John's Journal...

How to Find and Catch More Big Bluegills Throughout the Year with Billy Blakely

Day 2: Bluegill Beds – They're Everywhere They're Everywhere

Editor’s Note: Billy Blakely is the chief guide for Blue Bank Resort ( - 877-258-3226) on Reelfoot Lake in northwest Tennessee. From May through October, Reelfoot is one of the premier bluegill fishing lakes in the nation. Because he's been fishing and guiding all his life, Blakely has assumed through the years that he knows where every bluegill bed on the lake is located until recently when technology drastically has changed his ability to find and take bluegills.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewOnce I learned what a bluegill bed looked like on a side-scanning depth finder and that usually more than one bluegill bed was in the same area, I decided to take some time off each day to look for more bluegill beds on Reelfoot Lake. I was amazed at how many bluegill beds I found out in deep water - well away from the bank. By being a guide who knew where 100 bluegill beds were, I thought that I was a knowledgeable bluegill fisherman. But in a short time, I learned that my side-scanning depth finder showed me at least 300 – 400 more bluegill beds out in open water that I never had seen or fished previously.

Another advantage to using the side-scanning depth finder is you can set the range as to how far from the center of the boat you want the side scan to cover. I keep my unit on 40 feet, which means I’m seeing a section of the bottom that’s 40 feet out on the right side of the boat and 40 feet out on the left side of the boat. Every 10 feet of the bottom that’s being scanned allows me to can see what’s in that 10 feet. I know that if I spot a bream bed on the right-hand side of the boat, and that bream bed is showing up between my 20-foot mark and my 30-foot mark, the bream bed is actually 25 feet off the right-hand side of boat. I can mark those beds as waypoints on my depth finder, or I can make a circle, relocate the bed, anchor down and begin to catch bluegills.

Click for Larger ViewClick for Larger ViewI’ve learned that usually more bluegill beds are out in open water than in the shallow water close to the shore. The bluegills will bed around a stump, a log, a tree limb or on a hump in open water. I catch most of my bigger bluegills where most bluegill fishermen have their boats anchored to fish the shallow-water beds that they can see, or have known about for years. I’ve also learned another trick when using the side-scanning sonar. Instead of having the transducer under the boat or on the foot of the trolling motor, I’ve built a lightweight aluminum bracket that I can attach to my boat. Then the bracket pulls the transducer about 6 feet out in front of my boat. Using this system, I can spot the bluegill beds, before the boat gets too close to them.

To learn more about bluegill fishing, go to, and click on his Kindle eBook and print book, “Reelfoot Lake: How to Fish for Crappie, Bass, Bluegills and Catfish & Hunt for Ducks.”

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About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Tomorrow: Bluegill Rigs with Reelfoot Lake’s Billy Blakely

Check back each day this week for more about How to Find and Catch More Big Bluegills Throughout the Year with Billy Blakely

Day 1: Two Ways to Find Bluegill Beds with Billy Blakely
Day 2: Bluegill Beds – They're Everywhere They're Everywhere
Day 3: Bluegill Rigs with Reelfoot Lake’s Billy Blakely
Day 4: New Tricks for Bluegills
Day 5: Boat Ramp Bluegills with Billy Blakely

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Entry 877, Day 2