The Spring Bull Bluegill Formula

If you’re looking for a powerful fishing technique here is the spring bull bluegill formula

by Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson Sunfish (2)As anglers we find ourselves looking for a reason behind the decisions we make. We want to justify that the decisions we make will have a positive outcome on our day of fishing.

Let’s face it; we don’t want to make decisions that result in a poor day of fishing. So we analyze the situation and make the best decision based on the given conditions. We start to build a pattern and then execute that pattern. Right or wrong, we tell ourselves—through our gut instincts—that these specific moves will help us catch more spring bull bluegill. Sometimes we turn towards our network of fishing buddies to help guide us, other times we just wing-it and hope for the best, but regardless of path we still try to use our best judgment to gain the desired outcome.

With spring bull bluegill, we often over-analyze the situation and make the decisions tougher than they need to be. With panfish there are simple formulas for success, especially during the spring.

Let temperature be your guide. If I had to pick one season where temperature plays the most crucial role then it would be spring. Fish are coming off the coldest water temps of the year and they are desperate to find the warmest water possible. Even small variations in water temperature can make huge changes in spring bull bluegill and their location.

Trying to find the warmest water possible can be one of the easiest steps to spring-time success. Look for areas that receive the most impact from the sun—namely the north and northwest portions of the body of water you’re fishing. These areas receive the most sunlight and will typically warm up the fastest. Channels, creek arms, back bays, these are just a few of the areas to target. Pay attention to your electronics and see if there is an increase in temperature as you move into these areas.

Spring bull bluegill will look for these spots to seek comfort in the slightly warmer water.

Don’t put away the ice fishing tackle.

I’m sure you think I’m crazy with that statement, but I’m actually directing that towards the presentations you use for ice fishing. Early spring panfish are still trying to build-up their stomachs and their mindset is still on smaller morsels of food. They are used to feeding on insects, plankton and other tiny offerings from the long winter months.

A big mistake I see many early spring bull bluegill anglers make is to throw something too large at the fish. Keep your small ice jigs and ice plastics handy and give those a shot, even the largest panfish in the lake will still take a pass at the ice jigs once the lakes open up. If you need to, fish them under a float, especially up against the warm banks and back channels.

It’s not always good to be fast. This is in reference to the speed of your presentation. Much-like ice fishing, there are times where we need to finesse spring-time panfish. Early spring is not always the best time to burn a small spinnerbait or snap a twister tail; instead you want to glide an enticing plastic in front of the fish’s face, offering them an easy meal.

Make it easy on those spring bull bluegill and focus more on presenting the bait in the strike zone rather than fan-casting an area at high-velocity. If using a float system, let the presentation sit for a second or two in between movements, or slowly retrieve the bait under a float. Think of it as force-feeding the fish, make it easy on them.

Be willing to adapt. As we know, weather during the spring season can be a lot of fun. One day it’s sunny and calm, the next day it’s rainy and windy. We can’t control the weather, so be willing to adapt and adjust to the weather conditions. Have a drift-sock with you in your boat or even an anchor. Spring-time panfish typically won’t make huge moves within a given day, so if you find a pod of fish you will want to have the means to stay over them. Hunkering down and focusing in on a school of spring bull bluegill can be half-the-battle during certain conditions, so be ready for the weather to throw a wide-variety of conditions your way.

Focus small, and then make big moves. What the heck does this mean you ask? With spring-time panfish, you don’t need to make multiple small moves to find the spot-on-the-spot. If you run up into a creek arm or channel and fish the warmest part and find no fish, then move out completely. No need to fish your way in and out because if they are not snapping in the “hot zone” then it’s usually safe to say the spring bull bluegill are not using that arm, channel or bay at that particular time.

If this happens, then bolt out and hit an entirely new arm, channel or bay and repeat the process. You might find five different channels, all with 50-degree water temp and all on the same side of the lake, but only one of them holds fish. It’s a weird scenario but it happens. No need to beat up “dead” water, get out and move onto the next spot.

Go ahead and sleep-in. This is intended for one reason—waiting for the sun to get high and warm-up those north and west banks. Spring is one of those rare situations where mid-day and afternoon bites can be the most productive. Now, I’m not saying you won’t find a productive morning bite, but typically you’re fishing deeper structure for the active morning bite. The shallow, warmer water generally needs some time to warm-up. If you want to get an early start on the day then try focusing on weed lines or basin areas—places where you found fish at late ice. Then once the sun has the chance to reach its full potential you can move back into the bay, arm or channel in search of your warm-water fish.

We all get excited to get the boat out once the ice melts, but using summer-time tactics on spring bull bluegill doesn’t always pay off when the water temps are cold. Use a few of these tips when you venture out chasing early spring bull bluegill this season and even though the water and air temps are cold, the fishing can still be hot!

Good Fishin,
Matt Johnson

***Matt Johnson owns and operates Matt Johnson Outdoors where he offers year-round guided fishing trips and promotes the sport of fishing. He also writes for various publications both online and print. You can contact Matt by visiting