Advice from the Redear Master

The author and a nice bluegill that ended up swimming in a deep-fryer

Just because someone has faith in something does not mean that you instantly buy into it.

Sadly, that describes me. Good friend and excellent angler, Bob Porter has been telling me for years that Berkley Gulp Alive works better than wax worms (bee moth larva). I used them some, but would never go bluegill fishing without wax worms on the business end of an Alan Muey jig. Monday, I finally discovered how true his words were. Oh, me of little faith.

When 13-year-Old Braden Kovacs told his grandmother Teresa that he wanted to go fishing with me, she said, I can call him.” We fished a farm pond Monday morning.

The evening before, I drove to three places before finding wax worms at the Marathon station at Columbus Avenue and 38th Street. They were big fat ones too.
I suggested to my young friend that he not use his spin-cast outfit and to let me teach him how to use a spinning reel. He caught on very quickly.

There are a fair number of small bluegill in this pond along with some nice ones. The real trophies are the redear, but they are few in numbers. Two anglers are fortunate to catch four of these fish Southerners call shell crackers.

The redear looks like a huskie bluegill with most folks not knowing the difference. The coloration is a speckled green on the back with a belly that can be pale yellow to a deep golden color and they normally have a light red/orange tinge to their mostly black ear. When redear cross with a bluegill they maintain the body coloration, but the ear remains all black.

The small gills were pecking the wax worms off our Muey jigs – out of frustration I hooked a Gulp Alive chartreuse maggot through one end and let it dangle behind the jig. Do not thread it on the hook. The Berkley maggot was tough and difficult for the panfish to pull off, plus, the hook was exposed for better sets.

We sat on buckets at the dock and caught fish on almost every cast. “To be honest, I did not think that I would catch a fish,” Braden said.

Not only were we catching a lot of spawning bluegill, but the big shell crackers seemed to go ape over the Gulp Alive. We probably caught and released a dozen or more and most were whoppers.

The bluegill and redear have different food sources. The gills eat moss, bugs, worms and zooplankton. The adult redear eat snails and small mollusk. They have a row of teeth in the back of the jaw that allows them to crush the shell; thus, the name shell cracker.

My goal was to take out several gills and allow the redear to propagate unabated by my deep fryer. I may keep a few after the spawn. Panfish only live about five years.

The bite slowed after an hour. Braden eyed another rod lying on the dock. “Can I use that one,” he politely asked? Tied on was a Charlie Brewer three-inch Double Action Grub with a Vibra-tail. The back half is segmented to give the body a wave action. Looks good!

Braden began catching bass and larger panfish on this amazing lure and he naturally wants some of his own and can get them from

In one two-hour trip Braden learned how to cast a spinning outfit, set the hook and impart a proper retrieve. I learned to trust the judgement of a veteran angler friend and that I don’t need to drive around town looking for wax worms.

The Gulp Alive is non-perishable as long as you keep the lid on tight and a lot cheaper to use. There must be 250 in a jar.

Rick Bramwell
Rick L. Bramwell is 74 years old and began writing for the Anderson Herald Bulletin in 1972. He likes to hunt small game, deer, turkey and morel mushrooms. Bramwell’s 174-7/8 typical whitetail is the largest ever taken in Madison County. He used to compete in Red Man and BASS Federation tournaments, but is now content to fish ponds and small lakes for bass and panfish. For most of 43 years Bramwell has coached Baseball and softball. He has three grown children and resides in Madison County, near Pendleton.


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