Barbless Hooks starting at $2.99

In Pictures

What an Alabama Fishing License 2012 Gets You.

Bluegill Bait Recipe - The Best Bait for Bluegill

November 26, 2012

Bluegills and sunfish aren't terribly picky about what they eat. They tend to eat bugs, crayfish, and smaller fish but are also happy with homemade baits.

bluegill fishing holeThere are two keys to catching bluegill. First, you need to have reliable bait. Second, you have to know where bluegills tend to be in a lake, river, or stream. Let's start with the bait.

The best bait for bluegill is:

  • Visually attractive (to the bluegill).
  • Has an odor the bluegill can detect.
  • Stays on the hook.
  • Is easy and inexpensive to make.
  • Keeps for a long time.
  • Isn't messy or stinky.
  • Catches bluegills!

ingredients for bluegill baitBelow is a bluegill bait recipe I've used with reasonable success. It works great for sunfish as well. The key is microwaving it just long enough for it to be stringy enough to stay on the hook but pliable enough to shape into balls.

For this recipe you'll need:

  • white flour (about 1/2 cup)
  • salt
  • some vanilla/almond extract or onion/garlic powder
  • a bowl or some wax paper
  1. Mix the flour, a few pinches of salt, and about a teaspoon of onion/garlic powder in a bowl.
  2. Slowly add warm water and ten drops or so of vanilla/almond extract while stirring.
  3. Continue stirring until you have a doughy mixture.
  4. Flatten the dough in the bowl and microwave for about 15 seconds. Turn the dough over (careful, it might be hot!) and microwave again. Repeat until the dough isn't sticky.
  5. Test to see if you can roll the dough into small balls. If so, you've got your bait. I like to put it in a plastic bag and form the dough balls while fishing.

Tips and Variations:

  • Use vanilla or almond extract instead of onion/garlic powder. I've tried both and they all seem to work about the same. I'm always tempted to eat the dough with vanilla extract.
  • When you put the bluegill bait on your hook, make sure it covers the barb.
  • You can freeze the bait you don't use.
mixed bluegill bait microwaved bluegill bait

Note that, in the picture on the right, the dough on the outside is ready. Just use a spoon to turn the dough over and microwave until it is all the yellowish color.

balls of bluegill bait ready for the hookAfter microwaving, the color should change from white to yellowish. Test to see if you can form bait balls that seem like they would stay on your hook. Be careful—it will be rather hot.

bluegill bait bagged and ready to goPut your dough in a plastic bag (after it cools a bit) and you're ready to go.


What Size Hook to Use

Bluegills have very small mouths. When fishing for bluegills, a size 8 or 10 hook seems to work well. If you're fishing for larger fish use a larger hook. Using circle hooks will result in fewer instances of deep hooking.

Where to Catch Bluegills

It doesn't matter what bait recipe you use unless there are bluegills in the area. For ponds this isn't much of a problem since your choices are limited. But for lakes, rivers, and streams, you need to know where to fish.

Spring and Early Summer: Once the water is around 75 degrees, bluegill will start to spawn. During spawning they will be closer to shore and often you can see their nests. In lakes, they prefer gravel or sandy areas to spawn. In rivers, try around tree trunks and areas of calm water.

Summer: As it gets hotter, bluegill tend to be in deeper water. In rivers, undercut banks and tree trunks are good areas. In lakes, fish near areas of vegetation. Remember, they'll likely be in deeper water in summer.

Fall: In the fall, the bluegill come back in towards shore but usually further out than where they spawn.

Winter: Bluegill will be in deeper water in the winter but will can still be caught.

Time of Day: Mornings and evenings are the best although bluegill can be caught throughout the day. They tend to be most active feeding in the evening.

For a more detailed description of where to find bluegill, the Iowa DNR has an excellent article.

Go Catch Some Bluegill

With your new bluegill bait recipe and your knowledge of where to find the bluegills you should be ready to go. Email us at if you catch a bunch of fish or if you've found a useful variation.

Did you know the bluegill is actually a type of sunfish? Try our quiz to learn all about the different types of sunfish.

More Interesting Stuff....