Sight Fishing for Giant Bluegills

Sight Fishing for Giant Bluegills
Bobby Graves of Mount Ida, Ark. proudly displays a heavyweight bluegill that fell to sight-fishing tactics on Arkansas' Lake Ouachita. (Photo courtesy of Keith Sutton)

Do you think catching giant bluegills is easy? Think again.

When a bream reaches the size of a man’s hand, it’s much warier than its smaller counterparts. By the time it’s the size of a jumbo tortilla, it’s one of freshwater’s most cautious creatures. Only the most skillful anglers can hook it.

The difficulty increases during the spring spawn. Big bedding bluegills are easily spooked. We may see clues to their presence—a protruding dorsal fin, swirls over their beds, a flash of scales. But by the time we spot a fish, it’s usually spotted us as well, and quickly scurries away.

If we know what to look for, however, and proper ways to approach spawning beds and present our baits, it’s possible to catch dozens of jumbo panfish. It’s a game of “eye spy,” much like sight-fishing for snook or bonefish on a saltwater flat. The difficulties are many, but the rewards make the challenge worthwhile.


Picture yourself on a huge upland impoundment. The shores and bottom are rocky. Thick beds of submergent vegetation fill the shallows. The water is crystal clear. When bream are on spawning beds, it’s easy to see them, even 12 feet down.


This is a good description of west Arkansas’ Lake Ouachita where bream-master Bobby Graves sight-fishes for 1-pound-plus bluegills. His proven methods for nabbing giant bream here are applicable on similar waters nationwide.

“In lakes like Ouachita, spawning beds of bluegills typically are in pockets, near points and around sunken humps,” says Graves, who has fished such waters in several states. “The fish nest on clean gravel or sand bottom, usually between the bank and the inside edge of a big weedbed in 1 to 6 feet of water. Beds look like big honeycombs, with several nests side by side.”

Polarized sunglasses cut surface glare, enabling Graves to see the inner edges of the “moss” beds and pinpoint the “honeycombs” he’ll fish. He motors slowly while watching for key structure and cover that may reveal bedding fish.

“In pockets, or coves, the ideal site has 5 feet of water on the inside of the moss line and a 30-foot open area between moss and bank,” he notes. “Stumps or other woody cover in the open area make a site even more attractive.”


Graves also watches for “void areas” within the aquatic vegetation—circular openings where submerged weeds don’t grow.

“On points and humps, void areas at the right depth are choice spots,” he states. “For example, a hump may create a clean area 20 feet in diameter. That’s a good spot to watch for honeycombs.”

The scare factor goes up in crystalline waters. Approaching anglers are easily spotted by shy bream, and targeted fish scatter quickly. If left undisturbed, however, bream quickly return to their nests.


“When I spot a honeycomb, I drop a marker buoy nearby,” says the Mount Ida, Arkansas, native. “I keep moving then, marking other spots, and come back a little later. I know where the bed is now and can slip in close without disturbing the fish.”

Graves keeps two 8-foot, medium-light spinning outfits spooled with 4-pound-test Silver Thread line at the ready. One is rigged drop-shot fashion using a No. 4 Carlisle hook tied directly on the line a foot above a pinched-on No. 6 split shot. The other outfit is rigged conventionally, with the split shot above the hook.

“Some days bream suspend above their beds and the drop-shot rig works better,” Graves says. “Other times, you’ll see them right on bottom and the conventional rig is better. Either way, I anchor a long cast away from the honeycomb to keep from spooking the fish, then bait up with a cricket or piece of night crawler. Then I cast to a fish I see in the honeycomb, or to a single nest, and let the bait sink to it. If a big bream is there, it won’t be long till you know it. Keep a tight line, and you’ll quickly learn when to lightly set the hook.”

When targeting bream in extreme shallows (2 feet or less), Graves uses a cork on the conventional rig.

“If it’s windy and I have trouble seeing the honeycombs,” he says, “I cast a 2-inch Yum Wooly Curltail or one of Rebel’s ultralight crankbaits to locate the fish, then I switch to live bait. When the weather’s bad, I fish in covered boat slips using a cricket without a sinker or float.

“Some days you can actually watch the bream take the bait; some days you can’t,” he continued. “Either way, sight-fishing can be habit forming.”

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

BPT Points Champ Edwin Evers Talks New Berkley Baits

After making the switch to Berkley products heading into the inaugural BPT season, Edwin Evers tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead why Berkley baits played such a key role in his recent angling success.

13 Fishing Inception SZ

13 Fishing Inception SZ

Florida angling pro Jessie Mizell knows that the saltwater found in Sunshine State coastal fisheries can wreak havoc on even the best fishing gear. But with 13 Fishing's new feature laden Inception SZ saltwater baitcasting reel, tackling inshore and light tackle saltwater game fish just got a whole lot easier!

Mustad

Mustad's New Tungsten Weights

Long known as one of the world's premiere hook makers, Mustad's Reid McKinstry shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead that the company is now one of the leaders in making tungsten terminal tackle products for anglers.

MLF BPT angler and former Classic champ Casey Ashley has been with Costa del Mar sunglasses his whole career. At ICAST 2019, he shows OSG writer Lynn Burkhead some new products and talks how to pick the right lens color for the water.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Unlike many game fish, catfish can be harder to catch during the spawn. Here are some strategies. Catfish

Understanding Catfish Spawning

Keith Sutton - June 06, 2006

Unlike many game fish, catfish can be harder to catch during the spawn. Here are some...

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing. Bass

4 Tips When Jig Fishing For Bass

Chris Schneider - August 25, 2015

The best jig fisherman are those that are always aware of what their jig is doing.

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near anything that fits in their mouths. Catfish

5 Ways To Catch Catfish on Lures

Keith Sutton - September 16, 2015

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near...

If you haven't looked at the smaller urban lakes in your area, you are missing out on some great bass pond fishing. Bass

Bass Pond Fishing: Catch Lunkers at Small Lakes Near You

Dan Anderson

If you haven't looked at the smaller urban lakes in your area, you are missing out on some...

See More Trending Articles

More Fishing

From crappie to giant sharks, take advantage of these southern hotspots to this catch more fish this summer. Playbook

South's Hottest Summer Fishing Destinations

John N. Felsher

From crappie to giant sharks, take advantage of these southern hotspots to this catch more...

The new Oklahoma record measured 76 inches long and weighed 143 pounds. Records

Man-Sized Paddlefish Almost a World Record

Game & Fish Staff - May 28, 2020

The new Oklahoma record measured 76 inches long and weighed 143 pounds.

See the sweet ride featured in Beyond the Bait Powered by Streamlight. Bass

Caymas CX 21 Bassboat Video Review

Game & Fish Digital Staff

See the sweet ride featured in Beyond the Bait Powered by Streamlight.

Fishing can be on fire on waters throughout the Midwest in the summer months. Here are several top spots to try for some of the region's most popular species. Playbook

Midwest's Hottest Summer Fishing Destinations

Mike Pehanich

Fishing can be on fire on waters throughout the Midwest in the summer months. Here are several...

See More Fishing

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now