Taking Advantage of the Food Chain
If you find yourself fishing the same highly pressured lakes and failing to catch any bass worth a picture, you can always have your fun fishing with live bait. While bass fishing is typically a skill based sport using artificial lures, bass fishing with live bait can be done for fun when taking friends or family out for a day on the lake. The large bass that live bluegill can bring in is amazing. You can make your day out on the water a memorable one, especially for those who have never caught a fish before. There are laws and regulations regarding the transport of aquatic animals to different bodies of water so be sure to get educated on your local regulations before attempting this.
To start, you need to catch some bluegill! The cheapest and most effective method I have found for catching bluegill is to go to your local pet store and purchase a small container of mealworms. Using a small live bait hook (size 10 to 12), hook the worm just once and drop your line into the water where you can see bluegill congregating. You can use any combination of bobbers and weights as necessary. Bluegill don’t seem to be line shy at all when a worm is wriggling around in front of them.
The next step is to ensure your bait stays alive. This can be done one of two ways. You can catch a few young bluegill and keep them in a bucket with an aerator, or you can catch one and then immediately place the bluegill on a hook and cast out. I prefer using the latter method, as you can prevent from over-catching and stressing bluegill that you may not even end up using as bait.
After catching a nicely sized bluegill (2-4 inches), use a circle hook or a live bait hook to hold your bluegill. When doing this, I prefer to hook the bluegill just underneath the spine behind the dorsal fin. Take care not to puncture or contact the spine with the hook. If this happens, the fish will die immediately and you will have wasted a life. The idea is to keep the bluegill alive as long as possible and to keep it moving and swimming for the most natural action. Bass will prey on weakened or injured bluegill, but will not eat a dead one.
After you cast your live bluegill out, all you need to do is wait for a bass to see the injured fish and eat it. Be patient, especially when fishing during mid-day when the bass are not actively feeding. Bass will observe the injured bluegill and circle it, waiting for it to die off just enough that it won’t put up a big struggle. When the sensation from your rod goes from a twitch or tap to a sudden heavy pull, you have a nice sized bass on the hook. Set the hook if circle hooks are not being used. If circle hooks are being used, allow the bass to swim away with the bait, then simply reel in slack and apply steady upward pressure to set the hook. Never jerk the rod when using a circle hook.
After landing the fish and taking pictures, be sure to release the bass gently, and thank the little bluegill that was sacrificed for your enjoyment. I hope this brings you and your friends/family a productive day out on the water. Whether you’re there to just fish or there for a barbecue, catching large bass will always bring a crowd and turn some heads.