Want to avoid the crowds rubbing rails over late-summer schools of shad? Rest your crankbaits for a spell and drag jigs for untapped bass feeding deep on sullen bluegills.
“It would surprise people how many fish you catch in deep water that are actually feeding on bluegill in the summertime,” says Ott DeFoe, a three-time Bassmaster Classic contender and 2011 Bassmaster Rookie of the Year. “When it gets hot, a lot of times bluegills don’t actually suspend as much as people think. A lot of times, they just sit right down on the bottom, almost in a sulking-type position. They just kind of sit there and don’t do much at all.”
To catch the bass that eat those sullen ‘gills, DeFoe drops jigs over deep structure. “It’s primarily a dragging thing — like how you’d fish a Carolina Rig,” he explains. “Although you do catch some on the initial drop to the bottom or on secondary drops — like whenever your jig will fall off a ledge and drop like four feet or so at once.”
Deep-dwelling bluegills will school around anything on the bottom that attracts the little living things they feed on, be that rock, brush, wood or weedlines. A Terminator® Weedless Football Jig produces well for active bass harassing bluegills near deep weediness and brush, as well as around open-water rock piles, gravel and sand flats. But if the bass get finicky, DeFoe might switch to a Terminator Finesse Jig.
Black-and-blue skirt patterns imitate bluegills best, DeFoe says, but green-and-orange can be good in certain situations too. “That can look like a crawdad or a bluegill,” he explains. Terminator Finesse Jigs come in three sizes (1/8th, 3/16th and 1/4th oz.) and three bluegill-mimicking color patterns (Black/Blue/Purple, Blue/Olive and Green Pumpkin Orange). Terminator Weedless Football Jigs come in three sizes (1/2, 3/4 and 1 oz.) and two bluegill-type color patterns (Black/Blue/Purple and Green Pumpkin Orange).
Although DeFoe concedes that in the river impoundments of the South and Southeast, 75 percent of the bass population are usually feeding on shad, he says patterns to target those fish are widely publicized and those bass get hammered by multiple tournament circuits week in and week out.
“But there’s still at least 25 percent of the bass population that are eating other things, like bluegill,” he says. “I’ve seen it time and time again, where it would surprise people how many fish you catch in deep water that are actually feeding on bluegill.”