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The first unofficial weekend of summer is here. I’ll be spending most of it fishing for something, as I’m sure most of you will, too. I’m also guessing that bluegills will be part of the party mix. With big ’gills on their beds across much of their range, the time is right to catch some studs.

Minnesota walleye pro Scott Seibert just may have found a big bluegill tactic that will outperform a nightcrawler under a bobber—crankbaits. The lightbulb recently went off in his fishy mind, when one of his trolled Rapala Shad Raps was hammered by a fat 10-inch bluegill. Other tournament participants reported similar off-target catches — including one mammoth ‘gill that went 11 inches.

While not the competitive objective, the bluegill Seibert caught offered a sporty tussle, even on walleye tackle. But for your fun fishing this weekend, he suggests lightening the gear (medium spinning tackle and 6-pound line).

Seibert says late May to early June is the perfect time to target these fish with hard baits in shallow water. Bedding in 2 to 5 feet, the fish are wound up and ready to attack.

“I believe these shallow fish are protecting their beds, and it is more of a protecting bite, rather than a feeding bite,” he says. “If you catch fish on the beds it is important to let them go.”

His top bluegill hard baits include: Shallow running #5 Shad Raps (perch color), the Bagley Balsa B1, B2 and Diving B1 (perch, Tennessee shad and fire tiger) and the Salmo #3 Hornet (hot perch and dace blue).

Favoring cabbage weeds, Seibert finds the ‘gills most likely to hit the plugs in the early mornings and the evenings. Lighter winds are best so you can see the fish up shallow, and so it’s easier casting the lighter baits.

“I’m mostly casting, but I will try trolling along weed beds to find them first then cast to them,” Seibert said.

For trolling presentations, Seibert finds .05-1.0 mph ideal, but he’s caught bluegill while trolling at 1.8 mph in 12 feet of water. At any speed, expect a spirited strike and a respectable fight from a fish whose size belies its aggression.

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