Summer Bluegills With Billy Blakley
Phillip Gentry
Most anglers have heard that bluegills will spawn all summer long. Go to Reelfoot Lake and Billy Blakley will prove it to you.
Bluegill spawn in relatively shallow water and are not difficult to find if you know what to look for.
Blakley and his clients use a Sam’s Super Sensitive rod, 6 pound line, a slip cork and live crickets when bluegill fishing on Reelfoot.
Male bluegill are characterized by their dark black/purple spawning coloration. Removing a female from the nest will cause the males to go elsewhere.

Panfish anglers who think bluegill can only be caught during the month of May need to head over to Reelfoot Lake in northwest Tennessee and hop on the boat with B’n’M pro staffer and Blue Bank Resort fishing guide Billy Blakley. The guide said the approaching full moon set to arrive on July 9 will be the third month that he’s found bluegills still on the bed. He said he doesn’t look for the wave of bedding bream to end until mid-August.

“Bream usually bed at least four times on Reelfoot from May till August,” said Blakley. “You can pretty much count on it every full moon through the entire summer.”

Finding and catching bedded bluegill is about as simple as it gets. Blakley said the fish will pull out a little deeper after successive spawns. On a shallow lake like Reelfoot, deep means 4 – 6 feet.

There is no magic formula for finding them, although Blakley said the beds are easily marked using his side imaging sonar and looking for saucer-shaped depressions in the bottom. Many times, the sophisticated electronics are not even needed.

“On a calm day I can usually spot the beds below by looking for foaming bubbles on the surface,” he said. “It looks like you poured soda out with all the bubbles caused from the big bulls fanning the bottom.”

When a bed is located, Blakley will position his War Eagle boat a cast away from the spot and instruct his clients to cast a live bait rig to the spot. The rig is comprised of 6 pound line with a split shot, a #8 light wire hook, and a slip cork adjusted so that it settles the bait – a live cricket – just off the bottom.

Blakley said it’s just as simple as it sounds.

“I use a 9 foot Sam’s Super Sensitive spinning rod paired with the B’n’M Pro Staff spinning reel,” he said. “We’ll catch 15 – 20 fish from a spot as fast as we can get them in the boat and then head for the next spot.”

Blakley said catching bluegill in rapid succession is a method to the madness of bream fishing on Reelfoot.

“When we’re fishing, I try to get my clients to throw right back to the same exact spot just as soon as they can get the fish in, rebaited and back in the water,” he said. “Once you get them stirred up, it starts a feeding frenzy. I have guys that want to cast off to the side but that let’s the school cool off and they don’t bite as well.”

Speaking of feeding frenzies, Blakley said he and his anglers are careful to harvest only male bluegills. It’s easy to tell the difference because the females will have yellowish/orange coloration to them and the males will all be dark purple or almost black.

“If you remove a female off the nest, there’s no fish to lay eggs and that means there won’t be males to come along and fertilize the eggs,” said Blakley. “Any female we catch, we put right back in the water and only keep the males.”

Targeting the full moon bite is a good way to catch the bulk of bream on a nest, but several days before and several days after is also ideal because the males will chase the females off the nest after she drops her eggs and then he protects the nest from other predators. He will stay there until the eggs hatch, usually about 5 – 7 days and continue to guard the fry until they are able to swim on their own. 

The continual bedding on consecutive full moons insures that male bluegills will be either building new nests, fertilizing eggs, or guarding the nest until the next spawning cycle arrives.

Billy Blakley is a fishing and duck hunting guide exclusively for Blue Bank Resort on Reelfoot Lake in Hornbeak, TN. You can reach Blakley through the resort at (877) 258-3226.

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