Fishing can be tough in July, and I’ll admit, if I’m not fishing at night, my fishing will center on bream. I’m either fishing for bream, or I’m fishing for bass that are eating bream.
I like to target bream that are bedding, and I like to fish for bream that are feeding on the mayfly hatches that take place on lakes across the Carolinas. And I like to fish for bass around the mayfly hatches, because they’re up in the shallows eating the bream, which are eating the mayflies — sort of like the circle of life.
Bream are going to be in different places when they’re bedding than when the mayfly hatch takes place. When bream are bedding, they’re going to pick out certain places, places with a certain type of bottom: a mixture of sand and gravel, with a certain amount of cover — and a lot of sunlight. You look for that combination. And bream are going to be a little deeper when they’re bedding than when they’re feeding on mayflies; that happens right up on the bank.
When I get on a good set of bream beds, and the fish are in there, I’ll pull out a fly rod. I’m by no means an expert fly fisherman, but I love to use a fly rod and fish a popping bug when bream are bedding. I guess I just like that topwater bite, that action. I’ll fish a Beetle Spin or a small spinner, too, but this is a different kind of fishing than when I’m bass fishing in a tournament, and I’m trying to catch the five biggest fish I can. This is for fun.
When it comes to bream feeding on mayflies, you can really catch the bream, because they’re feeding so aggressively. You’ve just got to find them.
I think the wind plays a really big role on where you can find mayflies hatching. I look on downwind banks; they seem to be really productive, especially if there’s a group of willow trees on that bank. You’ve got places like that at most of our lakes in South Carolina: Greenwood, Murray, Clarks Hill and Santee.
Somehow, it seems like everything in nature knows when and where these things are about to take place. It’s like when we had the 17-year locusts a few years ago, all the fish and wildlife knew that hatch was about to take place, and they were ready to feed on them.
Everything eats mayflies — I even ate a mayfly sandwich one time on the Bassmaster TV show — so when the hatch begins, everything shows up in that extremely shallow water along the bank, around those bushes.
I like to catch bream around mayflies, but what I really like to do is work on the bass that show up. Some bass will eat the mayflies, and I’ve heard other guys say they’ve seen bass eat some of the birds that show up to eat the mayflies — birds sitting on limbs right on the surface — but I’ve never seen that happen.
But I fish around the mayflies to catch the bass that show up to eat the bream that show up to eat the mayflies.
I target these bass with two different lures: a topwater bait and a jig. The topwater bait works because the bream are coming up to the surface to feed on the mayflies and making plenty of noise, and the bass will pick them off. But I probably catch just as many by throwing a jig up there right next to the bank and swimming it off. I like a green pumpkin Mop Jig with a little orange on it or the trailer that makes it look more like a bluegill. You can swim that off the bank out a few feet, and the bass will really grab it.
So don’t shy away from fishing in July just because it’s so hot. The bream spawn and the mayfly hatch are perfect examples of taking advantage of what nature has to offer.