BassWestUSA - May/June 2009, Page 61

grassline, so much the better. But they’re waiting for the strag- glers that aren’t paying attention.”

Louisiana’s Greg Hackney agreed: “Those male bluegill go through the same rigors of spawning as the bass. They don’t eat. They’re fairly beat up, but they’re overaggressive so they don’t leave (the nests).” More importantly, Hackney added, the bass in the areas tend to be the outsized members of the species. Depending on the lake, that could mean 5-pounders or it could mean 8-pound- ers, but no matter what the bluegills are easy pickings that pack a massive nutritional punch.

If you know where the bass spawn on your home body of water, then it shouldn’t be terribly hard to figure out where the bluegill beds will be – usually they’re the same areas. But if it’s a lake you’re not as familiar with, Cook said the key is to hunt down “protected areas with a hard bottom.” If the water along the shoreline is clear enough, he’ll put the trolling motor on high and go down the bank until he finds what looks like a field of moon craters. If the males are guarding the nests, the big bulls will typically be plainly visible. But just because you don’t see bass in the beds, don’t assume they’re not there. Hackney believes that the biggest bass are op- portunistic. They tend to stay on the outskirts of the colony and swoop in when they find the bluegills off guard. “If you see the fish, they won’t be in the bed, they’ll be outside of it,” he said. “So you want to throw into the bed and fish out. Even when they’re not actively feeding, they still hang around the beds.” While visually locating the beds is the easiest and quickest way to run this pattern, it’s not always the most effective. In fact, when Hackney determines that this pattern is in effect, he assumes that other anglers will have found it too, so he tries to find bedding areas that aren’t quite as noticeable. “In dirty water, not as many people will find them,” he stated. “There usually still has to be enough visibility to see something, usually craters with black spots, but any time you see one any- where, you can duplicate it – that type of bank or that type of bot- tom. Just remember, they usually need some sort of protection, a boat dock, a pocket or an overhanging tree. You’ll rarely find them on the main lake. But when you get in them, even a small nest will have 50 bluegills. You’ll be able to drag a jig or a Carolina rig and get a brim bite every time you drag it through the area.”

hoW to Find them

Just because you’ve located bluegill beds and know that there are feeding bass in the vicinity, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be easy to catch. Even though the bass are looking for an easy and filling meal, the fact that they’re in shallow, usually rela- tively clear water, means that they’re likely to be spooky. “The goal is to know where the brim are and make long casts so as not to alert the fish to your presence,” Cook cautioned. For that reason, he’ll spend his practice period locating as many blue- gill spawning areas as possible and marking them on his GPS, thereby establishing a milk run. He’s not the type to camp out on a single spawning area, either. “Usually after catching one or two you’re done for that spot,” he said. “So move around and rest them and then come back later.” Hackney agreed: “You have to fish a lot of beds to do it, but if I find any of it, I will fish that way all day. You don’t get a lot of bites, but they’re big bites. And any time you see one anywhere, you can

May/June 2009

not alWaYs easY pickings