John's Journal...


Secrets to Bluegills and Shellcrackers

Click to enlargeEDITOR'S NOTE: Bobby Bright and Charley Slaten of Boaz, Alabama, own C&B Guide Service and specialize in fishing Alabama's Lake Guntersville, Lake Logan Martin and Lake Neely Henry. These two fishing guides make their living helping their customers catch fish, and they depend on their equipment every day they're on the water. This week Bright and Slaten will tell us how they fish and how they consistently catch more fish than other anglers do.

Question: Bobby, on what lakes do you and Charley guide?

Bright: We guide in Alabama on Logan Martin Lake, Neely Henry Lake and Guntersville. We guide for crappie, shellcrackers, bluegills and bass. We do a little sauger guiding, but we enjoy catching and eating saugers ourselves.

Question: Bobby, you're just finishing up bream season here in the first of June, so, tell me how you find bream and how you catch them.

Bright: When we get ready to go bream fishing, we'll use 4- to 6-pound-test Mossy Oak Fishing Line. We like this line because it's small in diameter and really strong. This line not only allows us to get a good hookset on the bream but also gets the bream in once we get them hooked. We fish for two types of bream: redeared sunfish, commonly called shellcrackers, and bluegills.

Click to enlargeQuestion: Bobby, how are you rigging for bream?

Bright: We use a 1/22-ounce hair jig and attach a live cricket onto the hook of the jig. We bait the cricket from the rear to the front so the whole cricket is on the jig. The reason we use the cricket/jig combination is because often a female bream will suck the cricket off the jig, and you won't catch the fish. If you'll let your bobber sit where it is and twitch it just a little, the bream will return and eat that hair tail jig. So by using this type of bait, we've got two shots at catching the bream. Up the line 6 inches from the jig, we put a BB split shot. We set our corks so they suspend the baits about 6 inches up from the bottom. We use bobbers with lead in the bottom of the bobbers. Then we can cast our baits further, and our bobbers will sit up right.

Question: How are you finding the bream beds?

Bright: We generally can see the beds up close to the bank because a bream bed will look like a small bomb crater. But that's not where we'll fish. Those beds are where everyone else fishes and usually have the smallest bream in them. The bigger beds are going to be in deeper water about 5- to 6-feet deep. So we start fishing where most bream fishermen's boats sit. We've learned that the deeper water not only produces more bream because those bream in the deep water aren't fished for, but it also produces the biggest bream.

Question: How are you finding shellcracker beds?

Bright: We look for shellcracker beds where we find grass and mussel beds. The shellcracker builds its bed out of shells and likes to eat small mussels. I guess that's the reason they call these redeared sunfish shellcrackers. These beds will usually be on flats and sandy bottoms and often out on points. We've found that the biggest shellcrackers we catch are usually holding in 4 to 5 feet of water. One thing that we're doing whether we're fishing for shellcrackers or bluegills is that we keep our baits moving. We'll cast our baits out. Then when the cork hits Click to enlargethe water, we let the cork sit still for about 2 or 3 seconds, twitch the cork a few times and then if we don't get a bite, we'll move the bobber a foot or two and repeat the same action. We use this tactic when we're hunting bream beds.

Then when we locate a bream bed, we anchor-down and start fishing that bed. We don't mark our bream beds with a GPS, we just remember where we've caught bream in years past. The bream usually will bed the next year within 15 to 20 yards of where they've bedded before. However, the 2005 bream season in the spring has really been strange because some of the best beds we've fished in the past have vanished. I think when catfish and gar start moving into the bream beds on a daily basis, the bream find somewhere else to bed.

Question: Where are you finding your bluegill beds?

Bright: Like the shellcrackers, we're finding our best bluegill beds in 4 to 5 feet of water. Now, you can still catch a lot of bluegills in that really-shallow 1 to 2 foot of water, but when you find shallow fish, you have to realize that all the other bream fishermen in the world have found those same bream and probably have picked over them pretty good. That's why we fish for the bluegills in the 4 to 5 foot water. Those fish haven't been picked over, and generally these types of areas contain more bigger fish.

Question: Are there any other secrets to successful bream fishing?

Bright: I believe that one thing we're doing that solves a lot of problems for us, is using a weighted cork. The weighted cork enables you to cast more accurately, especially with a wind. Too, because wind makes the cork stand straight up, you often can spot your bites better. We also believe that the 4- to 6-pound-test Mossy Oak Fishing Line has been a huge advantage for us this year. Because many of our fishermen aren't Click to enlargehighly-skilled anglers, they'll often use closed-face spinning reels like the Zebcos. When we put the 4- to 6-pound-test line on their closed-face reels, our anglers can cast like pros and land plenty of bream. On a good day, two fishermen will usually catch 150 bream, both bluegills and shellcrackers, when fishing with us. Our biggest bluegill generally will weigh 3/4-pound, and our largest shellcrackers will weigh 1-1/4-pound each. Our average weight on bluegills and shellcrackers will be 1/2- and 3/4-pound.

For more information about fishing with C&B Guide Service, you can call (256) 593-7830, (256) 738-4293 (Bobby Bright) and/or (256) 572-6217 (Charley).

To learn more about Mossy Oak Fishing Line's top-quality lines, go to



Day 1: Secrets to Bluegills and Shellcrackers
Day 2: Secrets to Fishing Riprap
Day 3: Spinner Bait Secrets
Day 4: The Trophy Bass Lake
Day 5: Crappie Fish for Big Guntersville Bass in June



Entry 304, Day 1