In early summer immediately following the spawn, it’s pretty common knowledge that a lot of bass move deep for a while. But not all of them, and not necessarily the big ones. Though the bass spawn might be history, bream (a.k.a. bluegills and sunfish) are getting busy now, and their busy time turns big bass into stealthy shallow water hunters. Chances are you’ve seen the orderly arrangements of craters and potholes in flat gravely areas made by spawning bream on your favorite lakes (see photo). It may seem like the scenario creates easy pickings for both the bass and the bass anglers, but if there’s one thing the bream spawn doesn’t do, it’s make big bass stupid. You’re not likely to see them charging the beds. What they’ll actually do is wait in opportune locations like wolves waiting for a sheep to stray from the flock.
One of the biggest mistakes I see anglers make is fishing only right on top of the bream bedding areas. Thinking back on my years of working bream beds, I can tell you that most of the big bass I’ve caught came from some structure near the beds and rarely from right over them. And when I say structure, it doesn’t have to be much; the nearest dock, a lone log, or just a small weed patch offers sufficient cammo for a bass waiting in ambush. Once you have a bead on a piece you think could be holding a bass, try this routine.
The first few casts should, in fact, run directly across bedding area, and this is where you want to use a bream-imitating prop bait, swim bait, or shallow-running crankbait. If you can’t pull a lurking bass out of its hidey-hole onto the open flat, you have to go to them. That means it’s time to reach for your old standby lures and cover the structure directly. Most times bass aren’t going to pass up ssomething that invades their immediate territory, especially when they’re in hunting mode. I’ve found that in most cases a simple jig or shaky head cast to the nearest dock post or log shadow won’t be refused. If a cluster of lily pads is where you think Mr. Bass is most likely watching the flock from, tie on your favorite topwater frog and go to work. At the end of the day you’ll be able to say that you caught bass by targeting bream beds, but I’ll bet that most of them will have come from cover nearby.