The short answer is ‘yes’ – bass do eat bluegill. In fact bluegill are one of the main food sources for bass in many areas.
Bass, especially Largemouth bass, Smallmouth bass, and Striped bass, are not picky about what goes in their mouth. In most cases they are very opportunistic feeders which can have a different focus on other types of food throughout the year from crayfish to small baitfish to larger panfish.
For anglers heading out onto the water searching for their next trophy bass, understanding the natural bass diet for that time of year and what bass eat is important. It helps you select the right bait or lure, and can also give you an idea of where to find those big fish that eat bluegills.
The Bluegill Bite For Bass
When stocking a pond with bass, it’s not uncommon for sunfish and other fish to be stocked as well. This can include a mix of rock bass, pumpkinseed, green sunfish, and bluegill.
All of these other fish are a great food source for bass and can quickly reproduce to help grow those monster-sized bass you want to get on the end of your line.
In some areas, up to 40% of a bass fish’s diet can be made up of bluegill and other sunfish. When using baits and lures that imitate bluegill, you are almost sure to get bass interested in striking.
When Bass Eat Bluegill
Throughout the late summer and early fall months, smaller baitfish species such as shad and minnows will migrate from the main lake areas and into the more shallow pockets of side channels where small shrimp, small crayfish, and phytoplankton are propagating.
As these small live bait fish move into the area, sunfish species such as small bluegill, pumpkinseed, and rock bass will move into the area to feed on the shad and minnows. Oftentimes these groups of fish meeting in a smaller area will create signs of a feeding frenzy in the deeper water which can even be seen from the surface as well.
As this feeding frenzy continues with these smaller species of fish, larger predatory species such as largemouth bass will start to take notice and move in. These big bass will then start targeting the bluegill, pumpkinseed, and smaller fish species as well.
This is normally the best time for an angler to drop their bait or lure into the mix. If it imitates a green sunfish or a bluegill, chances are good that it will be struck by the predatory largemouth bass that eat bluegills.
Finding Bass that are Eating Bluegill
If you don’t have a feeding frenzy to guide you on where to drop your bait, there are other ways to locate big bass that may currently be feeding on bluegill. The easiest way is to make note of where you saw bluegills swimming or spawning as chances are good bigger bass will be nearby.
This is normally obvious in the late spring and early summer months as bluegill and other sunfish start their spawning behaviors. Many small and young bluegills will remain near their spawning grounds, and as a result you can normally find a few bass swimming in the area too since this live bait is a main source of their diet.
If a specific spawning location is not found, look for areas that are suitable to bluegill in general for dropping your bait. As a prey-type fish, bluegills will normally suspend above tall grass as it provides a natural cover for them in case of predators. They can be commonly found around areas where shad eat and spawn too.
By September, bluegills will be actively feeding on crayfish and aquatic insects which are commonly found around rock piles and boulders. Since this area is much more open, bluegills may not spend a lot of time here, but will commonly zip among the rocks grabbing the tiny crustaceans that are clinging to the rocks before they dart back to more secure cover areas.
Presentations for Bass That Are Eating Bluegill
Any lure that imitates a small or young bluegill will be readily taken by moss largemouth bass in the area. You can present these lures and baits on a jig as it is an extremely versatile and highly successful way to get your lure down into the strike zone of the bass.
Jigs are versatile enough to be used at depth, as well as above the bass to be silhouetted with the sun at the surface of the water. Moving your jig in an erratic motion will entice bass to strike, both out of hunger and from aggression, especially if you drop the lure into a bass spawning bed.
When fishing for bass around rock piles and mostly open bottoms, you want your jig to be down towards the bottom. Normally, a live bluegill will swim quickly for a foot or two before stopping and inspecting their surroundings. Trying to mimic this movement with your lure is a great way to get bass in the area to take notice quickly.
When using a bluegill lure on a jig, you can also use a crawfish or plastic worm trailer. They both have their benefits and will depend on your personal fishing preferences.
For example, a crawfish trailer will give your bluegill lure a more fluid movement as the craw helps balance out the entire rig. The worm, on the other hand, will give a much more erratic and imbalanced motion that some bass will go absolutely wild for.
Tackle for Largemouth Bass Eat Bluegill
Regardless of the specific type of lure you are using for largemouth bass, you need fishing gear that can handle the abuse and stress these big fish put on your tackle whether you are fishing in the river or in ponds.
If you’re fishing in and around rock piles often, you will want to focus on a medium-heavy rod with a highly flexible tip to give you a good bit of sensitivity to know if you get snagged.
Snags will happen whether you are fishing around rock piles or heavy vegetation, and with a bit of practice and the right rod, you’ll be able to pop your rig free without losing your lure or bait. In fact, this popping motion to free your snagged lure may be exactly the motion a nearby largemouth bass, walleye or other target fish will notice.
If fishing in thick and heavy grass and weeds, a heavy rod with thick line is a good choice. Braided line is most commonly used in this situation as it can handle a considerable amount of abrasion damage and pulling stress without breaking. A heavy rod is also great for ensuring you get a solid hookset when a bass strikes.
When it comes to reels, a high-speed spinning reel is a great choice in almost every situation. Having a high speed gearing will allow you to quickly set the hook and start putting pressure on the fish before it is able to spit out your lure and flee.