Billy Blakely Catches All Kinds of Fish at Blue Bank
Resort on Tennessee's Reelfoot Lake
Bluegills and Shellcrackers at Their Best
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
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
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 rods.
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
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
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 shoreline.
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 hours,
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 www.bluebankresort.com.
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 www.bnmpoles.com
Tomorrow: Bass Fishing at Blue