Squirrel Tail Jig To Catch Big Bluegill
I can remember when I was a little boy fishing with my dad, a couple uncles and my grandfather. We were in a very small boat, a 16 foot aluminum V-hull with an 18 HP Evinrude. Normally we only fished for panfish and sat in the boat casting to brush piles and other cover with jigs and/or minnows. Now imagine 4 adults and a kid reacting to the eruption of rockfish, as we called them in Tennessee. I recall the boat rocking violently.
The noise of the cooler and tackle box being drug across the bottom of the little boat. The turned over coke cans was deafening as we all tried to position ourselves to see the feeding frenzy out the front of the boat. There it was once again. We all pointed simultaneously as shad fled the mouths of seemingly endless rockfish gobbling them up on the surface. The adults feverishly scrambled to dig whatever large topwater lure they could find in the tackle box.
Luckily, in those days, we carried everything with us in one tackle box. There were plenty of lures in the box and they split them up as equally and as quickly as they could. I waited for my big plug so I could cast to the giant rockfish frenzy. It didn’t happen and by now I bet you’re wondering what this story has to do with a squirrel tail jig for bluegill. Read on to find out.
I anxiously awaited my big plug. However, like so many kids in a situation with adults making the decisions for you, I was disappointed. Instead my grandfather handed me a pole with a small hair jig tied to the end. I was upset and I let it be known. My grandfather sat me down at the back of the boat. I sulked over being a kid and not being able to act like a bunch of crazy people slinging giant plugs into the early morning fog. My grandfather told me exactly what to do as he found the bottom and lifted the jig just off the bottom.
“Now Ken just a slight jigging action will do.”
I took the pole from my grandfather begrudgingly complaining that I wanted to cast the big plug for the big fish. I began working the hair jig and went to auto pilot as I sulked. With all the rebellious actions I may have made over the years not one ever interfered with fishing.
Meanwhile, the adults were frantically casting to frothing water and jumping shad. The sounds are those but few will ever experience. Like a stick of dynamite ignited each time a rockfish attacked a school of shad stunning them so they could devour them beneath the surface. While all this was going on I jigged my little hair jig in 30 foot of water. My grandfather assured me that that jig will catch a big bluegill down there. I didn’t believe him.
This jigging deal was just to keep me out of the way of the adults while they fished for the giant fish. I was very upset as I chewed on the white strap that held the orange life jacket around me. It was all I could do not to cry. Or maybe I did, a little bit. You know the feeling that you got as a kid? You remember the feeling. When you were made to go to bed while the grown ups were laughing and playing cards. That’s the feeling I had.
Then it happened! As I was cutting my eyes over to see the action at the front of the boat I felt something at the end of my line. Am I hung up? No! I began reeling and my grandfather who also stayed back from the young men at the front of the boat acting a fool. He was watching me. I’m not sure if he really thought I was going to catch a big bluegill on that hair jig but guess what? I did! It was a giant. A smile creeped onto my face until it hurt. I can still feel the pain from that smile. My grandfather netted the giant bluegill just as the excitement at the front of the boat diminished.
The rockfish vanished as quickly as they appeared. No one caught a single rockfish at the front of the boat and the excitement slowly died. However, in the back of the boat there was a new excitement. The giant bluegill was brought aboard. I wasn’t upset anymore. All of those big rockfish were gone and I was the angler of the moment for sure. It was great. Just as my grandfather told me. The bluegill was a big one. I remember the genuine disbelief from the grown ups who’s flurry of fun ended without success.
As I recall the bluegill would have weighed 3 pounds easily. I’m sure it was much smaller than that. To me it was the biggest bluegill ever caught. In my mind at least. It was the only fish caught that day. It felt good beating those adults that wouldn’t give me a hellbender or a redfin that day to throw at the rockfish and from then on out I never underestimated a hair jig for bluegill.
Tying My Own Squirrel Tail Jigs For Bluegill
After many years working summers in Alaska and tying flies to fish with and to sell, I figured I would design my own squirrel tail jig for bluegill. I wanted a jig that represented a bug but at the same time I wanted it to for sure resemble an emerging dragonfly and/or mayfly. We get a great mayfly hatch here on Kentucky Lake and Barkley Lake and the bluegills love them. Throw my Hairy Cricket Jig under an overhanging limb during this hatch and you are almost guaranteed to catch a bluegill and other species too.
My main focus, species wise, when tying the Hairy Cricket Jig, was the Redear Sunfish. During my fishing trips in the spring in search of big Redear I started to notice nymph casings attached to old stake beds just at water line. Upon investigation I realized that these were the casings from dragonflies and everywhere I saw them I caught big Redear. I might be slow, but I ain’t that slow. So I sat down at my fly tying desk and I created the Hairy Cricket Jig.
The Hairy Cricket Jig is a small squirrel tail jig with wings. The squirrel tails I harvest myself and gives me more excuses to chase them in the winter. As if I needed any more excuses. Check out my Squirrel and Dumpling Recipe to see an even better excuse. I fish it on medium light tackle and 10 pound test Invisibraid with a monofilament leader. The leader is usually 6 pound but I will use 8 pound test when fishing around a lot of rocks. Redear love to hug the bottom.
This is why I use medium light instead of ultralight as many people use. I want to get them and big bull bluegills up and out of the cover they love to hide in. I learned this the hard way when several big ones broke me off because the ultralight rod would just bend too far. This gave them that split second they needed to run into a hole or under a log.
I now use the Hairy Cricket Jig all spring. Tip the Hairy Cricket Jig with a small piece of worm and either slow sink it along rip rap or next to docks or dangle it beneath a bobber. I like the bobbers that I used with my dad as a boy. I can find them occasionally or at least they look the same. The yellow and white bobber with the spring that holds the line in the slit in the top. I like to use the Hairy Cricket Jig with a bobber when I am fishing around a lot of cover. It is easier to work the jig in stake beds and treetops where bluegills and redear like to hang out. In the spring just be sure to keep the jig near bottom as that is where they are preparing to spawn.
Why Squirrel Tail Hair Works For Bluegill
Does squirrel tail jigs catch more fish? That is a question that many anglers ask. As a long time fly fisherman and fly tyer, for many years, I learned through reading and talking to other avid anglers that it’s widely accepted that natural fibers will get more bites. Like anything else in fishing that is open for debate. It is a common belief that natural fibers are not as foreign to fish as manmade materials therefore they are less likely to turn away. I do know that fish are caught on plastics and synthetic fibers everyday and I believe they work fine. The question really arises when targeting big fish that might have been pressured in the past.
Natural fibers, that have a more natural smell seems safer to bite than manmade materials. Is this true? I’m not sure, but like other things you like to tip the scales into your favor as much as possible no matter how small. It is a confidence thing I think. Natural materials like squirrel tail hair for jigs is a great option for tyers to use. The squirrel tails that I use are those harvested during squirrel season here in Kentucky. I love to hunt squirrels and to utilize the tails myself is a great feeling. I have always enjoyed catching fish on jigs or flies that I tied myself. To do it with part of the many squirrels that I enjoy each season. Check out my Buttermilk Squirrel Recipe