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How to Bass Fish During the Drought with Billy Blakely

Dead-Sticking Stumps

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Reelfoot Lake in northwest Tennessee is at an all-time low, as are many other lakes throughout the South. During August, 2007, the temperature has soared repeatedly to over 100 degrees, and many anglers believe the weather’s too tough to fish. But Billy Blakely of Tiptonville, Tennessee, a fisherman and a guide on Reelfoot Lake for 24 years, knows how to find and catch bass, even under hot-weather and drought conditions. He’ll show us this week how to bass fish now and how to catch more bass all year long.

Question: Billy, what other tactic are you using to catch bass under drought conditions?
Blakely: I’m catching some of my bigger bass on places I may never have fished before. When there are drought conditions and the water level’s dropped, you can see a lot of stumps you’ve never seen before and locate plenty of areas you’ve never fished before. There are so many stumps in Reelfoot Lake that you can fish all of them and probably catch bass. I’ve learned that by fishing the biggest stumps I can find, I generally can catch bigger bass in the lake at this time of year.

Question: How are you fishing those stumps?
Blakely: I’m fishing with the same lures I always fish, but differently. I’ve always flipped stumps with a 3/8-ounce Strike King jig in the black-and-blue color with a Denny BrauerClick to enlargechunk trailer on it. That tactic always produces here on Reelfoot. However, under drought conditions, I’m dead-sticking the bait.

Question: Why are you dead-sticking the bait?
Blakely: The real secret to this tactic is using the 3X Denny Brauer chunk from Strike King. If you watch the jig with the chunk on it in a swimming pool or an aquarium, you’ll see that the chunk trailer is extremely sensitive. The least amount of water current or shaking of the line will cause that 3X chunk to dance, quiver and shake. When I flip the jig out, I let it fall beside the tree and sit on the bottom for several seconds before I do anything. When the jig falls, the trailer still moves because it swims as it falls to the bottom. If the bass doesn’t pick up the jig after it sits for 5 to 10 seconds, I’ll barely shake my line with my rod tip. The key is to shake the line so that the jig will quiver on the bottom, but not move. You want the trailer to barely move because the water’s hot, the bass are sluggish, and they don’t want to move. The bass don’t want to chase a bait, and they really don’t want to eat, but the jig irritates and aggravates them into biting.

Remember that these big bass are holding on big stumps that have been underwater and out of sight for most of the year. These stumps are the bass’ home, and they won’t move far away from these stumps to take a bait. If you take your hand-held GPS receiver with you during drought conditions, when you’re pinpointing these big logs and stumps that are only visible during this time of year, you can mark them as a waypoints, return with your depth finder when the water rises and fish them. Drought conditions are the very-best conditClick to enlargeions you can have to locate underwater structure and mark it with a GPS so you can fish it when the water rises. Even if you won’t catch any fish at this time of year, under these conditions, you need to be on the lake with your GPS receiver, pinpointing all the cover that holds bass and crappie when the lake’s at full pool. If you’ll do your reconnaissance now, find these spots and mark them, you’ll probably have more places to fish than you’ve ever had.

Question: Billy, when you’re fishing the jig, what pound-test line are you using?
Blakely: I’m using 40-pound-test braided line, because the way you’re fishing, you can’t really feel the bass when they take the bait. That 40-pound-test braided line gives you plenty of sensitivity and allows you to feel the fish inhale the jig. I keep my index finger on the line and use it to barely move the line while the jig sits on the bottom. This way, I not only can feel the jig move, but I can feel the bass bite. You also need that heavy line to move that bass away from the stump, the roots and the cypress knees that you can’t see. Bass like to live in a very-protected environment, and if you don’t strike the fish as soon as it inhales that lure and pull it away from the roots and the hole it’s living in, the bass may either tear its mouth with the hook or break the line and get free.Click to enlarge

Question: What size fish are you catching when you’re fishing big stumps?
Blakely: I’m catching good-size fish that will weigh from 4-pounds each to 7- or 8-pounds each. You rarely catch a small bass using this tactic. This is really-slow fishing, and you won’t catch a lot of bass. But the bass you do catch will be good ‘uns. When you’re fishing at this time of year, don’t forget your sunglasses and quality sunscreen. You’ll really need them both to see the stumps and to keep from getting cooked.

Question: How many stumps will you fish in one day?
Blakely: From 100 to 200 stumps. I’ll fish one stump for about 3 to 5 minutes, and if I don’t catch a bass there, I’ll move on to the next stump.

Currently, Blue Bank Resort has a great 4-day package. For $189 per person, you get a room, a boat, a motor, bait, gas and ice. If you want to hire a guide, the cost is $200 per day for two people. If you’ve never fished Reelfoot, I’d strongly recommend hiring a guide for the first day to learn how and where to fish. If you don’t like to bass fish, the catfish and crappie are really biting well. Or, if you do like to bass fish, but you want to take some fish home to eat, fish for crappie and catfish. To contact Billy Blakely or Blue Bank Resort, call (877) 258-3226, or visit

Tomorrow: Catch ‘Em in the Mouth

Check back each day this week for more about "How to Bass Fish During the Drought with Billy Blakely"

Day 1: Fish Skinny Grass
Day 2: Dead-Sticking Stumps
Day 3: Catch ‘Em in the Mouth
Day 4: Fish the Treetops During a Drought
Day 5: Go Pier Fishing



Entry 418, Day 2