Billy Blakley On Catching Late Summer Bream
By Phillip Gentry
Most anglers consider bream, more specifically bluegill, to be a spring time fish. It’s the quintessential game of finding their spawning beds, tossing a cricket under a cork into the midst of the bed, and seeing how little time it takes for the cork to disappear.
Billy Blakley, the Manager/Head Fishing Guide for Blue Bank Resort on world famous Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee just nods his head. It’s that simple. Blakley is still smiling because, although the seasons have changed over to late summer, and a hot one at that, he’s still catching bream like it’s May.
“We’re on our third go-round with the spawn since May,” said Blakley. “The water has come up, we’re about a foot above full pool and the bluegill have gone into high gear.”
Even with the advances in technology available to anglers, spawning bream can still be detected by paying attention to your surroundings.
Blakley explains that catching bedding bream on Reelfoot all summer long is not unusual at all, but he does admit this year the summertime bite has outshined the earlier seasons.
“We had about a half spawn back in May and then a pretty decent but still not a full spawn in June, but late July and August have been great. I don’t see that trend stopping until it gets fall either.”
Blakley said during the first go-round he was catching bream on beds that had anywhere from 10 – 25 holes in them. These days, he’s catching bream on beds that have upwards of 100 holes, each saucer-like depression containing a feisty better than average size bluegill.
While Reelfoot is a bream bed fisherman’s dream, with its shallow, sand covered bottoms and rows of stump studded back waters, the B’n’M pro said Reelfoot is not the only lake that witnesses multiple bream spawns throughout the summer.
“It’s been like that at Kentucky Lake too,” he said, “I’ve also heard several other anglers talking about catching bedding bream on their home lakes all over the country.”
Blakley said the hotter it gets, the shallower bream tend to bed on rising water.
To find these beds, Blakley relies on new age technology and old-world experience. He will cruise the shallows using side scanning sonar to locate what looks like the surface of a golf ball on the sonar screen. These days he can also flip over to 360 imaging to verify fish are on and in those dimples.
He said he also keeps an eye on the surface of the water around the boat, that’s where the old-world experience pays off.
“These fish are shallow, some of them are in 18 inches to 2 feet of water,” said Blakley. “You might not get those beds to show up on the sonar, at least not without spooking all the fish on them.”
It’s bubbles on the surface, the same tell-tale sign that bream fishermen have relied on for decades to locate shallow spawning fish, that gives those beds away.
Once he has located a bed, it’s time for the fun to begin. Blakley comes prepared with a B’n’M Buck’s Graphite Crappie Combo spooled with 6-pound test. The rig consists of a #5 sinker above a #6 Aberdeen hook. Live crickets are the bait of choice and a Wahoo slip cork is used to position the bait just off the bottom in the fish’s face.
Buck’s Graphite Crappie Combo may be named for crappie fishing but can wear out some bluegill as well.
The best thing about bream fishing during the late summer?
“There ain’t no pressure on them this time of year,” said Blakley. “They hit hard, they fight hard and you can go back the next day and rest assured there’ll still be some fish left on the beds.”
There’s not a whole lot of technique involved in his tactics, although the guide states he does try to stay 25 feet or so away from the bed when he’s fishing to keep the fish from spooking.
He also has another trick that helps out when the slip cork rig invariably ends up snagging on some of the multitude of wood cover in the lake.
“Before I start fishing, I’ll take the hook and bend it back and forth several times to weaken the wire,” he said. “That way when you do hang up, and it’s gonna happen, you can just steady pull on the line and the hook will straighten out and come loose and you didn’t ruin the bed by breaking off or having to go get it.”
Billy Blakley can be contacted at (731) 676-9841or through Blue Bank Resort at bluebankresort.com.
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