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Find and Fish Bluegill Beds Efficiently

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies.

Find and Fish Bluegill Beds Efficiently

The mechanics of fishing bream beds aren’t difficult, but you can improve odds by having a good game plan. (Photo by Ron Sinfelt)

Few things in the springtime fishing world rival the fun, enjoyment and productivity of fishing a red-hot bream bed. It’s a type of fishing both beginners and those with a half-century of bream-fishing experience eagerly anticipate every spring.

The mechanics of fishing bream beds aren’t difficult, but you can improve odds by having a good game plan.

The first step is timing.

Very little in natural ecosystems is bound by a rule so hard and fast no wiggle room exists, and the same is true for fishing bream beds. But 60 years of fishing bream beds on my own and talking to legions of bream-fishing fanatics from all parts of the country has provided plenty of evidence that fishing around the full moon is a pretty darn good idea. Most bream-bed addicts agree that the three days on either side of the full moon are absolutely the best days for the most bream being on beds. Many favor the three days prior but one bream expert summed it up with “during May it’s basically a matter of catching plenty of bream or way the heck too many.”

You can certainly find bream bedding on other moon phases, with the new moon phase a time many say is a minor peak in bream bedding activity.

The next step is analyzing the body of water you’re fishing, with an eye to being most effective.

Any lake, river or pond with a viable bream population will have bream on the beds during spring, but finding the right habitat is the key to bream-fishing success.

Bream strongly favor sand or gravel bottom substrate for bedding so they can fan out a bed. A bed is simply a depression on the bottom for females to deposit eggs that is guarded by the big male bream you will be targeting. A bream bed can consist of a dozen — scores or hundreds — of these beds in tight quarters.

Anglers can eliminate a large amount of water as not having potential to have bream beds by simply finding where the right bottom substrate exists and fishing only those areas. Typically, bream beds will be found in small pockets and coves in feeder creeks and in protected areas in shallow water down to about 5 feet deep. Often, they are found considerably shallower, sometimes in very skinny water.

If the bottom substrate is mucky or steep with large boulders, you can safely cross it off the list of high-potential bream bed sites. Much of the water can be eliminated before you even start the searching process, saving time better spent hauling in big bream.

Bream anglers know these panfish have a strong connection to woody, weedy or rocky cover, and for the majority of the year, fishing around these objects is crucial. But during the spring bedding season these fish are most interested in having the right bottom substrate to enable them to spawn and make more bream. Some of the most incredible beds I’ve ever fished were on sandy or gravel bottoms with absolutely no woody or weedy cover in the vicinity.

But that’s not a hard and fast rule.


The presence of woody or weedy cover is certainly not detrimental to bream bed potential. If the right bottom substrate is present in an area with stumps, logs or weeds, bream will be strongly attracted to the area. But they will still fan beds and the males will be guarding the nests. You’ll catch bream associated with cover on the beds adjacent to said cover, but in this case it’s not the wood or weeds that hold the fish.

When you begin the fish-finding process, two components are vital to bream bed fishing success. First is locating the bed prior to getting too close and spooking the males off the beds. The second component is presentation of the bait or lure. Trust me that the second step is much simpler if you get the first one right.

Water clarity is one aspect of bream bed fishing that can work very much to your favor — or be the reason for problems. Apply common sense and logic with regards to the impact that water clarity has on depths of beds and the distance the boat must be from a potential bedding site to avoid spooking the fish.

When fishing clear water, with the sun at the proper angle, it is often possible to see the beds from a reasonable distance away. As in bass fishing, quality polarized glasses are a huge asset here, because if you locate the beds by sight you control the situation. You can position the boat a reasonable distance away and effectively present the bait to the bedding fish.

However, if the water is clear with the wrong sun angle, or shadows interfere, or the angler is simply inattentive, a boat may drift on top of beds before the angler has a chance to see them. Bream will likely scatter when this occurs. You can back off a bit, wait a few minutes, and they’ll be back. But patience is seldom the forte of folks fishing bream beds.

The searching process should be relatively fast-paced but not to the point an effective fishing strategy is compromised. Anglers can cast in front of the boat at a 45-degree angle toward the shoreline using light spinning or spin-cast tackle, or by flipping the bait to targets via long poles known as “bream busters.” A good bream buster length is 10 to 12 feet long, depending on habitat fished. Typically, both crickets and worms will produce great results, and when either is dropped on a bream bed, and a fish is on the bed, the bite is usually instant and aggressive.

Popping bugs on a fly rod as well as sinking spiders are also lethal. Green is a great color. Once you find a bream bed, many options are in play regarding how you can catch them.

While working this searching process, anglers will frequently hook small, hen bream. That’s not the target: Just release the fish and stay on the move. But when you catch a bull bream, stop and check the entire immediate area. During bedding season, when you find one big bream, often scads more are nearby.

Smelling bream beds is another concept to consider. When fishing as described above and you suddenly encounter a “fishy” smell, slow down and fish the area thoroughly. I was a long-time skeptic that bream beds can be sniffed out until it happened to me one full moon in May. I was fishing with a confirmed “bream-bed sniffer,” and I saw him go on point, so to speak. I told him I had the same “scent” inclination and we both cast into the slight breeze and instantly hooked up big bream. It was a massive bed of bream in a tight pocket we may have not fished at all without that smell wafting to us via a light breeze. I’ve trusted my nose ever since. Not everyone accepts that smelling bream beds is real, but if you pick up a “fishy” scent it makes sense to give it a try.

Regardless of how you find that first big bream, the key is locating the outermost or leading edge of the bream bed. Avoid ultra-long casts; just effectively cover the water in front of and around the boat. Work the outermost beds first, catching bream off them and methodically fish through the bed, continuing to catch fish that are close first.

Once the action slows, repeat the searching process and find another bed. It may be just down the shoreline or in another cove.

Bream beds can also be located by using side-imaging sonar. My Humminbird sidescan enables a quick search of a potentially productive areas and accurately paints a precise target location.

I’ll slow-motor through an area with good sandy bottoms scanning for bream beds. They’ll be depicted as dimples on the screen (most anglers find them similar to dimples on a golf ball).

You’ll have a precise location, so you can anchor the boat and begin catching fish immediately.

Fish the bream beds now, but count your fish regularly because many states have panfish limits and the fast-paced bream catching can create math problems for many anglers.

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