Category Archives: Bream Fishing

A Better Way For Fall Panfish

A Better Way For Fall Panfish
By Chip Leer
from The Fishing Wire

When fall crappies and sunfish roam deep weed edges and structural sweet spots such as points and bars, fishermen adept at precisely positioning subtle presentations in front of fish’s noses can enjoy banner catches other anglers miss.

One of the best ways to reap the autumn harvest—and indeed, catch panfish anytime they favor deep habitat—is working a small jig on a modified three-way rig similar to those used by walleye anglers.

It’s a simple yet deadly setup. You’ll want to keep the jig in or close to the sonar cone, so leave the long rods in the locker. I favor a 6′-3″ medium-light spinning rod such as 13 Fishing’s Muse Gold (http://www.13fishing.com/muse-gold/), strung with 6-pound Bionic Braid (https://shop.northlandtackle.com/line/bionic-walleye-braid/).

Tie a three-way swivel to the end of the mainline, then add a relatively long dropper (say, 24 inches) of 4-pound BIONIC mono. A 3/16- to ¼-ounce dropshot weight should do the trick on the tag end. Tip: By adjusting the weight’s location on the dropper, you can raise or lower the jig in the water column to position it slightly above the level of the panfish.

Tie a 12- to 16-inch tagline of similar 4-pound mono to the swivel’s trailing eye, then add a small jig. Northland Tackle’s Helium Stonefly (https://shop.northlandtackle.com/seasonal-tackle/ice-fishing/impulse-helium-stonefly/) is my favorite choice, but any of the neutrally buoyant Helium Series heads work fine. Don’t worry about adding meat. The IMPULSE body adds all the scent and animation you’ll need.

Armed with this rig, you can inch your way along weed edges and breaklines, or hover over a school of fish. Either way, keep rod motions to a minimum. The jig and softbait’s natural subtle action is perfect for panfish that typically aren’t overly aggressive and not inclined to chase down prey.

The light jig is easy for fish to inhale, and you typically don’t feel the fish until it turns to swim away with your lure. When you feel a light tug, execute a gentle, sweeping hookset and chances are good you’ll be firmly hooked up to another fat fall panfish.

Based in Walker, Minnesota, noted fishing authority and outdoor communicator Chip Leer operates Fishing the WildSide, which offers a full suite of promotional, product development and consultation services. For more information, call (218) 547-4714 or email Chip@fishingthewildside.net

How To Find Fish In Transition with Electronics

Finding Fish In Transition
from The Fishing Wire

How experts use Humminbird technologies to put the bead on fall and winter fish

Eufaula, AL – Typically, as fall arrives, many of us head for the tree stand or blind, turning our attention to birds and bucks. Yet, what’s happening on the water this time of the year can be equally as awesome as what’s happening in the field.

Electronics help catch bass

Electronics help catch bass

Vahrenberg verifies the presence of a kicker fish on the tree identified with 360 Imaging.

Here’s how a handful of fishing’s top experts find and pattern bass, walleyes and panfish during the fall and winter – and how you can do the same.

Open-Water Bass: Fall & Winter

Missouri-based tournament pro Doug Vahrenberg says his fall and winter bass game has never been better thanks to the trifecta of Humminbird’s LakeMaster mapping, Side Imaging and 360 Imaging.
“As the water cools and bass school up in the fall, they’ll begin to move from the main lake into creek arms. And you’ve got main lake fish on the flats adjacent to those creek arms. Both have one thing in common: they’re looking for lunch.”

Vahrenberg says it all comes down to surveying a lake quickly because fall bass can be here today, gone tomorrow. With two ONIX units at the dash – one set to full-screen Side Imaging, the other to Humminbird LakeMaster mapping – Vahrenberg is similarly on the prowl for baitfish and bass.

“I typically have my Side Imaging set to look 100 feet right and left. On a new lake I’ll increase that range to 130-150 feet until I find bait and ambush targets like trees, stumps, and submerged cover most anglers can’t see, especially in shallower stained water. Then I mark anything that looks like a good ambush site with a waypoint.”

Hummingbird 360

Hummingbird 360

Humminbird 360 Imaging reveals the submerged tree in shallow, stained water that produced Vahrenberg’s bass (shown), only 25 feet from the boat.

He adds: “Seems like fall bass like flats close to a channel swing. They’ll move up from deeper water and push the bait into two-, three- or four feet of water and feed. With LakeMaster mapping you can find those spots where the channel swings in close to the bank. A lot of times your screen will be absolutely full of bait so I like to concentrate on those areas right before or after the giant wads of bait. Helps make the presence of your bait known.”

Once he’s located a channel swing, good cover, baitfish – even the bass themselves – Vahrenberg will jump from the console to the bow.

“As soon as I start pinging Bow 360 every waypoint will show up on my bow ONIX unit and I can motor right to ’em. Seems like if there’s a lot of cover, the fish tend to be isolated. Where there’s no cover, fish tend to group up in ‘wolf packs’. That’s where 360 Imaging really helps locating the stuff that you can’t see. The beauty is that it does all the work for you. You’re not controlling anything with your foot – all you have to do is look at the screen and think about where to cast next.”

ONIX split-screen

ONIX split-screen

This ONIX split-screen reveals the presence of baitfish in Side Imaging, 2D Sonar and Down Imaging.

From fall through winter, Vahrenberg breaks down his presentations into two preferred categories.

“I always have one stick rigged up with a creature or jig and craw combo to flip the isolated fish on cover. Those fish will position right behind the timber, waiting for lunch to swim by. On lakes with less cover I’m fishing fast search baits to connect with the wolf packs – square bills, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, lipless cranks – and searching out aggression bites. A shad pattern is always good but if there’s an overabundance of forage, I’ll switch over to a bluegill pattern, which is often just different enough to get bit. Look at it this way, if you’re eating a chicken breast every day and somebody offers you pizza …”

During winter, Vahrenberg reverses his fall routine and starts at the back of creek arms, moving outward to the first or second channel swing – or from the edge of the ice back to the main lake. “Even more so in the winter, bass will associate to the channel swings – and deeper water – but look along the edges. Again, LakeMaster mapping and the imaging technologies can really help you find the right stuff.”

Pre-Fishing For Early Ice: Walleyes & Perch

In northern Minnesota, the open water season is typically over by Thanksgiving. Yet, by the time the turkey and cranberry are being passed around the table, ice fishing guide/tournament Brian “Bro” Brosdahl has much of his winter ice fishing strategy already mapped. Many years, he’s already fishing on hardwater by turkey day.

“Sure, I’ll drop waypoints on structures in the fall but what I really do is fast-forward my thinking to winter, knowing that walleyes and jumbo perch will associate to shoreline points, saddles, humps, and weed bed edges on flats during early ice,” says Brosdahl.

Like Vahrenberg’s Missouri bass, Brosdahl says the biggest reason early-ice fish associate to these areas – especially on larger bodies of water like Minnesota’s Mille Lacs, Winnibigoshish and Leech – is the presence of baitfish. “Walleyes and perch both gorge on shiners, although the bigger walleyes seem to prefer whitefish.”

Brosdahl says Humminbird Lakemaster mapping greatly reduces the time it takes him to “pre-fish” a lake in the fall for ice fishing in winter.

Yellow Perch

Yellow Perch

Brosdahl and the big jumbo perch pay-off of scouting with Humminbird LakeMaster and Side Imaging technologies. Photo by Bill Lindner.

“But you can’t just motor around in the fall, mark bait and fish and drop waypoints. Most of the fall fish will have moved by first-ice. So, what I do is highlight depths with Lakemaster’s Depth Highlight feature – typically somewhere between 12 and 14 feet on bigger lakes – and then start dropping waypoints on those areas that will be their next move after fall.”

“You still have to look for inside turns, saddles and especially those steep breaks for walleyes. But remember: If there are walleyes in the area, they’ll push the perch up onto adjacent flats and the gradual breaks.”

Brosdahl was one walleye fishing’s earliest adopters of Side Imaging. “Same time as I’m watching my LakeMaster map, I’m watching Side Imaging for hard- and soft bottom edges. Both walleyes and perch will ride those edges all winter long. With Side Imaging these spots are unmistakable. Plus, as more of your ‘A list’ spots like rock piles and sunken islands get winter fishing traffic, I find myself fishing hard-to-soft bottom transitions in places easily overlooked.”

Once a surveyor for LakeMaster himself, Brosdahl says mapping waters with Humminbird’s new AutoChart Pro software has been a lot of fun. “Of course, this time around I don’t have to share my findings with anyone!”

“Kind of cool that I can go to a lake that doesn’t have HD one-foot contours and really dial in on spots for winter. Plus, AutoChart Pro gives me bottom hardness mapping so I those hard-to-soft spots really jump out. And there are some tiny lakes that have never been mapped. That’s where AutoChart really shines.”

One pass of Humminbird 360 reveals more than 10 manmade crappie cribs in a single pass. Range set to 120 feet in every direction.

manmade crappie cribs

manmade crappie cribs


He adds: “Another thing: Internet connectivity – even phone reception – can be pretty spotty in the areas I fish. Pretty cool that you can create the map on a PC without having to connect to the web. Plus, I know my data’s kept private.”

Tournament Talk: Winter Panfish

Currently, Wisconsin-based Kevin Fassbind and Nick Smyers are in second place as they prepare to fish the NAIFC 2014 Series Ice Fishing Championship on Minnesota’s Mille Lacs Lake, December 20, 2014.

A big part of their ongoing strategy is open-water scouting tournament grounds, like Mille Lacs’ Isle and Waukon bays.

“We’ve found Humminbird Side Imaging helps us identify the best weeds and hard-bottom areas. We’ll idle back and forth through a bay, looking 120 feet off each side of the boat. When we see holes in weed beds, inside turns and good bottom, we simply drop waypoints for winter. The way the system works is pretty easy – just pop the SD card out of the Humminbird 999 on the boat and drop it into the Humminbird 688 ice combo. Then it’s all right there,” says Fassbind.

Beyond marking waypoints on open-water, the duo has also experimented with Side Imaging on the ice. Using a pole-mounted Side Imaging transducer spun manually around in a hole in the ice, Fassbind and Smyers have had some success using the technology in a way it wasn’t intended.

“When we were fishing the NAIFC event on Lake Maxinkuckee, Indiana, we found a 20′ x 20′ patch of weeds with some logs, and Kevin pointed me in the direction and told me to start drilling. Boom, drilled one hole and I was on it,” says Smyers. “But it was difficult to get the image we wanted. Yet, we could see how this kind of technology could give us a huge on-ice advantage for locating manmade structures like cribs, Christmas tree piles, even fish.”

Along those lines, the duo is planning on implementing Humminbird Bow 360 into their tournament arsenal this year.

“What we were trying to do with Side Imaging is something that 360 Imaging already does better. With a little bit of rigging for ice, I really think it’s going to help us locate structure and fish even faster, which could be huge for main-basin crappies and deep-water perch. Punch a waypoint on fish and then go drill it. Instead of drilling hundreds of holes, we’ll be drilling a precise few. Not sure how much grid scouting we’ll be doing any more,” says Smyers.

Kevin Fassbind

Kevin Fassbind

Competitive ice angler Kevin Fassbind and teammate Nick Smyers use a combination of open-water and on-ice scouting with Humminbird technologies to stay on top of the leaderboard.

No matter where in the country you fish, the take-home message is clear: put in some time scouting with today’s technologies and you too can increase your odds for stellar fall and winter fishing.

For more information visit humminbird.com, contact Humminbird, 678 Humminbird Lane, Eufaula, AL 36027, or call 800-633-1468.

About Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics, Inc.
Johnson Outdoors Marine Electronics, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Johnson Outdoors and consists of the Humminbird®, Minn Kota® and Cannon® brands. Humminbird® is a leading global innovator and manufacturer of marine electronics products including fishfinders, multifunction displays, autopilots, ice flashers, and premium cartography products. Minn Kota® is the world’s leading manufacturer of electric trolling motors, as well as offers a complete line of shallow water anchors, battery chargers and marine accessories. Cannon® is the leader in controlled-depth fishing and includes a full line of downrigger products and accessories.

Fishing During the Full Moon

Middle Georgia Full Moon Fishing

“I got another one,” Hal said to me, but I was too busy reeling in my own bream to pay any attention to him. We already had full stringers of nice bluegill at our feet but we continued to catch one on almost every cast.

Hal and I had dug some red wigglers behind the chicken house on my family’s farm then rode our bicycles to Black’s pond to fish for bass and bream. We were very happy since school would be out in just two more weeks and the long summer filled with fishing trips would start.

When we got to the McDuffie County pond owned by the family of a teacher at Dearing Elementary School we tried for bass for several hours without much luck. Then we went to our favorite place to catch bream in the upper end of the pond. There were two boards on the bank so we could stand side by side and cast without sinking into the soft bottom.

Most days we would catch a few bluegill near the scattered stumps in this spot then move one when they quit biting. Our tackle was simple, both of us had Mitchell 300 reels on Conlon six-foot spinning rods. The ten pound test line was good for all kinds of fishing. On the end of the line was a #6 hook, a small split shot and a cork.

We stood on those boards and caught fish until it started to get dark. We had to hurry back to our bikes and head home fast to beat the night. As we rode home we commented that the full moon would keep it from getting completely dark and that could be our excuse for being so late.

All week we talked about going back and catching a pile of bream again. The next Saturday we went back to the pond and caught one or two small bluegill from the same area that had been so good the weekend before. We had no idea what happened to change the fishing, and did not realize that full moon had anything to do with our good luck. We had hit a bedding area without knowing it.

Bluegill are common in all Georgia waters and are always cooperative. You can catch them on just about any bait and they are great fish to start kids with since they can enjoy the thrill of catching something. But the full moon in May is a special time for Georgia bream fishermen.

The full moon is the time bream bed. Although bluegill will start bedding as early as late March in middle Georgia and some will bed every month from then until fall, May is the height of the bedding for them. Add in the spawn of shellcracker that bed just on the full moon in May and you have a bonanza of great fishing this month.

May 2 is a full moon so fishing should be good the first week of the month. There is almost a blue moon in May, with another full moon on June 1, so the end of the month will also be good.

Starting about a week before the full moon bluegill move into the shallow bedding areas and fan out a depression on a hard bottom. The female will lay her eggs in the depression and the male fertilizes them. Both fish will stay and guard the nest until the eggs hatch several days later. They will hit anything that looks like a threat to their eggs, as well as anything that looks like food, for about a week.

Many bream fishermen claim they can smell out bluegill beds, and you will often notice a distinctive odor near them. It is described as smelling like watermelon but not exactly. It is a musty smell that you will recognize once you experience it, and will remember it. If you hit that smell, look for beds nearby.

To find beds, go to the upper ends of coves and look for them in shallow water, from two to six feet deep. If the water is not muddy you will see the beds as light spots against a dark background. This is the depression fanned out by the male to make the bed.

Bream like to bed in large groups so you are not looking for one or two scattered beds. A good sandy spot protected from the wind in the back of a cove will often look like a waffle on the bottom, with beds almost touching each other. In muddy water the beds will be more shallow, in real clear water a little deeper.

If you find beds one year they are likely to be in the same place the next year. Any hard bottom will do but sand seems to be preferred, and some scattered stumps make it even better.

You can find beds from the bank but a boat makes it easier. Cruise the shallows very slowly until you spot them. You will probably spook the fish but if you back off and wait about 15 minutes the fish will be back. It is a good idea to anchor your boat a long cast from the beds so you don’t get too close and spook them while fishing.

From the bank ease around until you spot the beds. Wear dark or camouflage clothing and don’t make fast movements. Stay low, too. Try to keep any bushes on the bank between you and the beds. While fishing stay low and don’t approach too close. Long casts are best to keep from scaring fish away.

You can find bluegill beds on any of Georgia’s waters from rivers to big reservoirs, but smaller public ponds are your best bet. Scattered all across middle Georgia are small public lakes and ponds you can fish. The following list should contain some within a short drive of you.

Indian Springs State Park Lake is a 105 acre lake in Butts County four miles southeast of Jackson on Georgia Highway 42. There is a good paved boat ramp and you can rent a boat there, too. Camping and cabins are available for longer stays. A $2.00 parking fee gives you access to bank fishing or boat launching.

Boat motors are limited to 10 horsepower or smaller and you can fish from sunrise to sunset year round. The lake has many protected coves where the bream bed and the upper end has good shallow spawning flats.

Contact the park at 678 Lake Clark Road Flovilla, GA 30216, phone(770) 504-2277

John Tanner State Park has two lakes, one 15 acres and one 12 acres in size. They are located in Carroll County six miles west of Carrollton off Georgia Highway 16. You can camp there if you want to stay but a $2.00 daily parking fee gives you access to both lakes for fishing from the bank. You can rent a boat but you can launch your private boat only on the smaller lake.

Boats are limited to electric power only. You can fish from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM daily all year long. The lakes are small enough to cover easily to find the bedding areas. If you have a boat look for beds in areas not easily accessible to the bank fishermen.

Contact them at 354 Tanner Beach Road Carrollton, GA 30117, Phone (770) 830-2222

Blalock Reservoir is a 260 acre lake in Clayton County south of Jonesboro near US Highway 19/41. A boat ramp allows you to launch and there is bank fishing allowed for a small access fee.

Boats area limited to 16 feet or shorter with electric motors only. You can fish from dawn to dusk Wednesday through Sunday year round. Many shallow areas are good for bedding bream and a boat will cover this lake better than fishing from the bank.

Contact them at 2755 Freeman Road Hampton, GA 30228, phone (770) 603-5605.

J. W. Smith Reservoir is a 250 acre lake in Clayton County 10 miles south of Jonesboro on Panhandle Road. There is a boat ramp on the lake and you need a season pass or pay a daily fee.

Boats are limited to electric only and the lake is open

Wednesday through Sunday, April 1 through September 30 from sunup to sundown. There are many areas of this lake you need a boat to fish effectively.

Contact the Clayton County Water Authority at 2755 Freeman Road Hampton, GA 30228, phone (770) 603-5605.

Shamrock Reservoir is a 68 acre lake in Clayton County south of Jonesboro near US. Highway 19/41. There is a boat ramp and this lake is designated a “Kids Lake” so no adults may fish the lake unless they have a kid 12 years old or younger with them. There is a user fee.

Boats are limited to 16 feet or less and electric motors only. Open from dawn to dusk Wednesday through Sunday year round. Since access is limit to those with kids, this lake is a great choice to take your kids fishing.

Contact the Clayton County Water Authority listed above.

Lake Horton is a 780 acre lake in Fayette County south of Fayetteville near Georgia Highway 92. There are two boat ramps and the daily fee is $10 for non-Fayette County residents.

Boats are limited to electric only and the lake is open 6;30 AM to 6:30 PM daily. This lake is known for big bass but its sunfish population is good and spawning area are scattered all over the lake.

Horton is owned and operated by Fayette County P.O. Box 190 Fayetteville, GA 30214, phone (770) 461-1146.

Lake Kedron has 235 acres with a boat ramp. It is in Fayette County off Georgia Highway 54 near Peachtree Parkway. There are no special fees.

Boats are limited to electric only and the lake is open daily from 6:30 AM to 6:30 PM. It is owned and operated by

Fayette County, see contact above.
\Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park has two lakes, Franklin at 23 acres and Delano at 18 acres. They are located in Harris County east of Pine Mountain on Georgia Highways No private boats but boat rental is available. . Camping and cabins are available.

You can fish Delano year round and Franklin with a permit from September through May. There is a $2.00 parking fee.

Contact them at 2970 Hwy 190 Pine Mountain, GA 31822, phone(706) 663-4858.

Barnsville Reservoir in Lamar County has 160 acres and is located off Highway 36 near Barnsville. There is a boat ramp and yearly permits are required for fishing and for boat use.

Boats are limited to electric motors only and the lake is open year round.

Contact the City of Barnesville at 109 Forsyth Street, Barnesville, GA 30204, phone (770) 358-3431.

McDuffie Public Fishing Area has 13 ponds from 1 to 28 acres and is located in McDuffie County four miles southwest of Dearing off U. S. Highway 278. There are boat ramps on some of the lakes and camping is available. Boats are limited to electric only and a state fishing license as well s a WMA stamp is required. Lakes are open from sunrise to sunset daily year round.

I grew up less than two miles from these lakes. They were private until I was a teenager. My mother loved these lakes and I have the mount of a 2 pound, 6 ounce bluegill she caught there. The lakes are managed for fishing and all lakes are excellent for panfish.
Contact them at 4695 Fish Hatchery Road Dearing, GA 30808, phone(706) 595-1684.

Lake Meriwether in Meriwether County has 144 acres and is located one mile southwest of Woodbury on Georgia Highway 85 Alt. Camping is available and there is a daily fee for fishing. Boats are allowed but restricted to electric motors.

Owned the County Commissioners Office, P. O. Box 428 Greenville, GA 30222, phone (706) 672-1314.
High Falls State Park has a 650 acre lake and is in Monroe County 10 miles east of Forsyth near I-75. There are two boat tramps and boat rental as well as camping available. There is some bank fishing but most of the lake shore is private.

Motors are limited to 10 horsepower, a $2.00 parking fee is required and the lake is open from sunrise to sunset daily. This lake is very fertile and has good populations of bluegill. The back ends of most creeks are sandy and offer good bedding areas.

Contact the park at 76 High Falls Park Drive Jackson, GA 30233 at phone (912) 994-5080

Lake Olmstead in Richmond County is an 87 acre lake in northeast Augusta near Georgia Highway 28. There is a public boat ramp but no camping. There are no fees to fish here and there is good bank access.

Motors are limited to 9.9 horsepower except on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays when there is no limit. The lake is open 24 hours a day all year. This lake gets a lot of pleasure boat traffic on days big motors are allowed, so plan your fishing trips on the days motor restrictions apply.

Contact Augusta Parks and Recreation, 2027 Lumpkin road Augusta, GA 30906, phone (706) 796-5025

Hamburg State Park Lake is 225 acres located in Washington County north of Sandersville off Georgia Highway 102. There is a boat ramp and you can rent boats as well as camp. A $2.00 parking fee is charged.

Motors are limited to 10 horsepower and the lake is open all year from sunrise to sunset. There is excellent bluegill fishing in the pockets and coves.

Contact them at 6071 Hamburg State Park Road Mitchell, GA 30820, phone (912) 552-2393

Big Lazer Creek Public Fishing Area has a 200 acre lake and is located in Talbot County northeast of Talbotton near Pobiddy Road. A boat ramp is available as is primitive camping and you are required to have a Wildlife Management Area stamp a well as a fishing license.

There is no motor limit size but all must be operated at idle speed only. The lake is open from sunrise to sunset daily all year. It is managed for good fishing and the lake has excellent populations of bluegill and shellcracker.

Contact Manchester Fisheries Office, 601 Third Avenue Manchester GA 31816, phone: (706) 846-8448

Houston Lake is 180 acres in Houston County east of Perry on Georgia Highway 127. There is a boat ramp and good bank fishing access. No fees are charged at this lake.

Motors of any size can be used but at idle speed only. The lake is open during daylight hours year round and offers good bluegill fishing from boats or the bank.

Contact Region 4 Fisheries Office, phone (912) 987-4280

This is just a partial list of lakes open to the public in middle Georgia. For a complete list, go to http://georgiawildlife.dnr.state.ga.us/content/displaysmalllakes.asp to find lakes by name or by county. Find one near you, hit it on the full moon this month and enjoy some fast panfish action.

Fishing the Flint River for Bream

I caught this Flint River bream with black spots on a Mepps spinner

I caught this Flint River bream with black spots on a Mepps spinner

Fishing the Flint River is always fun and bream always bite there. The river is most famous for its shoal bass population, a subspecies of black bass found mostly there and a few other places, but sometimes they are tough to catch. But bream always bite.

The Flint River starts just south of the Atlanta Airport and flows through middle Georgia to join with the Chattahoochee River in Lake Seminole to form the Apalachaicola River. Except for Lake Blackshear it is free flowing with many shoals throughout its length. It is a beautiful river to fish

The Georgia Outdoor Writers Association spring conference was held at Albany, Georgia this year and we got some chances to fish the Flint. I went with fellow member Vic. O. Miller. a local writer who knows the river well. I was warned that he had a habit of turning over boats on the river but we managed to come home dry. I was a little worried. The first thing I did after getting in the boat was put on a life jacket but Vic warned me it didn’t float!

I tried several baits for bass but had no bites while Vic got a lot of hits from bream on his fly rod , so I went with the flow and tied on a Mepps Spinner and started catching bluegill and long ear sunfish. As luck would have it, I also caught two small largemouth.

It was a fun trip and I came back alive and dry!