this. Vertical fish and move slow for summer gills, perch and bonus crappie