Bluegill fishing is about balance. Each trip is a constant trial and error to figure out if the fish want a tiny speck of an ice jig – the flash, vibration and, meaty profile of a jigging spoon, or any presentation that falls in between. Each presentation has its strengths and weaknesses so experimentation is a must every day—sometimes every hour!
Miniature jigs are great when the fish are super-finicky. Even the most wary fish can be fooled when a tiny jig is paired with a super-thin line. Seriously, what bluegill can’t resist a tiny Northland Jiggle Bug tied to the end of two-pound test, better yet, 100% fluorocarbon. The smaller the jig and line the better when fish are lethargic, spooky, or just a little “off.” Yet small bluegill love the tiny jig and thin line combination, too. Sometimes the ratio between catching a small fish compared to a nice one is 50:1. And once a bigger bluegill does take your microscopic presentation, retrieving the hook becomes yet another chore.
Conversely, a jigging spoon is a great choice for bluegill when the fish are very active, spread out, or if you’re constantly pestered by smaller fish. The flash and vibration of the spoon calls fish in from afar, and the larger size discourages smaller fish. But sometimes, coaxing a bigger fish to eat such a large offering becomes frustrating. The fish may have been feeding for several days and they’re simply not as active compared to last week, not to mention the waxworm, larva or plastic tail dangling from the treble doesn’t conceal the hook well enough to grant a bite. Eager smaller fish still attempt to grab the treble hook, but instead get a mouthful of waxworm or Eurolarve, ripping it from the hook with a headshake. Take off the gloves and rebait. Rebait. Rebait.
So you try the small jig again and silver dollar sized sunfish continually pound the tiny offering you drop down the hole, beating the bigger fish to the hook. Solution? Ride piggyback.
As previously mentioned, jigging spoons and ice jigs each have positives and negatives. Yet putting the two together is like joining peanut butter and jelly, an engine and gasoline, or a young child and a set of blocks; it’s simply a good fit.
It doesn’t take much know-how in creating a piggyback spoon in your angling laboratory or garage stall. You can even accomplish the task on the lake if you’re careful so the components don’t get lost in the snow.
Simply remove the single or treble hook from the split-ring of your favorite jigging spoon, and then add your favorite ice jig to the now empty split ring. A pair of split ring pliers makes the job easier, but sometimes a strong thumbnail can open the ring just enough to remove and replace a hook.
Jigs that hang vertically work best, but don’t underestimate a horizontally sitting ice jig either. Sometimes an odd appearance is enough to trigger bites from inquisitive bluegills.
You’ll find endless possibilities to be creative as you begin pairing up various jigs with the wide variety of spoons on the market. Just imagine the color combinations, luminescent finishes, hair, rubber or synthetic attractors on the jigs, spoons that rattle and even the size options for making a wicked, bluegill catching bait. Yet don’t be surprised when your piggyback spoon lands a perch, pike, walleye, bass, crappie or other variety of fish swimming in the lake, river or reservoir you’re fishing.
My favorite combinations include Northland Tackle’s Forage Minnow Jigging Spoon or their super-noisy Buck-Shot Rattle Spoon paired up with a Northland Spider Ant or Jiggle Bug. The legs on the Spider Ant are a great attractor and the Jiggle Bug hauls in the big ones when less is more. In other words, when the fish are finicky the Jiggle Bug has just enough color to excite whopper ‘gills, but is subtle enough to tempt even the pickiest eaters. Tip the jig with a waxworm, Eurolarve, or one of Northland’s lifelike Bloodworms from Bro’s Bug Collection.
So the next time you’re looking for huge bluegills through the ice, consider teaming up your favorite ice jig and your favorite jigging spoon – a powerful combination that is sure to put a bend in your rod.