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updated: 2/22/2012 7:26 PM

A local tournament with bluegill in mind

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This column could raise some hackles on the necks of some readers -- or perhaps it might generate a flood of interest for metro pan fishermen.

If you are a fan of Saturday morning and afternoon professional bass fishing tournaments, raise your hands if you'd like to see a gaggle of anglers trying to catch the biggest and heaviest bluegill, as well as a "healthy" load of 'gills swimming in the live well.

This may have been done before in this area, and I am fully aware of the crappie contests, like CrappieThon and the like.

But I say it's time we drew attention to our local ponds and lakes which happen to be loaded with jumbo fish.

Professional bass fishing has managed to have a headlock on the public's attention, as well as tempting both endemic and non-endemic sponsors to line up in order to get some major on-camera promotion.

Imagine this, if you will. Bluegill tournament officials will designate two separate lakes for this two-day contest. Sponsors will be invited to provide lure products for contestants to choose, and boats must be equipped with nothing more than small outboards.

"It ain't gonna fly," bemoaned Cicero truck mechanic Tony the "Flip," when I told him this idea over a recent coffee klatch.

Tony is an absolute madman when it comes to finding and catching big bluegills. His second "home" is Reelfoot Lake in northwest Tennessee, where crappie and bluegill fishing is considered a religion of sorts.

Tony's lifelong pal, Richie the "Sweet Tooth," has been all over this state, checking out ponds from Cairo to Antioch.

"I think dis would be a great idea and loads of fun," Richie mumbled with a mouthful of fresh pastry.

I explained to each of these old-school tough guy anglers that I would even publicly reveal my bluegill hotspots on places like Busse Lake, a longtime favorite of many panfishing addicts. And I would do that simply because Busse is a public lake holding big fish -- and if contestants work hard in the tourney, they're entitled to find some jumbo fish.

The freshwater tournament scene has been rife with both professional and non-pro contests offering huge payouts of greenbacks, and it takes a big chunk of dough to get into these events.

Then the bassers apparently believe a new boat every year wrapped in sponsors colors and logos is a necessary tool to have.

One colleague even suggested that anglers should be limited to just using small jon boats and even lower the 25-horsepower outboard requirement to 9.9, and the entry would be $5.

Both Tony and Richie thought it would be great sport to restrict the tourney entrants to just using tiny crank baits instead of live bait. Their contention is most anyone can win a contest like the one being proposed by using live bait. No wax worms or spikes and crickets. No leeches, or red worms -- just tiny crankbaits, and, of course, no Mini-Mites.

Shore anglers would be in a separate category and allowed to fish apartment and industrial park ponds, but only when these spots were devoid of "no fishing" signs.

Each contestant will have a judge with him or her, carefully watching for illegal tricks and various other forms of nonsense.

And if we're able to bring this event to reality, my suggestion is for someone is to fish Deep Lake, where the bluegills are hard-fighters and grow to have decent sets of "shoulders" on them.

One other note. Richie suggested the contest be limited to 20 local and area anglers, guys who have purchased new rods and reels in the last five years. He believed that those who try and enter with gear older than 20 years should stick with Lake Michigan perching while leaving the blugilling for those trying to help the local economy

• Contact Mike Jackson at, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM and live-streamed at

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