October 12, 2016
Bream fishing is beautifully simple, yet many enthusiasts oversimplify the sport. One or two proven tactics command most of their fishing time, and if these don’t work ... well, there’s always next time.
Improve your bream-fishing success by trying new concepts and techniques. Stick to traditional approaches when they produce, but have a big bag of tricks to draw from if usual tactics fail. The 20 outlined in the paragraphs that follow are certainly worth considering.
Gray-headed bream anglers often add a piece of banana peel to their cricket cages. Old-timers say this imparts a flavor and aroma to the bait that bluegills find irresistible.
Fiddlin’ For Worms
Need some worms for your next fishing trip? Try “fiddling” or “grunting.” Drive a wooden stake in the ground in moist, loamy soil. Then take a hand saw and rub it back and forth across the top of the stake. Rubbing the stake makes the wood vibrate, and the vibrations drive worms crazy. If you’ve picked a good spot, worms will start popping out of the ground all around the stake. Instant fish bait and it didn’t cost you a dime.
Old-Fashioned Worm Container
You’ll need something to carry those worms in. Instead of a bulky tin can or bait box, use a discarded woolen sock like anglers of old. The method still works. Place the worms in the sock—no soil is necessary—and attach it to your belt.
Minnows for Plate-Sized Bream
If you’re hoping specifically to catch a trophy, try fishing 2- to 3-inch minnows, favorite foods of heavyweight ‘gills. Hook the bait through both lips, not behind the dorsal fin, as it’s easier for small-mouthed bluegills to swallow this way. Present the minnow below a slip bobber, fishing bream hideouts in deeper, darker water where big wary specimens usually hide.
Want a good bream bait you can keep ready with little care? Try mealworms. These little grubs can be kept alive for weeks in your refrigerator with no care at all. Buy them at bait stores, pet stores or from online suppliers. Keep them in a small covered container filled with cornmeal, and they’re ready to go when you are. Bream love them.
In cool water, bream may ignore the 1/16- and 1/32-ounce jigs you normally fish. If so, drop to a smaller size—a 1/100-ounce or 1/48th. Tinier versions sink slower, more naturally. That can make an important difference in your catch rate when fish aren’t aggressive.
One- to 2-inch topwater plugs resembling natural bluegill forage such as grasshoppers, small crayfish, little frogs and tiny shad are excellent for catching lily-pad bream. Cast the bantam plug to an opening in or beside the pads, then let it sit with only an occasional twitch to ripple the water’s surface. A curious bluegill, if one is close by, will soon rush in to hit the lure.
Reel a Rooster Tail
Don’t care much for sit-and-wait tactics? Try chunking and winding a Worden’s Original Rooster Tail spinner. This is one of the few bream lures that seems to work best with a fast retrieve. Buzz it past stumps. Rip it over brushpiles. Troll it behind your boat. Be prepared for the hard strikes it produces.
Try a Spider
If you enjoy fly fishing, give the venerable sponge-rubber spider a try. Bream can’t resist these floating/sinking bugs with the wiggly rubber legs. Tie the spider to the end of a 7-1/2-foot leader of 4x tippet. Before casting, squeeze the spider and hold it underwater as you let it expand, thus allowing it to soak up water. That makes it slowly sink when it lands, creating an irresistible enticement for down-under bream. Strip it in with occasional jerks.
Terminal Tackle Tricks
When bream seem really persnickety, it may help to fish without a sinker. Use a lightweight, thin-wire Aberdeen-style hook on a 6-1/2-foot spinning rod matched with a reel full of 2-pound-test mono. With this rig, you should be able to easily cast an unweighted worm 30 to 50 feet or more.
Try a Casting Bubble
Clear casting bubbles are great for fishing the many lifelike soft plastics made to closely resemble crickets, grasshoppers, worms, crayfish, shrimp, spiders, grubs, nymphs and other bream favorites. They are especially effective when fished around underwater weed beds in clear water. To gain extra casting distance and avoid spooking fish, attach a bubble 12 to 18 inches above the lure and fill it with water. The water-filled bubble sinks about a foot per second. Count down to a depth where the lure brushes the weed tops, then retrieve it slowly, with an occasional twitch to entice hungry bream.
Belly boats provide an ideal means for sampling backcountry waters where vehicle access is difficult or non-existent. Because they’re lightly fished, such waters often harbor huge concentrations of big bream. Put a belly boat in a small backpack with a tiny tackle box full of hooks, sinkers, bobbers and jigs, grab your ultralight rod and reel, and you’re ready to hike in for adventure.
When bream fishing is slow, chum with eggshells saved from breakfast. Crush the shells and sprinkle overboard. Fragments drifting down through the water attract baitfish along with bluegills and other bream.
Leapfrog Your Bait
When fishing shoreline shallows, you can elicit smashing strikes by casting on the bank and jumping the bait or lure into the water. Panfish get crazy when a popping bug or cricket behaves in this manner, or when a tiny spinner leaps from the bank and starts swimming away.
Small fish tolerate an amazing amount of disturbance—a paddle banged against the boat, a fallen tackle box, squeaky boat seats. But big bream won’t abide the slightest bit of commotion. It’s important, therefore, to be attentive to noisy distractions. Wear soft-soled shoes. Arrange gear so there’s little chance of accidentally creating a disturbance. Fish slowly and “quiet as a mouse.”
Giant bluegills, pumpkinseeds and redears often hide in areas inaccessible by boat, especially on lakes with lots of shallow, flooded timber. To catch these fish, don a set of waders. Walk slowly and quietly in shallow, brushy backwaters, using a long pole to place bait in front of feeding fish. Watch closely for swirls indicating feeding fish.
There’s No Place Like Foam
During calm days, bedding bream sometimes are found by looking for patches of foam on the water. If wind isn’t blowing hard, there will often be foamy bubbles resembling soap suds floating above the beds. You also may detect a fishy or oily smell in the air that indicates bedding bream nearby.
Play It By Ear
When bluegills feed on invertebrates clinging to vegetation, they often make loud “smacking” noises. These noises are created when fish extend their lips and “kiss” the smooth bottom of a lily pad or other leafy plant, sucking up a bug in the process. It’s a distinctive sound made only by sunfish, and anglers who are attuned to it can zero in on hungry bream.
Fish at Night
In some waters, especially in summer, the largest bluegills feed primarily at night, just like catfish. Catch them on typical bluegill tackle using the same techniques you’d employ for catfish. Bluegills have no problem detecting a cricket or worm fished directly on the bottom, even in darkness. Use one or two split shot to carry the bait down, then keep a finger on your line to detect a pickup while tightlining.
The primary key to catching big bream is knowing the right bodies of water to fish. To pinpoint the best, phone the freshwater fisheries division of your state wildlife agency and ask to speak to a fisheries biologist familiar with bream waters. A few questions presented to the right individual can help you find several choice locations where there’s a good chance of boating a lot of big fish.