Almost every fisherman got his start on the banks of a pond somewhere, dangling a worm or a cricket under a cork, catching bream or shellcrackers. I love to catch bluegills; I’ve fished for them my whole life, and I’ve caught a lot of them to eat. I took my boys bream fishing a lot when they were young, and even though they’re grown, I still love to go out to my pond and catch them.
I love it when there’s a mayfly hatch and I can catch ’em on a fly rod. I love to take a little ultralight spinning rod and catch ’em, because ounce-for-ounce, they’re the strongest fish we’ve got in freshwater. And I love to take kids bream fishing because they just have so much fun.
One other thing I love about bream is that you can use them to catch largemouth bass. I know that all of our lakes in South Carolina have threadfin shad, and some of them have blueback herring, and bass relate to them a lot, especially from fall through May. But in the summer, especially in June and July, maybe they get tired of them — I don’t know — but bass, especially bigger bass, they will key on panfish.
Maybe it’s because the bream are all up shallow, spawning, and they’re easy prey. Maybe it’s because the bass need a break from shad and herring. Whatever the reason, for two or three months, if you can find the bluegills and the shellcrackers, you can find bass, and you can catch a lot of them.
Bream can be in different areas on different lakes. If you can find a bream bed, that makes it easy. If they’re on beds, there will be bass in the area, but they’ll only be on the beds for a short period of time every month. If I can’t find bream on beds, I try to figure out where the bream are and what they’re feeding on. They can be around boat docks, willow trees, button bushes — whatever cover you find in shallow water. If you have a mayfly hatch that comes into play, because bass will not only feed on the mayflies, but they’ll feed on the bluegills that are feeding on the mayflies.
Once you find an area that’s holding a lot of bream, fish it thoroughly. Bass aren’t necessarily going to be just outside of a bream bed, but they’re going to be in the same general area, roaming around. They’ll move in and out, but they’re going to be close by.
This is a time when I’ll fish a wide variety of topwater baits: buzzbaits, prop baits and popping-type baits like X-Pops and X-Props, plus frog baits like a Yamamoto Frog. I will also fish a Senko or some other soft-plastic bait. I like my baits in bluegill colors; most manufacturers will make baits in bluegill colors, and some of them are very realistic. Bass are in those areas because there’s a lot of food around, and when they decide to eat, they go in and grab one. I have caught a lot of bass on topwater baits fishing 20 or 25 yards away from a big bream bed.
I know I’ve caught a lot of bass that were relating to bream around boat docks. One thing I’ve noticed is that you’ll see bream and bass around docks, and they’ll look friendly and all. The bass will be all around them like they get along. Then, all of the sudden, a bass will just turn around and eat a bream. I think topwater baits trigger that kind of bite.
So this month, next month and, to a lesser extent, in August, you need to spend some time looking for bream and fishing around areas where you find a good concentration of them. Like I said, I don’t exactly understand why, but for a couple of months, bream are on the top of a bass’s dinner menu, and you need to be able to order up a few.