Trophy Sunfish Tips and Techniques

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bluegill sunfish
A pre-dawn bluegill sunfish

For panfish fanatics, having an arsenal of techniques can make the difference between success and disappointment while fishing for bluegill, pumpkinseed and other sunfish species.

As sunfish are members of the same family as largemouth and smallmouth bass, it’s not surprising to learn that many of the same tactics that fool trophy bass will also catch sunfish. The lures or rigs may be smaller, but the basic concepts apply.

When targeting trophy sized sunfish, try fishing as early as possible in the morning. In some locations the bite can be incredible during the first hour of daylight. The same goes for late evening, a time when sunfish often feed heavily.

Sunfish often exhibit territorial behavior that is nearly identical to largemouth bass. Recognizing structures that sunfish orient to and defend can be extremely effective. Casting to these structures requires accuracy as bluegill, pumpkinseed and other sunfish sometime hold tight but will attack any small object that enters their territory.

Areas where sunfish feed are often overlooked. The fish may be practically at your feet. When fishing from boats, cast as close to shorelines or cover as possible. Fishing kayaks offer access to many of the best panfish habitats where traditional boaters cannot fish.

Experienced sunfish anglers pay attention to seasonal food sources and switch lures or baits to take advantage of fish behavior. Sunfish are cunning, opportunistic feeders that quickly develop feeding patterns, when insect or other invertebrate populations increase locally. Among the most well known seasonal baits are grasshoppers and crickets, both of which sunfish quickly learn to gorge on.

Target areas of water flow such as natural springs, culverts, dams, channels, and intersections of creeks. In tidal areas, sunfish anglers should pay attention to tide states, following movements of fish and learning which tidal states result in the best fishing.

Keep essential fishing gear handy, including line cutters, pliers, bait knife, camera, etc.