When my two daughters were small our family went on a fishing vacation to Toledo Bend. We rented half of a doublewide trailer. Two old men from Waco rented the other half.
I owned a small bass boat with a 25 horse Evinrude motor. The four of us fit in nicely. I rigged the kids’ lines the way I will describe with only a hook and sinker, baited with a cricket. We motored out the channel to the standing timber and found a likely looking tree. We put the lines in the water and found the depth where huge Bluegills were hanging out. The girls filled my wire basket to the brim. I carried my full basket I could hardly lift to the fish cleaning station and scaled and gutted the fish. That was before I learned to fillet the Bluegills. The cleaned fish half filled my large ice chest. Before cleaning my fish I visited with my two neighbors, the two old men from Waco. They too were fishing for Bluegills, but they had not been able to catch any. I showed them my overflowing basket and gave them directions to my fishing spot.
When one has a wife and two young girls along one does not get out on the lake early. About 10AM we motored out to our spot and there were the two old men from Waco tied to my tree. No problem. Toledo Bend has lots of trees. We soon found another with fish about 100 feet from our neighbors. We could see them and they could see us. The girls set about filling the basket and when it overflowed I made them stop. We motored back to the camp and on the way I asked our neighbors how many they had. They had three fish. I showed them our basket again. I asked what they were using. One of them held up his line. It was rigged with a big bell sinker and about a number 1 or 2 baitholder hook with a large night crawler on it. I showed them our rigs and offered to give them suitable hooks and sinkers. They huffed that they did not need any 35-year-old telling them how to fish. I went back to clean the fish that finished filling up our ice chest.
The next morning the men were gone. I asked the guy in the camp store about them. He said that something had really hacked them off and they had checked out last night declaring there are no Bluegills in Toledo Bend. What a shame. Their trip was ruined because of the wrong terminal tackle.
First let's discuss line. Sunfish are line and hook shy. Use the smallest line you can depend upon not to snap when old Mr. Bluegill grabs your bait. Most of us use 4 or 6 pound test line and most sunfish anglers like monofilament. Braided line in small sizes is hard to knot. Good brands are Berkley Trilene XL or Stren.
If you are using live bait such as worms, minnows or crickets the best all around hook is the Gold Aberdeen in size #10 through 6. I find a size 10 is a good choice for the smaller species and a size 8 is best for large Bluegills and Redears.
Some experienced fishers prefer a cricket hook. The cricket hook is an Aberdeen hook with a longer shank. The advantage is it is much easier to remove. Unlike the Aberdeen the cricket hook usually comes in bronze instead of gold.
.A number 8 cricket hook is a good all-around choice. Again, some use a number 6 but I find that is getting to be a large hook and the hook-shy fish may refuse to take it. We in the USA use larger hooks than our friends in Europe who go for very small hooks and baits. If you are using maggots or meal worms the number 10 Gold Aberdeen is definitely better.
Lately there has been a lot of interest in circle hooks, which are supposed to cut down on the number of swallowed hooks that kill the fish. Bryan Maggard writes: "We’ve had several outings now using Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp Octopus Circle Hook L7226BPG-8 hooks I could find locally, catching sunfish of all sizes, and I’m really convinced. About 100-200 fish caught between us in the 4-10" range, nearly all lip-hooked, and only one green sunfish who required getting out the forceps. I also haven’t noticed any decrease in effectiveness in hooking fish, or with getting them in. We just got in a mail-order with some Gamakatsu and Owner circle hooks in the 6-8 size range, which we are looking forward to trying."
My experience with circle hooks has not been nearly as good. I find the fish are hard to hook and the mortality rate is about the same as regular hooks. However the ones I have are not the premium hooks Bryan uses and are smaller. I suggest you try them for yourself.
Usually it is necessary to add weight to your line in order to be able to cast the bait. The only suitable weight in my opinion is the lead split shot of the non-reusable configuration. Use the minimun size necessary to cast or to match the bobber. For the bobber I recommend the number 3 split shot is ideal. Pinch one about eight inches above the hook. Although they are called non-reusable they can be easily removed from the line with a sharp knife and reused. The reason I do not use the reusable kind with tabs is that they cannot be pinched on the line as tightly and they slip.
Floats can be rigged in several combinations. If the line runs through the float and the float slips on the line it is a slip bobber. If the line runs through the float and is attached on the line at a fixed depth it is a fixed bobber. If the line is attached on one end only it is a wobbler. A wobbler can be fixed or slip.
The Thill company makes by far the best floats. Their premium balsa floats cannot be surpassed. Eagle Claw makes essentially the same product and they are more readily available at Walmart.
The Thill or Eagle Claw slip bobbers or spring wobblers come in several sizes. The 7/8-inch diameter is the best over all size. It matches exactly the number 3 split shot.
A slip float requires a bobber stopper. The bobber stopper must hold the float at a fixed depth without slipping and at the same time go through the rod guides and into the reel without hanging up. No one bobber stopper is perfect. There almost as many bobber stoppers as there are fishermen. The simplest is just a knot in the line and a glass bead. The knot is suitable if the depth does not have to be changed often. A knot in the line weakens it and is hard to change. Some people use a rubber band knotted on the line. That type gives poor performance both from a slippage standpoint and going through the reel. The same can be said of the type that consists of several turns of braided line wound around the monofilament. A glass bead can be used by itself if the line is run through the bead twice. The bead will not go through the reel without problem so it will not work for water deeper than the rod length. I have found that the Gizmo made by Rainbow Plastics is the best type of bobber stopper. It consists of a small rounded rectangular piece of plastic about 1/16 inch by ¼ inch in size. It has four small holes to thread the line through. It is used with a plastic bead just large enough to not go through the rod tip guide. The Gizmo comes in two sizes. Get the BS-4 that is made for 2-12 pound test line. The BS-3 is for larger line and it will slip on the light line. I find the BS-4 size at Walmart, but Bass Pro Shops and Cabalas only handle the size with the large holes.