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How to Bass Fish During the Drought with Billy Blakely

Catch ‘Em in the Mouth

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, it’s hot. If you’re not catching bass in the shallow-water grass or the stumps, where do you look for them?
Blakely: Even when I’m catching bass on the stumps, I’m still looking at the mouth of every creek, ditch and run-out places. At this time of year, we often see large balls of shad in the mouths of ditches, creeksand drainage areas. Any time I see shad flipping or feeding on the surface in these spots, I’ll pick up my rod with Strike King’s Red Eye Shad tied onto it and cast to those schools of shad. I’ve always got a Red Eye Shad tied onto a rod for this purpose. My favorite color Red Eye Shad at this time of year is blue and chrome. Click to enlarge

Question: Why are the shad in the mouths of ditches?
Blakely: We have a lot of shad in Reelfoot Lake. Most of the time the shad will stay under the lily pads or in the grass. However, under drought conditions, when the water level drops, there’s less grass and lily pads in which the shad can hold. Therefore, large numbers of shad will move to the mouths of these ditches and cuts to find deeper water and a place to hold.

Question: How do you find the shad?
Blakely: Our water is so shallow that you can’t locate large schools of shad by running over those schools with your big engine. So, you have to see them as far away as you can. In shallow water, the closer you get to shad, the more likely you are to spook them. You have to see them flipping on the surface, or see bass busting them to know where they’re located. Sometimes, you can spot them by seeing small ripples on the top of the water. Many times you’ll see a bass flip on the surface, but they mayl be 500 shad under that one bass. Once I find a school of shad, I stay as far away from them as I can. That’s the secret to fishing the Red Eye Shad. That lipless crankbait is heavy enough that I can cast it a long way to reach those school of shad. I want to cast past the school of shad and Click to enlargethen reel the Red Eye Shad as fast as I can, so that as it comes through the school of shad, the lure will scatter the shad, causing them to panic, which triggers the bass holding under them to attack and eat the Red Eye Shad. Since the blue and chrome of the lure is a slightly-different color than the shad in the school, the bass can see it better. Too, it stands out more than the shad in the school, causing the bass to hit this color better than they’ll hit a shad-colored bait.

Question: What pound-test line are you using, and rod and reel are you fishing?
Blakely: I use either 14- or 15-pound-test monofilament line with a Quantum 7.0:1 baitcasting reel and a Loomis 7-foot, 1-inch rod.

Question: When you’re fishing schools of shad like this, how many bass do you expect to catch in the mouths of one of these ditches or cuts?
Blakely: Last week, we caught 21 bass that weighed from 2- to 5-pounds each in the mouth of one ditch. I saw one bass strike on top from a distance. We were fishing out deep on those big stumps when I saw the bass break the surface. We were only catching one or two bass off the big stumps we were fishing, so I told my party, “LClick to enlargeet’s move over to the mouth of that ditch, and see if we can catch more fish.” The shad were flipping on the surface when we got closer, but I didn’t see another bass chasing the shad when we got within casting distance. The fisherman with me was casting a buzzbait, trying to get the bass to hit on top. He caught one, but in the amount of time it took him to catch one bass, I caught 12 bass on the Red Eye Shad. He finally decided to give up the buzzbait and fish the Red Eye Shad. Then he started catching bass like me. At this time of year, you have to pay attention to what’s happening on the lake, regardless of how you’re fishing. Any time you see shad flipping on the surface, there’s a pretty-good chance there will be bass under them. If there are bass under the shad, you can wear them out with the Strike King Red Eye Shad.

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: Fish the Treetops During a Drought

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 3