Trickeries a tactical boom on bream

Keith Sutton/Contributing Writer Published May 18, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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Keith Sutton/Contributing Photographer

Power tactics trigger reflexive strikes from bream, helping the angler entice big slabs like this hefty bluegill.

Bream-fishing time is upon us in Arkansas, and many of the state’s anglers will turn their attention to catching bluegills, redears, warmouths, rock bass and other good-to-eat members of this panfish tribe.

When a lure is employed for catching bream instead of crickets or worms, there are special ways of using the lure that tend to produce more fish than others. I call these “power tactics” — trickeries that go one step beyond the usual to trigger reflexive strikes from fish even when their bellies are full.

When you go bream fishing, give these lures and power tactics a try. Your bream-eating friends and relatives will thank you.

Worden’s original Rooster Tail

I’ve caught thousands of bream on this little in-line spinner with a pulsating hackle tail. I started fishing Rooster Tails almost 40 years ago, casting and retrieving in ponds stocked with bluegills and redears. I still fish Rooster Tails often. The treble hook tends to snag a lot, but if you learn to work the lure close to, but not in, the cover, bream will rush out to hit the lure on the pass.

Power tactic: The Rooster Tail is one of the few bream lures that seems to work best with a fast retrieve. Buzz the lure past stumps. Rip it over brush piles. Troll it behind your boat. Be ready for the hard strikes the Rooster Tail produces.

Lifelike plastics

Bream anglers should also check out the variety of lifelike soft-plastic lures on today’s market. These durable artificials closely resemble crickets, grasshoppers, worms, crayfish, shrimp, spiders, grubs, nymphs and other sunfish favorites. The soft plastic has a texture like real food, so fish mouth these lures longer than hard artificials, giving you extra time to set the hook. Some come unrigged and are threaded on hooks or fished on leadhead jigs; others come with a hook molded into the plastic.

Power tactic: I find these realistic “creature” lures especially effective when fished around green aquatic vegetation in clear water. To gain extra casting distance, I attach a clear plastic casting bubble 12 to 18 inches above the lure. A water-filled bubble sinks at about a foot a second. I count down to a depth where the lure brushes the weed tops, then retrieve it very slowly, with an occasional twitch to entice hungry sunnies.

Johnson Beetle Spin

The Beetle Spin is an incomparable bream lure. Snap on the safety-pin spinner, and use it to fish all sorts of cover and structure. The 1/32-ounce model is ideal for catching lots of sunfish, and the bluegills and other bream you hook are likely to be huge.

Power tactic: It’s difficult to fish a Beetle Spin at the snail’s pace often needed for big bream, but you can combat this problem, and also target suspended fish, by rigging a sliding bobber above the spinner. Place a bobber stop on your line at the depth you want to fish. Then add a bead below the stop, followed by the sliding bobber. Finish the rig by tying the spinner at line’s end.

When the bobber hits the water, the Beetle Spin’s weight pulls line through the float until the bobber abuts the bobber stop. Your bait is now at the depth you selected, and you can easily adjust the depth by moving the bobber stop up or down.

The benefit of this rig is it allows you to slow your presentation and keep the spinner in the strike zone. Use a variety of retrieves — small twitches, a slow steady retrieve or long pulls with a few seconds of motionlessness between — until you determine the best pattern.

Rebel Teeny-Wee Crawfish

The ultralight Rebel Crawfish is undoubtedly one of the most popular fishing lures in the world. Its small lifelike profile entices and catches all kinds of game fish, including big bluegills and big-mouthed sunnies such as rock bass and warmouths. The 1 1/2-inch Teeny-Wee model is available in a shallow version that runs 1 to 2 feet deep and a deep version that dives 4 to 5 feet, both in a variety of enticing colors.

Power tactic: Many of Arkansas’ clear, rocky streams in the Ozark and Ouachita mountains are full of bream, including bluegills and rock bass. The Rebel Crawfish is an ideal lure for catching them because small crayfish often comprise much of the bream’s diet, and this lure can be cast from a distance so the angler doesn’t spook these clear-water denizens. Cast upstream or quartering upstream to fallen trees, boulders, brush piles and ledges adjacent to deep water; under overhangs, root wads and logs along the banks; and any place the water drops into a pool or run. The best spots are in or near long, deep pools, so when you encounter a big hole or long stretch of deeper water, work it methodically. Drop successive casts about a foot apart, covering a variety of depths until you nab a hungry bream.

Blakemore Road Runner

Few panfish lures are as versatile as the Road Runner. Fish it slow or fast, deep or shallow. Cast it, jig it or troll it. The 1/32-ounce original and marabou models, both with the characteristic spinner on the underside, are superb bream catchers. I especially like their new Natural Science Panfish & Trout model, which has a smaller profile and is more easily swallowed by small-mouthed bluegills and redears.

Power tactic: During spawning season, on overcast days, and around dawn and dusk, bream often lurk around shallow reed-type plants such as bulrush and sedges. One way to prospect for bream is by casting a Road Runner. Most fish in reeds are active, and these lures, when cast and retrieved at a fast clip, are enticing. Keep your distance to avoid spooking fish. Cast through openings and cuts that allow you to get beyond the outer edge of the reeds, or launch the lure past nests and bring it back right beside any fish you can see. Retrieve the lure quickly, and be prepared to set the hook as soon as you feel a hit.

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