For a big difference, do the little things right


Don Ackerman

“The good thing about doing little things is that if they are done well, it can make a big difference compared to doing nothing.”

—Author unknown.

Over my years of sports participation, I’ve come to realize how important the small details are. In golf, a slight adjustment to the putting or driving stance can make all the difference. In shooting a basketball, I learned in high school that the elbow must be at the correct position to consistently score. I watch the Cardinals Paul Goldschmidt hit and think that if he’d lower his bat angle just a little before the pitch, he could get around faster.  In hunting, a simple breathing technique helps steady the firearm for a better aim.

In fishing, so many times over the years I’ve found that just a little tweaking can result in more success. Recently on a bluegill trip to West Boggs Lake, that principle was evident. I enjoy fishing with Catholic priest Reverend Don Ackerman and Del Steinhart, a retired JHS science teacher. Those two guys know everyone in Dubois County, their parents, and their grandparents. When we’re together the entertaining and enlightening conversations never stop, unless the fish are really biting.

I enjoy bluegill fishing, and I like a bobber. Since I started fishing at a very young age, watching the bobber go down is a little thrill that never gets old. I’ve not tried bouncing bait on the bottom for gills, thinking that I can catch more if I just adjust the bobber to the proper depth. Bobbers keep the rig from causing irritating bottom hang-ups, and they provide an easy target to watch.

That warm mid-June day we arrived about four in the afternoon and first looked around with my boat’s Garmin graph. When I’m at Boggs, I usually see plenty of fish on the screen, and I feel certain that many of the echo symbols are bluegill. We came across a husband and wife fishing a seawall and struck up a chat. They had caught several fish around there, I saw some on the graph, so we set up nearby without crowding them. The fellow had told us five feet was the right depth, so I set the bobber accordingly. We caught a few fish there, encouraged by our success so early in the day. We thanked our benefactors and wished them well.

At the next spot, action was sporadic, one here and there. Del said that a friend, Keith Knies, had told him about the rig he uses for bluegill. He showed me a small black jig with a plastic twister tail. Del tied the lure on, without bobber, tipped it with a meal worm or bee moth, and starting getting consistent bites. After a while, I caved on the bobber idea and looked around my panfish tackle box for something similar. I came upon a very small black jig with a hair trailer. It was so light that I could barely cast it, but with a little bait tipped on I managed to get the 1/64-ounce lure out there far enough toward the bank in about eight to ten feet of water. Now what? Let it sit? Work it a little? I’ve had plenty of experience lifting and dropping a plastic worm for bass, so I tried the same technique. With this very slow method, I started catching fish. I seldom felt the gills bite and usually only knew they were there when I lifted the lure. I rarely lost a fish, and the little jig hook was easy to remove. Father Don tried the bottom rig, but he felt more comfortable with the bobber. Our livewell box started filling up.

Fishing lures

Del was having some difficulty with missing fish. Putting our heads together, we figured that fish were grabbing his twister tail and not getting the hook. He had some identical lures to mine in his box, but just slightly larger. He tried those, and eventually we found that a 1/64-ounce lure was better than 1/32 for hooking more fish. It seems such a small difference, but it was important. Bluegills have small mouths.

Apparently, these fish look for something on the bottom to eat when they get ready to feed, or maybe they’re like birds and are always on the prowl for food. Boggs bluegill, even the small ones, are usually stocky. Obviously, they’re finding something down there, perhaps insect larvae, small crustaceans, snails, or maybe leftover fish eggs. Whatever it is, it’s helping them to bulk up.  We ended our day with 51 bluegill and a small catfish that decided he liked Father’s offering.

The Reverend stuck with the bobber, and toward later evening was catching them well on that method too. My thought after the day was that for bottom bouncing, high visibility line with a two-foot clear monofilament leader next to the lure would make bites easier to detect. I’ll try that the next time. I always use Suffix Hi-Vis line on my casting reels for bass. I got the idea from a White River guide I met at the Indianapolis Sport Show some years back. He specialized in smallmouth on the Indianapolis area river, and he noted that often his clients couldn’t detect the bite with clear monofilament. All of his rods had the easy-to-see line. Apparently, it doesn’t spook the fish, but for bluegill a four-pound clear leader might help, especially if the water is clear.

If you can manage the $16 entry fee for park entry and launching, Boggs is a productive lake. I have yet to try the bass, but I’ve heard good reports that keeper size largemouth (14 inches) are being taken, including some lunkers. The lake’s about a 40 minute drive from Jasper, but it’s worth it. And if you get hungry, you can pull your boat right up to Stoll’s Restaurant for some good eats. It doesn’t get much better than that.

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