Between tournaments, Professional Walleye Trail competitor Ernie Olson likes to chase big bluegills.
"Pound for pound, big 'gills are extremely hard fighters," Olson said. "They taste great and you get lots of action. They're a good change of pace."
But Olson doesn't just chase any bluegill. He targets 1-pound plus bulls that fight hard on ultralight gear. Most people don't know how to find the big ones most of the year, Olson said, so they don't get roughed up by angling pressure and are allowed to grow large. From late June through the remainder of the summer, Olson chooses lakes with deep water where big 'gills can escape predators adjacent to shallow bays where they spawn and feed.
The key at this time is to look for deep cabbage weeds near the mouths of the bays on the first break to deep water. Olson searches clear water by sight. He uses an Aqua-Vu underwater camera and his sonar to explore deeper water. Cabbage has a distinct look on the screen and you can verify that by using the Aqua-Vu. He likes to target vegetation in 14 to 20 feet of water.
"When you find that, it's just about a flat out guarantee you're going to find big bluegills," Olson said. "Deep cabbage is the most important factor in finding big bluegills."
Olson's setup is a 5-foot ultra light rod, 3-pound test line and a tiny jig. His first choice is a Lindy Little Nipper in chartreuse for clear water and darker colors for darker water. He dresses it with a Power Wiggler and uses his electric trolling motor to vertical jig along the base of the weeds. The biggest fish usually haunt the 4 feet nearest the bottom. Casting only brings aboard large chunks of cabbage and anchoring spooks the fish.
Vary the jig action. Sometimes Olson quivers it. Other times he holds it steady. On days when fish seem to hold tightly to one depth use a small float on a slip-bobber rig. Best results come on days when a breeze blows into the cabbage, giving the fish more shade and stirring the food the vegetation holds. A full moon may enhance the action, which can last all day long.
Olson also has another trick for light biters, which often are the biggest fish. He uses a homemade spring bobber like those used for panfishing through ice. The spring inside a Bic lighter has the perfect tension to detect light bites and is stiff enough to support the tiny jigs he uses. Electrical tape is cut into strips and wrapped around the spring to give it enough diameter to fit snugly in the eye at the tip of a rod. Add a little glue and you're ready to fish.
"Some fish, especially the big ones, are able to mouth the bait without moving the line," Olson said. "The spring bobber detects that."
There's a bonus to this style of fishing. Big crappies often hold in the same locations as big bluegills, though usually a few feet higher in the water column. Watch for sonar marks that indicate suspended fish.
"Nine times out of 10 you get the big fish deep," Olson said.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.