Bluegill Tournament, Texas Freshwater Fisheries

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ATHENS, Texas—Fishing for sunfish is an ideal outdoor family activity. Sunfish bite readily and put up a good fight, making fishing for them fun. The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens encourages family fishing for sunfish by holding an annual fishing tournament, coming up this year on October 7.

Most fishing tournaments are about who catches the most pounds of fish. The Big Fish Bluegill Tournament at TFFC awards prizes for the heaviest stringers of sunfish, but the event is really about adults and children having fun fishing together.

Teams must consist of one adult 18 years of age or older and one child under 18 years of age. All fish must be caught from Lake Athens, which is adjacent to TFFC, and each team can weigh in a maximum of four fish. All species of sunfish are allowed; for information on identifying them, see

On-site registration begins at TFFC’s main gate at 6 a.m. Oct. 7. A $15 entry fee per team will be charged. Fishing will take place from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., with the weigh-in at the Anglers Pavilion at TFFC at 2:30. Trophies and prizes will be awarded for first through fifth places, and everyone present will be eligible for door prizes.

Grand door prize will be a one-year family fishing membership in the American Fish and Game Club, valued at $400. AFGC leases access to private lakes with more than 100 sites available in Texas.

Tournament coordinator Barry St. Clair offered these tips for bluegill anglers. “Their habits are similar to other cover-oriented species such as largemouth bass. Good places to find them in Lake Athens are around boat docks, in creek channels with over- hanging vegetation and hovering close to submerged brush. In late summer the larger fish move to water depths of 15 to 20 feet and suspend close to bridge pilings, rocks, flooded timber and brush piles.

“Ultra-light tackle is well-suited for catching sunfish,” St Clair continued. “A 5- to 6-foot rod matched with a spinning or spin-casting reel spooled with 4- to 6-pound test line is ideal. Sunfish will strike small lures, but the easiest way to catch them is to use live bait. Small red wiggler worms and crickets are best for tempting these pugnacious panfish. Tie on a #8 long-shank bait-holder hook, add a 1/8- to 1/4-ounce split shot a foot above the hook, and the rig is ready to go.”

For directions to TFFC and a printable entry form, go to

For more information or to request a registration form by mail, contact Barry St. Clair at (903) 670-2222.


Katie Tapley of Trinidad shows off the big bluegill that helped her and her grandfather Doug win second place in the 2005 Big Bluegill Tournament at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.

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