People often ask me “What’s the best way to catch a big fish?” Well, that varies by season and fishery, but for summertime in the Southeast, I believe there are two ways to consistently catch big fish. One is out deep on a brush pile with a big worm. The other is targeting bluegill beds.
Both of those patterns have a lot of potential, where if you get bit, you’re liable to catch a really big one. I catch fish both ways, but I particularly enjoy the bluegill pattern.
The way I start out is to fish down a bank with my head on a swivel. The beds could be anywhere, but you want to check the moon phase because they’ll be more active during the full moon.
You don’t necessarily have to commit your day to bluegill beds — although, that can be a viable plan — but if you’ll just spend a little time looking while you fish, you’ll often find some great opportunities. As I’m going down shoreline grass, as I’m skipping docks, as I’m throwing crankbaits on laydown trees, I’m constantly looking for a bluegill bed pattern to develop.
When I find bed, I’ll waypoint them just like I do bass beds, especially if there are active bluegill on them and you can physically see the bass near them. One thing I’ve learned is that bass will typically identify a particular staging spot just outside of where the bluegill are bedding.
A lot of times, you’ll roll up on a bunch of bluegill beds, you’ll spook the bass and you’ll see the bass swim away when they feel the boat. If you Power-Pole down, the bass will come back and sit in a certain spot as an ambush points.
It’s almost like a bed, but they’re not spawning; it’s a little dark spot off the bluegill beds. They’ll sit there really still and dart out to get a bluegill, as they need to. I you can really figure out that little spot, then it’s game over because you can back away, Power-Pole down and literally sight fish these bass off the bluegill beds.
When I find bluegill beds, I have three baits I like to throw: I’ll start with a double prop bait like a Brians Prop Bee, then go to a wacky-rigged 6-inch Googan Baits Lunker Log (stick bait). Green pumpkin with a chartreuse tip usually works.
My third choice is a Texas-rigged creature bait like a Googan Baits Bandito Bug. You flip it up close to where that fish is hanging out and a lot of times they will react just like a fish on a bed.
One thing I’d suggest is using your electronics, especially in dingy water. I’ll set my Garmin unit on sideview, and as I’m fishing up in little nooks and crannies, if I catch a fish, I look to see why it’s there. I’ll evaluate whether that fish is up there feeding on shad or if I see bluegill beds.
If you’ll invest the time to explore your area and be on the lookout for bluegill beds, you could find some of the best opportunity to catch a big fish that you’ll find all day. Bass targeting bluegill beds often travel in wolf packs, so if the bite shuts down after you catch one or two, you can return later and maybe catch a couple more.