If you have never watched a bull bluegill hammer a bug on a moonlit night, don’t put it off any longer. September is the prime time to target these ferocious panfish, long after the late summer sun goes down. With that said, though, it’s also your last chance as October’s cooling temperatures tend to slow the bite to a standstill as water temperatures begin to drop with fall cold fronts.
Pitching glow bugs for big bream is not a new technique. As a matter of fact, it has been around for decades. Florida is the real hot spot for this style of fishing, and over the past 10 years or so, it has spread heavily into Georgia and other Southeastern states.
One of the most dedicated anglers to this style of fishing who I know is Jimmy Guess, of Ray City. Jimmy runs a lawn and landscaping service during the day, but he doesn’t let that cut into his fishing time. Throughout the summer, he puts in sometimes two or three nights a week to fuel his addiction for this style of fishing, and along the way, he has gotten pretty darn good at it. He regularly targets ponds and lakes, with Banks Lake in Lakeland being his preferred body of water for glow bugging.
When I interviewed Jimmy for this article, he was more than happy to share his techniques for tangling with these purple-headed, black-banded, bad-attitude, bug killers.
“I like to pitch a bug at night anywhere there are big bream, but it’s hard to beat Banks Lake for both numbers and size of bluegill,” said Jimmy.
Banks is located just outside the tiny town of Lakeland and is a true blackwater lake. At just more than 4,000 acres, this lake has what seems like a million cypress trees and virtually every type of cover you can imagine; stumps, cattails, lily pad fields, and the list goes on and on.
A variety of wildlife call this area home, including plenty of alligators. I guess that’s why I was pretty surprised when Jimmy told me his vessel of choice for fishing this lake at night is a 10-foot Pelican Apex kayak.
“There are sometimes 10 or 12 boats a night out on Banks fishing, and I feel like my kayak gives me a major advantage, particularly around lily pads, where bigger boats struggle to go. As far as the gators go, they seem to be way more scared of me than I am them,” Jimmy said.
Jimmy went on to say that any small boat will work great on Banks, as long as you can be quiet. A push pole is a great item for working slowly through the dense vegetation, as well as around the many stump fields in the lake. A paddle is also another must for working the lake at night.
“It’s a good idea to get out on the lake a few hours before dark and get a feel for it, especially if you have never been before,” said Jimmy. “It’s relatively safe, but you need to have working navigation lights and a life jacket within reach. It’s also a good idea to always go with a partner just in case something was to go wrong. It’s a lot of fun, but you need to be safe when on the water at night.”
As far as tackle, Jimmy keeps his selection simple, using a 10-foot South Bend KwikStik Bream Pole with 12-lb. test Berkley Big Game line. Any BreamBuster type pole will work, but just don’t get one that’s too flimsy or much longer than 12 feet because they are too hard to manage in the darkness. Jimmy also keeps his lure selection simple, using both a Betts Pop N’ Hot glow bug and a GA Boy Lures Lightnin Bug.
“I’ve come to like the new Lightnin Bug more due to its larger size, durability and brighter glow than traditional bugs,” Jimmy explained.
On full-moon nights, he will use a lure called a Swamp Spider. It’s gained tremendous popularity as of late. It comes in a bright pink/chartreuse color and is very effective around lily pads.
“This lure doesn’t glow like other bugs, but the glow factor is more for the fisherman than the fish. Fish can see any bug at night. It’s us anglers who need the help in visibility, particularly when moonlight is limited,” said Jimmy.
Glow bugging is a pretty simple technique. Just use your BreamBuster to flip your bug to likely targets, and work it with slight twitches and pauses to provoke strikes from hungry bluegill. With a quick blast from his 200 lumen LED Maglite, Jimmy charges his glow bug for three to four minutes at a time. As it loses its glow, he simply shines his light as necessary to bring it back to life.
Full-moon nights tend to be the best as navigation on lakes and ponds tend to be much easier, but the bite tends to be great, regardless of moon phase. As far as time of night, Jimmy likes the hours between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. the best, but he admits that bluegill don’t really seem to slow down at any particular point in the night.
As far as cover goes, he really likes isolated cover, particularly trees.
“I don’t care if I’m fishing Banks Lake, a private pond or anywhere else at night. If I’m on the water, the first place I’m looking is isolated timber. Big bluegill stack up on it when the sun goes down. You can take that to the bank,” said Jimmy.
He mentioned many times he had taken three or four 3/4-lb. plus bluegill off of one isolated cypress tree.
Another prime area Jimmy talked about is lily pads. He uses his kayak to quietly ease through the pads targeting openings and methodically working them with his bug. Listening is the key, as pads full of bluegill tend to be quite noisy as they suck bugs from the under sides. Jimmy recommends working “loud” areas slowly, as they are sure to hold plenty of hungry panfish. The only equipment change Jimmy makes in the pads is switching to braided line. He likes Goat Rope braid in the 40- to 50-lb. range to help get bluegill, and the occasional bass, out of the pads and into the boat.
“You gotta be quiet in these pads at night,” said Jimmy. “You have to pick that trolling motor up, and use a push pole or paddle to ease around. It’s a lot more work, but you’re not going to boat a lot of fish if you’re making a bunch of racket.”
Along the same line, Jimmy mentioned that he has had tremendous success on slightly breezy nights, as he fishes with the wind and uses his paddle only to keep his kayak straight.
Switching gears slightly to smaller ponds, Jimmy alters his bugging techniques to put fish in the boat. He still likes to target isolated structure, but also noted that fish in smaller bodies of water tend to move up really shallow at night, especially along grassy shorelines. Jimmy will pitch his glow bug right up to the bank and work it like a disoriented insect that has fallen into the water.
“The biggest mistake someone can make with a glow bug, particularly when they are new to it, is working it too much and too fast. In this game, less is truly more,” said Jimmy.
Jimmy went on to say that night bugging is not for everyone.
“You will have some nights when you catch several dozen and lots of nights you may only catch eight or 10. But the ones you do catch will be much bigger than fish caught during the day using standard techniques,” said Jimmy.
One other thing you’re going to have to accept about this type of fishing is that many times the fish will come out victorious, especially the really big ones. It is extremely hard to control a 1-lb. plus bluegill on a flimsy BreamBuster, especially in the total darkness, but that in part makes it so much more fun to try.
Hopefully by now you’re planning a trip for a night of glow bugging. Whether you make the trip to Banks Lake down in Lakeland, or to a pond or lake near your home, some great late-summer action surely awaits. When you witness a bull bluegill make your bug disappear into the midnight darkness, I can promise you will be back for more.
Editor’s Note: For more information on GA Boy Lures Lightnin Bugs or Swamp Spiders, contact Craig James at (912) 282-3838.
How To Make A Glow Bug Charger
Keeping your bug glowing bright, particularly on really dark nights, is crucial to the angler. Will Steed, of Hortense, regularly fishes glow bugs at night and has come up with a great way to keep them charged. By utilizing an empty medicine bottle and cutting a hole in the cap big enough for an led flashlight, he effectively recharges one bug while fishing with another. As one bug’s glow begins to diminish, he simply lays that pole down and grabs the other that has been charging. By switching poles and bugs, he stays in the action constantly without missing a beat. Will notes that bigger bottles seem to work better, and make sure you use white, as it helps to magnify and reflect the LED light for your bug to achieve a maximum glow.