What is the Best Hook Size for Bluegill?

Mark Johnson
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Choosing the Right Hook Size for Bluegill

You can't just use any size hook when fishing for bluegill because different sizes catch the bluegill at different levels.

Bluegill are shallow water fish that do not put up much of a fight. So, you probably won't set any records when fishing for them. Nevertheless, if you catch them quickly, one after another, you’ll end up with plenty of fish for dinner (or the fish fry).

The ideal time to fish in shallow water is early in the morning or late in the evening when the fish are huddled very close to the water's surface. This is also the best time to catch panfish because they tend to be more aggressive during these times.

During the middle of the day, bluegill are still active and will feed, but they will spend more time hiding in the river bank and other natural hiding spots. It's possible to catch bluegill during this time, but you'll have to wade further into the water and cast to specific spots.

There are over 13,000 bluegills per acre. Because there are so many bluegill and they prefer shallow waters, you never need to worry about selecting an inappropriately small hook for this fish.

One of the things that many people find interesting about the bluegill is that they are not a strict “bluegill fish.” The species name for the bluegill is Lepomis macrochirus. The name, by itself, tells us that we are dealing with a wide variety of fish. (Lepomis means “small fish.”)

The bluegill is actually an “all purpose” fish, and even though they are popularly used in the aquarium trade, they are at home in just about any water conditions, including muddy, calm waters that are typically found anywhere in North America.

Because of their adaptability and general hardiness, it is difficult to make specific recommendations for a bluegill’s diet. But that doesn’t stop us from trying, right?

The general consensus is that bluegill would eat almost anything. In fact, they even eat each other! So, providing some variety is good, which brings us to the question at hand.

Artificial bait or lures

Bluegill all live in freshwater and require an aquatic habitat. Like other pointy-faced critters (like trout), they are drawn to bright colors. Dangling a worm or a curly tail grub in the water column is an excellent way to attract attention, along with other natural and artificial looking water creatures.

To catch these fish, you'll want between a size 1 and size 4 hook. The smaller hooks are best when your goal is to catch bluegill that are less than 6 inches long and keep them whole.

When it comes to natural bait, small minnows work well, as do crickets and other bugs. Small synthetic baits, like grubs, worms, and flies are commonly used, as well.

So, should you use the big hooks or the little hooks? What about using smaller hooks for catching bluegill over 6 inches long or using larger hooks for catching them between 5 and 6 inches long? The choice is yours.

Note that while there is a trade-off between hook size and the size of fish you're attempting to catch, using smaller hooks, regardless of the species you're trying to catch, will improve your chances of a successful catch.

The smaller hooks will keep the bluegills from swallowing your bait, letting it swim freely and attract a larger number of fish in the area.

Live baits

When fishing for bluegill with live bait, night crawlers, mousie, maggot, or worms are the most popular baits. Bread, grains, crickets, grasshoppers, earthworms, pork-rinds, dough balls, and bits of raw chicken or fish may also work.

When fishing for bluegill in deep water, use live minnows or baby gold fish.

The most effective way to fish live bait is by tossing a large and live minnow or anchoring a minnow about a foot out from the edge of the bank or drop-off.

You'll feel a bite on the line before any other kind of fishing because a bluegill is so aggressive and hungry.

When using live bait, it pays to have some patience. You need to let the bluegill swim around with your bait and get comfortable with it.

You must resist the urge to strike at the first nibble. Watch his movement and wait for him to get comfortable.

If you have the right presentation, you will feel a definite tug and you can set the hook. When you feel the bluegill strike, reel him in very slowly.

Largemouth bass love live bait too. To simulate the movement of a crawdad or small fish, use a gold spoon, spin-n-glow, or spinner and make short casts over the brush piles and logs.

Bluegill are typically caught on smaller hooks, ranging from size 8 to size 12. The hook shank length should be slightly longer than the body width of the fish to allow for the hook to hook.

The smaller hooks allow anglers more success since bluegill are notorious for spitting the hook.

The hook style can vary but there are two primary hook styles for bluegill: circle or wide gap. The circle hook style has a wide gap to allow fish to swallow the bait whole. This allows anglers to utilize hooks with light wire diameter.

Worm hooks

Worm hooks are not the best choice.

When you fish with worms, either live or cut, you will want something that is a little bit bigger.

Pupa hooks are a good option. These are generally a bit longer and a bit wider. Hanging Pupa hooks, too, are usually better for worm fishing.

These hooks are designed to grab a better “bite” in the worm. It also ensures that you have a lot of space around the worm. Not only will it help you feel the bite from the fish, it also prevents the worm from getting crushed.

Baitholder hooks

Even if you have spent years fishing for bluegill, you may be surprised to learn that big baits and big hooks are not always required. Smaller hooks, spinning baits, and light line are far more effective and far easier than using the standard “big baits, big hooks” approach.

If you want to go after a buck, then use the bigger baits. But if you want to catch dinner, the use of smaller baits and smaller hooks will surprise you with the number of fish you can catch.

My all-time favorite hook design to use for bluegill is the “Baitholder” hook. This hook slides behind the fish’s bottom lip when they take the bait instead of penetrating past their front lip, as is a usual with a traditional hook.

The bait is retained, and there is no risk of the hook inadvertently penetrating the fish’s mouth. I recommend these hooks and have used these hooks for bluegill for over 30 years.

The next post will review the soft plastic lures and the best ones to use for bluegill.

Jig hooks

Bluegill fishing is done with either bait or artificial lures. Since this is a freshwater fish, many anglers rely on live bait, such as worms, mealworms, nightcrawlers, insects or minnows. Artificial lures work just as well for catching walleyes.

Many anglers prefer plastic grubs, spinners, spoons and soft plastic baits, because they tend to be more durable. Harder plastic lures can be broken off, and metal lures make a loud sound when they hit the water, which can scare the fish.

Either way, the hook will be the most important piece of the entire fishing rig. It it sounds sketchy to buy a bunch of hooks a bit at a time, then just get a pack that will last you for an entire season if you are going to be using real worms.

But if you decide to go with soft plastic lures, then you will be good to go with a package of hooks that you purchased in a variety pack.

How to Hook a Bluegill – Tips and Tricks

As with everything else, the best hook size for Bluegill depends on the specific conditions.

There are a wide variety of scenarios in which different hook sizes will outperform others, including size of the fish, water conditions, lure and bait tackle used, and the local tradition you’re fishing for.

So when you want to know the best hook size for Bluegill, you need to know what you are fishing for, when and where. Then you can use your best judgment.

Here is a list of scenarios to give you an idea of likely best hook size for Bluegill:


Head on – A dull hook like a set of treble hooks is best when you want the fish centered. While you have less than 1% chance to hook a fish deeply with treble hooks. The treble hooks of a weed guard will also ensure a good hooking position.

Wrapping It Up

Best Hook Size for Bluegill

The common bluegill is a freshwater fish belonging to Symphysodon genus. It is native to North America and is the most common freshwater fish.

Bluegill are popular for large lakes with aquatic vegetation, but they are found in streams and marshes as well.

They prefer warm waters to live in and are generally not found in waters that are below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. They can also adapt and survive in cold waters.

The males are highly aggressive at protecting their territory. They can grow up to 12 inches and weigh up to 2 pounds. The females are much smaller and can only grow up to 8 inches.

These fish may live for up to 10 years. They are omnivores and eat small invertebrates apart from small fishes.

The females lay thousands of eggs in their breeding season, which may last for 2 months.

Above: Common Bluegill in a lake

Above: An average sized Common Bluegill found in a lake

Above: Common Bluegill

Above: Common Bluegill ready to be cooked

Now let’s go back to why we started the discussion about bluegills. Bluegills are found in lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. They are also found in almost all the major freshwater rivers and the coastal regions. They usually live in schools and remain in the water all the time.