By Jason Mitchell
When it comes to presentation discussion concerning bluegills, tungsten has dominated the discussions over the past few years. Tungsten jigs have become so popular because tungsten is much heavier than traditional lead. An angler can either go a couple different directions with tungsten. You can use a much smaller profile or size with tungsten or you can use the same mass or size as traditional lead but increase the sensitivity because of the increase in weight.
The extra weight also seems to not only increase sensitivity but also seems to give more action or kick to traditional soft plastics and also displace water better for putting out a cadence that calls fish in. If you want to see a very well thought out line up of tungsten for bluegill, check out Dave Genz’s Clam Tackle Drop Series of tungsten jigs.
Typically, the Drop Jigs are the answer for most fish. Heavy enough for getting back down through the water column fast. A great choice for the first drop down the hole. Cut through slush good, maintains sensitivity outside in the elements when wind is pushing the line around. Sensitive and fast… yes there is not much not to like about tungsten. Until fish start to stall out before they get to you. As anglers, we have to balance between efficiency versus effectiveness. This balance becomes extremely evident with sunfish.
Tungsten rocks when fish are in at least a neutral mood and want to eat. Often, the first look fish give you is often going to be the best look and after you wear out your welcome, you will see fish stall as they come in on you. No acceleration or rise in the water column. When fish get tough they peddle real slowly up to the presentation and analyze it from further away, essentially stopping off the lure. Fishing pressure is the usual culprit for creating much more difficult to trigger fish.
There are situations where you won’t get bit if you use line heavier than two-pound test. There are bites that require extreme finesse. The action on the jig has to be controlled with the most delicate dabble to float the jig without any twisting or spinning. Ultra light spring bobbers, one-pound monofilament and micro size jigs can make a big difference in catching some fish. When things get really tough, move away from tungsten and incorporate presentations that drop or hang slowly down through the water column. Imagine pinching a wax worm and dropping it in the hole. The wax worm falls painstakingly slow down the hole and takes forever to drift slowly towards the bottom. This ultra slow descent usually snaps the self-restraint of any bluegill in the area.
How can you mimic this descent? There are a couple of options. Where legal, a very effective method is to tie a small wet nymph a few feet above the jig using a loop knot tied inline. This method is extremely deadly over the tops of weeds. Simply lay the bottom jig on the weed stalks and let the wet nymph do the slow descent on semi slack line. Sometimes referred to as a “Michigan Rig” in some parts of the country, this ice fishing variation of a drop shot rig can also be modified to use a plain hook and soft plastic.
In water less than ten feet, another option to accomplish this descent is to simply free fall a small plain hook rigged with a soft plastic so that the action is smooth and sliding as the plastic falls through the water column. No quivering or pounding to get the lure to kick and dance, the action is simply the slow descent that is painstakingly slow but seductive. An ultra slow drop will catch the most difficult fish left in a school, even catching fish that have been hooked or rolled just previously.
Because this presentation wrinkle is slow and sometimes tedious, this is not necessarily the best strategy to start in a hole or spot and is definitely not the best choice for finding fish.
What this finesse tactic will do however is round you out as a more complete angler. The more tools and presentations you have to throw at fish, the more effective you will be. On a typical school of fish, we will often start out using tungsten and than as conditions get more difficult and we start to wear out our welcome in a spot, we can pull more fish off the spot with some of the finesse tactics described in this article. In some areas where there is intense fishing pressure, anglers have to shift to some of these strategies much sooner.
If you have yet to embrace the new tungsten jigs, I strongly encourage you to do so and also recognize the situations where tungsten can be put to the best use. A pitcher however has to have more than one pitch. The slow fall finesse game is the change up ball. Master both pitches and you are on your way to striking out a lot more big bluegill and sunfish this winter.