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Spoon-Time Bluegills

by Doug Stange   |  September 8th, 2011 15

In the May issue of In-Fisherman we ran an article by Bill Modica, outlining a system for fishing modified spoons for bluegills. As I sat reading his manuscript for the first time, I couldn’t believe that I’d never though to try his method for myself. I was anxious to experiment as soon as I could—and if it worked as well as Modica said, we’d shoot a little TV footage of the method in action. We did that last week.
It’s typical for bigger bluegills to shift into deep water during late summer and early fall. They like to eat tiny crustaceans that hold along the bottom near rock and gravel substrate. I’ve caught fish as deep as 40 feet, but key depths in both lakes and reservoirs are from 20 feet down to about 30 feet. The spot we fished to shoot the TV segment was a rock and gravel ridge running about 20 feet deep, with the drop-off edge breaking into 32 feet. The fish were along that edge, but didn’t like the base of it where the bottom went soft. That’s typical.
I used two spoons, one an Acme Kastmaster weighing 1/12 ounce and the other a Luhr Jensen Hus-Lure, weighing 1/8-ounce. The Kastmaster is classic straight spoon that has a nice action when you shake the rod tip just a little on the retrieve. Meanwhile, the Hus-Lure has a bent butt section that gives it a nice little dance. I’m pretty sure that many of your favorite small spoons have the potential to produce nice fish.

The only modification necessary is to replace the treble hook with a single hook. This makes it easier to tip the hook, which is necessary to trigger fish. I use the Eagle Claw 210, a short-shank design that has an open hook eye. Slip it on the split ring and pinch it shut with pliers. A #8 couples well with smaller spoons and a #6 with larger spoons.
Tip the hook with either a tiny soft plastic like a 1-inch tube or curly tail or with something from the Berkley Gulp! lineup. On our TV shoot the fish were all over the 1-inch Gulp! Minnow. Never had to experiment farther; but other good Gulp! shapes I’ve fished include the 1-inch Fish Fry and 1-inch Cricket. Have on hand brighter colors like white and chartreuse and neutral colors like Pumpkinseed.
Go ultra light with the rod, but it needs to be at least 6 feet long and better 6.5 or 7 feet. I want to make long casts when necessary and a long rod helps to poke stuff out there.
Another key to longer casts and smoother retrieves is coupling the rod with a bigger reel. My favorite spinning reel of all time is the Pflueger Supreme. Most panfish anglers would pick up the 25-class model, which is the ultra-light version. At a minimum go at least one step larger with a 30-class reel typically considered a smallmouth- or a walleye-sized option. I step it up even one more notch with a 35-class reel. The wider spool allows the line to slip off the reel easier on the cast and wind back on the reel more smoothly on the retrieve. A smoother retrieve increases sensitivity because you’re not making so many quick movements with the reel handle.
Given that I often want to make long casts it also helps to fish with a superline like 4- or 6-pound Sufix 832, the smoothest-casting superline that I’ve found so far. These lines don’t stretch, so it’s easy to feel what’s happening at the end of your line, even at long distance. Rigged with the right rod, reel, and line, even tiny spoons can be almost cast out of sight.
Watch your electronics and you can see how high some of the fish are holding off bottom. Typically, if you keep the lure running within about 2 feet of bottom you’re into fish holding in deeper water. On our TV shoot I made several passes over the fish, dropped a waypoint on a group of them, then anchored up wind so I could cast back to them.
Make the cast and let the lure sink to the bottom. Raise your rod tip to about 11 o’clock and start slowly reeling. Stop the retrieve about every 5 feet and drop the rod tip to 10 o’clock to let the spoon fall back. Sometimes they eat the spoon on the drop back, other times they’re all over it on the straight retrieve. At times it helps to shake the rod just a bit to add a dancing action to the spoon. Experiment.
Many times you feel fish attacking the spoon but they’re not quite getting the hook in their mouth. Keep reeling slowly and they often follow right along, keep pecking away, and eventually hook up. Don’t set the hook until you feel the weight of a fish on the line.
When I can use two rods, I make casts with each of them. When one lure hits bottom, I start retrieving with that rod. Finished retrieving, I make another cast, and set that rod down and pick up the other rod. It’s just a matter of alternating rods.
It’s that simple—and the results for me have been beautiful fish. Bluegills are great on the table, but harvest selectively, keeping some of the medium fish, letting the big grunts go. The idea that big gills are still out there to be caught is its own biggest reward. They aren’t worth nearly as much in the pan as back in the water.
Still plenty time left in the season for spoon-time gills. For me, learning this technique has been a fishing-life-changing event. But then that’s what each article in each issue of In-Fisherman magazine has always been about—helping you change the way you fish for the better. Good fishing to you!

  • John

    Glad to see Bluegill articles in IN -FISHERMAN Magazine !!

    Thanks Musky Mod and Doug Stange.

  • Bruce Condello

    In-Fisherman has always been the best place to find the latest innovations in angling techniques! Thanks to Bill Modica for sharing his ideas, and thanks to In-Fisherman for their ongoing willingness to recognize and celebrate new ideas.

  • RiverGuy

    Way to go, Musky Mod!

    Great article, In Fisherman.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Soky

    Thanks Musky Mod – I never used to release the Giants! I do now! Thanks for sharing & showing me one of your "Hot Spots."

  • Johnny Douglas

    I guess releasing the giants make for better fishing in the future!..thanks for posting this article.

  • vince cullen

    just watched a show on ice fishing white fish. I was told they are full of bones. How do you prepair them and cood them , sure will apppreacate an answer. thanks vince

  • koon

    musky mod ive been watching your videos on lake link and you tube for a couple of years seen you were using spoons but couldn't figure out if you were vertical or horizontal. fish some of the same waters going to give it a try on big green and other surrounding lakes. how early in the season do you start using spoons and this technique our wisconsin fishing trip is the 1st week in june some years we are there during the spawn some years after,. will they head to deeper water after the spawn if so would you're spoon technique be a good option?

  • harold

    i'am a flycaster i love to fish an to watch your show
    would love to see bass an panfishing show on the
    fly that would be great i live in north carolina next to
    raleigh near a lot of lakes i go a lot to them

  • harold

    ok that is alright

  • Dave Braxmaier

    This is really cool I can't wait to spoon some gills …..

  • squirtis120

    This is a great article and I immediately started checking around as to where I could get the components. The first place I tried was Cabela's. They have the spoons, minnows, and a different brand of hooks. OK, fine, BUT you have to backorder the spoons and minnows. AND, you have to order 5 spoons and 3 each of the Gulp! minnows. After exhaustive checking on the internet, I can't find ANY online store that has all the components. Maybe someone out there can help?

  • Wes Sowder

    Dear Doug, this has nothing to do with the blog. I'm an inspiring Angler and I have been boggled about one paricular aspect of rigging a line. What is the perpose of a leaderline?

  • Ben Barrus

    Before I read this, I used a custom jigs n spins slender spoon and half of an one inch gulp alive minnow, best way to catch big bluegill and perch through the ice. Everyone else at the lake I fish uses tiny 1/82 oz jigs, and I for the most part our fish them almost every time using this.

  • Don J

    I sure would like some feedback on how you located the fish in deep water. Can you please give some advice on this topic? Many of the lakes I fish in Florida have soft bottoms. Will the fish still move to this type of lake bottom in late summer? Will the system work in rivers? If so, any tips on how to locate the fish in river setting?
    In closing, I just want you to know how much I appreciate your instruction. Keep up the good work!

  • Gill Blue

    I enjoy trolling inline spinners and small spoons for large bluegills in late summer and fall. I find gravel bars that are located next to deeper water and probe till I find the fish and the depth they are suspended at. Then I rig up two rods and troll that depth. It’s not as taxing on me as casting would be.

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