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How to Catch Bluegill in Clear Water? (Best Baits and Colors)

How to Catch Bluegill in Clear Water? (Best Baits and Colors)

Fishing for bluegill in different water conditions can be extremely fun but also challenging. 

Clear water bluegill, especially, can be fairly tricky to catch. So how exactly should you fish for them in such conditions?

Bluegill stay in or very close to heavy cover in clear water conditions. You should approach them stealthily and use baits that look as realistic as possible. Red, brown, silver or black colors can work very well for clear water gills. 

Keep reading this article and get helpful tips on how to catch more and bigger bluegill in high-visibility conditions!

Where to Find Bluegill in Clear Water?

Courtesy of Dan Spengler

The bluegill (Lepomis macrochirusis a small member of the sunfish family, and as such, it’s got plenty of natural enemies. That means gills tend to stay very close to heavy cover, especially in high visibility conditions. 

Whether close to shore, where they’ll be found during the spawn, or in deeper water, spots near, in, or over heavy cover and uneven structure are where you’ll find your clear water bluegills!

Try to locate patches of thick aquatic vegetation, and you can count on finding the gills! 

Additionally, heavy cover like sunken trees, flooded timber, weeds, reeds, overhanging trees or bushes, docks, and piers are all great hiding places for this panfish. 

Apart from providing excellent cover, these areas teem with aquatic insects high up on the bluegill’s diet plan. They can include:

  • Snails
  • Larvae
  • Worms
  • Crayfish
  • Zooplankton

Now that you know where to find the gills in clear water, let’s take a closer look at how you should target them in such conditions. 

How to Fish for Bluegill in Clear Water?

a happy angler on a lake holding a gigantic clear water bluegill
Courtesy of Scott Mackner

The bluegill’s location in clear water conditions tells you much about how to fish for them!

For one thing, stealth isn’t just the gills’ best friend. It should be yours as well!

The fish can easily get spooked in the clear water, which you’ll want to avoid at all costs, especially when fishing from a boat.

Try to anchor up at a good distance from the intended fishing spot and approach slowly and carefully. Turn off your motor, or use a silent electric motor to get close to where you want to fish.

If you’re fishing from the shore, try not to stand too close to the water, and wear dark or camoflaged clothes if you can. Do everything you can to avoid spooking the fish!

If you have the appropriate gear, you can cast even smaller baits farther, making your fishing so much more effective.

When it comes to baits, smaller sizes are definitely preferred in clear water.

You should imitate the gills’ forage as closely as possible, as they’ll inspect your baits very closely in high visibility conditions!

Technique-wise, fishing your bait as close to the cover as possible is a good move. The fish are often deeply embedded in the vegetation, so you’ll have to lure them out of there!

Fishing small jigs or cranks directly on top of the vegetation is a deadly method for clear water bluegill, making smaller and lighter baits an even more important choice.

We’ll discuss bait choices and colors further down in the article in more detail, so make sure to keep reading!

RELATED ARTICLE: How to catch more smallmouth bass in clear water?

Best Baits for Clear Water Bluegill

As mentioned above, keep your baits small and as natural as possible when it comes to clear water bluegill. 

Smaller baits mimic the gills’ natural prey found in the heavy vegetation they hide in. This goes for both artificial lures and natural live baits.

Some of the best artificial baits for bluegill in clear water include:

  • micro jigs
  • small spinners
  • small crankbaits
  • small creature baits 

Jigs, spinners, and cranks can be presented perfectly next to or above heavy vegetation, making them excellent choices for summer and fall gills.

During the spawn, tiny creature baits that you can fish among the bluegills’ nests are an absolute fish slayer! 

Just remember to keep things small and light. Otherwise, you’ll end up getting snagged all the time. 

If you prefer fishing with natural baits, here are a few solid choices for clear water bluegill:

  • red wigglers 
  • small pieces of worm
  • crickets
  • grasshoppers
  • mealworms

Fishing those on a simple slip bobber rig can be a great option in tight spots that don’t allow for long or repeated casts. 

The bobber rig will sit neatly on top of the vegetation without moving, allowing you to wait out the bites without having to re-cast all the time. 

Best Colors for Bluegill in Clear Water

a young angler on his boat with a very nice summer bluegill
Courtesy of Tom Hebb

Once again, it’s imperative to keep things natural when fishing in high-vis water conditions! Your baits will have to look as realistic as possible, as the fish can see and observe everything.

To find the best-suited bait colors for clear water gills, you will have to look at what they feed on!

Small crustaceans, worms, snails, zooplankton, and many other aquatic insects and microorganisms have the following colors:

  • Brown
  • Green
  • Silver
  • Red
  • Black
  • Transparent

And there you have it! These are the exact colors and patterns your baits and lures should have!

The better you can imitate the gills’ natural prey, the bigger the chance of catching them. 

Of course, the best way of doing so is to match the hatch! If you can match your natural baits to what’s available to the bluegills underwater, you’re practically guaranteed to hook up.

Furthermore, using artificial baits, like creature or worm softbaits, is a very smart move when fishing for clear water bluegill, especially during the spawn!

You will have to outsmart the fish visually, and the best and easiest way to do so is by using highly natural and realistic baits. 

Should You Use Fluorocarbon for Bluegill in Clear Water?

an angler on a lake holding a giant bluegill caught with a fluorocarbon leader
Courtesy of Dan Spengler

Many anglers wonder if using a fluorocarbon mainline or leader makes a difference when targeting clear water bluegill, and I certainly think it does!

Fishing as light and stealthily as possible is essential when it comes to high visibility conditions, and using a thin fluorocarbon line definitely helps in this regard. No question about that!

Personally, I’m not particularly eager to use an FC mainline, as this type of line is a little too stiff for my taste, but I can strongly recommend using a fluorocarbon leader.

This fluorocarbon is practically completely invisible underwater, which is exactly what you need when fishing for clear water gills. 

Use a test pound of between 4 and 6lb, and you’re good to go! 

You can even use an 8-pound test fluoro leader when fishing in very snaggy areas. Don’t be afraid of the diameter! Modern FC leaders are extremely strong while having a fairly low diameter, so an 8lb leader won’t spook the fish at all!

It’s still super invisible, and if you get snagged, you’ll have a better chance to recover your tackle! Fair and square!

PRO TIPYou can check out Berkley’s phenomenal Trilene Fluorocarbon on Amazon here! It’s one of the best and most reliable FC leaders on the market!

Is it Better to Fish for Bluegill in Clear or Muddy Water?

This is a tricky question, as both clear and stained water fishing can have advantages and disadvantages.

On the one hand, fishing in clear water gives you a much better visual oversight of your fishing spot and the fish in it.

You can see how they move and react to your bait and adjust if need be.

On the other hand, fishing in dark and muddy water gives you the advantage of fishing completely undetected.

You may not see the fish, but neither will they and if you know how to locate them in such water conditions, stealth is a definite advantage if you ask me! Especially when it comes to a cautious species such as the bluegill.

That’s why I tend to prefer fishing in stained water. The fish are simply not as careful as in clear water conditions.

RELATED READING: How to Fish for Bluegill in Muddy Water Conditions?

That being said, you shouldn’t cancel a fishing trip just because the water is clear!

The best thing to do, always, is to adjust to the conditions at hand. This way, you’ll always have the chance to catch something, no matter what!

Additionally, you challenge yourself when fishing in less favorable conditions, which can lead to new knowledge, making you a better angler!

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