Set Your Hook: Bluegill

Catch Those Bluegill!

Bluegill are a tasty pan fish that are a hoot to catch for kids and adults alike. When I was up at White Horse Lake a few weeks ago, they were the ONLY thing that was biting!

And for some reason, bluegill are the stereotypical “my first fish”. I can’t explain it, but I’ve seen it time and time again!



The best bluegill fishing usually occurs in lakes and ponds where largemouth bass are so abundant that the bass growth rate has slowed. That’s not good for bass fishing, but the sheer number of bass makes for great bluegill fishing. Small bass in the 8- to 10-inch range will prey on the small bluegills.

This limits competition for food, thus allowing the surviving bluegills to feed and grow to quality sizes. If fisheries biologists have imposed a bass slot limit on a lake to protect the bass in the 12- to 15-inch range, it means the water has an abundance of small bass that feed on bluegills.

However, many lakes here in Northern Arizona have fishable populations of both trout and bluegill. The only issue with our put-and-take lakes? The bluegill don’t get very big!

Do you know where to go for either bass or bluegill? has your answers!


Bluegill do not grow to huge sizes, so select your rod and reel accordingly. An ultra-light rod and reel with light line will allow you to feel the bluegill’s bite more effectively and you will catch more fish. In clear water, light line is less likely to be detected by fish. Line weights from 2- to 6-lbs test work best.

Larger bluegills can be spooked by heavier line, but most importantly, light line makes it easier to cast smaller baits. If possible, do not use sinkers. However, it may be necessary to use a small split shot or slip weight to make a long cast. Try a 1/64-ounce or 1/32-ounce worm weight above a small bead attached to the line about 10 inches above the bait. If you choose to use a bobber, make it the smallest you can find. Strike indicators, like those used by fly fishermen, are best.

Hook sizes from #6 to #10 are most effective. Hooks with long shanks will allow you to more easily remove them from the bluegill’s tiny mouth and thin wire hooks work best for holding small baits.

Live bait works especially well for bluegill. The most common baits are worms and night crawlers. The key is to use only a piece of a worm – just enough to cover the hook (keeping it small!) Other productive baits include crickets, grasshoppers, red wrigglers, and meal worms. Artificial lures also work well for bluegill. Some of the best lures are black jigs (1/32 ounce and smaller) and tiny spinners.

Personally, I use corn to catch bluegill, but regardless of what bait you like, it will need to be small if you want to catch a lot of bluegill.

Bluegill don’t like to chase their food, so a slow or almost motionless presentation is often best. A small bait hanging below a bobber is usually more than a bluegill can resist. Be sure to use a small bobber – just big enough to float your bait. If your bobber is too large, the bluegill will feel the resistance and spit out the bait. Setting your bobber from 1 to 3 feet deep will usually do the trick, but if fish are deeper you will need to fish deeper. Slip bobbers are a must for the serious bluegill angler, because they allow you to fish at any depth.

At the end of the day, use what works best for you! Good luck and happy fishing. Let me know how it goes!

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