Panfish anglers are not the only ones who were waiting for this week’s full moon to push bream up on their spawning beds. A tried-and true tactic for catching trophy largemouth bass is to post up outside a busy bream bed and cast lures that imitate panfish into the danger zones on the outskirts of town. Veteran bass fisherman Terry Hopson of Traveler’s West said it’s a lesson he learned years ago while fly-rodding for bream.
“I was fly-casting to a boat dock that covered a flat littered with hand-sized bream,” Hopson said. “I had pulled maybe a dozen bluegill off the bed and had gotten things stirred up in the little community. The next fish that bit peeled off to my left and disappeared in a big, gaping mouth about the size of a 5-gallon bucket.”
Unfortunately, Hopson lost that bass, which he estimated to be a 10-pounder, when the tiny No. 12 popping bug pulled loose from the big largemouth. He went home later that day and came back the next better prepared.
Largemouth bass rely on bream and other sunfish as a major source of food in any body of water where the two fish co-reside. Hopson reasoned that casting a lure that looked like a bream would work anywhere from farm ponds to small lakes to major reservoirs. So far he hasn’t been wrong, but unfortunately, he has lost his appetite for perch-jerking, though he still catches one here and there.
“Your choice of baits is near limitless,” he said, “but I really like to match the hatch with some of these lifelike crankbaits that look exactly like bluegill or crappie. Believe it or not, I caught the biggest bluegill of my life throwing an old, shallow-diving Heddon 3 inch crankbait painted like a bluegill. A good bream bed is like a small community – eveybody’s got a short fuse.”
Like many bream anglers, Hopson will keep track of beds as he finds them, casting the shallows for bass before bream spawn. The best largemouth bite seems to occur on the first two or three casts after he has snuck up on an undisturbed bed located several days ahead of time.
“First thing in the morning, I’ll throw a topwater Super Spook Jr. that’s bright purple and orange,” he said. “Then, after the sun gets up, I’ll go to any number of crankbaits and swimbaits that imitate bream or bluegill. I’ve tried the little tiny crankbaits, but they catch a lot of small 12- to 14-inch bass. Don’t be afraid to throw a swimbait that’s 5 to 6 inches long. That’s a big-bass killer.”