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Billy Blakely Catches All Kinds of Fish at Blue Bank Resort on Tennessee's Reelfoot Lake

Bluegills and Shellcrackers at Their Best

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Billy Blakely, the manager and the head guide of Blue Bank Resort on Reelfoot Lake near Tiptonville, Tennessee, says Reelfoot’s fishing in the late spring and all summer is as hot as a recently-shot pistol. The first week in May, while at Bluebank, my fishing friend and I saw good limits of crappie, bluegills, catfish and lunker largemouth being brought in every day, even on the days when the rain was pouring down. This week we’ll show and tell you what’s being caught at Reelfoot, and how anglers and guides are catching them.

Question: Billy, the month of May is bluegill month on Reelfoot. Why’s that?
Blakely: The weather’s getting warmer, and number of bugs are getting around the trees, both on the shoreline and the live cypress trees standing out in the lake. When the bugs start staying on the trees and then falling in the water, the bluegills will begin feeding and bedding. The first full moon we in May will really make the bluegills finding beds.

Question: Where do you find the bream beds?
Blakely: During May, the bluegill will be bedding in extremely-shallow water. The way we locate the beds is to go out on the lake on a really-calm day when the water’s really still and look for foam coming up from the bottom. Once we locate these beds, we either mark ‘em with a GPS or remember where they are.

Question: Once you find the beds, how do you catch the bluegills?
Blakely: We use a 9-foot B ‘n’ M pole with a spinning reel on it to fish for bream. We like the longer poles so we can cast our baits further than we can with the conventional Click to enlargerods. Then we stay further away from the beds, and we don’t spook the bream on the bed. We use 4-pound-test line, a No. 6 long-shank cricket hook and a No. 7 split shot about 4 inches up the line from the hook. We’ll set our bobbers so that our baits are about 18 to 20 inches above the bottom. We want our bobbers to just barely hold the crickets up off the bottom. Idealistically, we want the cricket about 4 inches off the bottom.

Question: How big are the bluegills you’re catching?
Blakely: Our average bluegill at Reelfoot is 12 to 14 ounces, and the biggest I’ve seen caught up here weighed 2 pounds, 3 ounces.

Question: Why do you fish with crickets instead of worms?
Blakely: When the bluegills are on the bed, we only bait with crickets. Once the cricket gets in the bed, its legs are usually kicking. We’ve learned that the bigger bluegills generally bite the crickets better than they bite the worms. When we’re not fishing for bedding bluegills, we’ll fish with wax worms on the backs of the jigs around the shoreline. The wax worm gives the bluegill a bigger bait to bite and produces a smell that we believe causes the bluegill to bite better.

Question: When are the bluegills on the beds, and when are they on the shoreline?
Blakely: In April and the first half of May, the bluegills will usually be on the shorClick to enlargeeline. Generally by the second week in May, the bluegills will start moving around the beds. When the bluegills are close to the shoreline, we fish around cypress knees, stumps and other shoreline cover with Popeye jigs and wax worms. We use jigs and wax worms when fishing the shoreline as apposed to crickets and bobbers because we’re searching for bluegills and have to cover more water quicker. With the jig and the wax worm combination, we can cover the water quicker. When we’re bed fishing, we know where the bream are holding, and we fish slower with the crickets and the bobbers.

Question: How long will the bluegill at Reelfoot stay on the beds?
Blakely: We catch bedding bluegills from May until August. .

Question: What will an average day of bluegill fishing produce for two people at Blue Bank on Reelfoot Lake?
Blakely: We take a 48- quart or bigger cooler out with us, and we can usually fill it up with 90 bluegills in about 6 hClick to enlargeours, just about every day from May through August. Here at Reelfoot, there’s no limit on bluegills. The quickest, easiest way to get your bluegills is to hire a guide. We charge $200 for two people to have a guide and fish for 6 hours. After you hire a guide for a day, if you’re on one of our package programs, you can take your own boat, return to some of those bluegill beds and continue to catch fish.

Question: What about shellcrackers (redear sunfish)?
Blakely: We have a good number of shellcrackers here at Reelfoot too. We generally catch the shellcrackers when the weather’s hotter in July and August. We’ll find shellcrackers in really-shallow water around moss beds. Many times, we’ll fish with a cork and a cricket just like we do for bluegills. But if we have customers who know how to sit still and be quiet in a boat, we’ll use a B ‘n’ M pole and a Popeye jig and wax worms. When you’re fishing in really-shallow water, being extremely quiet is critical to your success. If our clients can’t be quiet in the boat, we stay farther away from the bed, make longer casts and use a slip-cork and a cricket.

For further information about Blue Bank Resort, you can call (877) 258-3226 or (731) 253-8976 or visit Until May 31st, Blue Bank has a special where you can fish (includes boat, motor, gas, bait and ice) for 4 days and stay either 3 or 4 nights for $169/person, with the cost $209 per person after that time. To learn more about B ‘n’ M Poles top-quality fishing poles, go to

Tomorrow: Bass Fishing at Blue Bank Resort


Check back each day this week for more about "Billy Blakely Catches All Kinds of Fish at Blue Bank Resort on Tennessee's Reelfoot Lake"

Day 1: Bluegills and Shellcrackers at Their Best
Day 2: Bass Fishing at Blue Bank Resort
Day 3: The Crappie King at Reelfoot
Day 4: Catfish in the Sunshine
Day 5: Catfish and Bass by Starlight



Entry 404, Day 1