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How to Bass Fish During the Drought with Billy Blakely

Fish the Treetops During a Drought

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 do you mean fish the treetops when the lake you’re fishing is under drought conditions?
Blakely: When our lake level drops, you often can see the tips of small limbs that are coming off treetops lying on the bottom. These old trees may be 30 or 40 feet from shore, and the only reason you can see them, or at least see one or two limbs, is because the water level’s down. The first thing you want to do when you find a tree like this is mark it with your GPS receiver so you can return and fish it when the lake level rises. The second thing you want to do is tie on a white Strike King Series 4S crankbait, cast it past the tree and crank it through the tree.

Question: Billy, why are you fishing a white crankbait through trees that you only see during a drought?Click to enlarge
Blakely: When our water level drops, it’s really stained, resembling pea soup. So, a white crankbait really shows up well in that dark-colored water. In other lakes, in other sections of the country, with drought conditions and little or no rain, the lakes tend to clear-up. But the opposite’s true here at Reelfoot. I’ve tried every color lure Strike King makes, and I know that no angler in his right mind is fishing a white crankbait at this time of year. On our lake, white crankbaits are deadly as sin. When that crankbait comes through those underwater limbs and bounces off them, the lure triggers a lot of strikes other lures won’t. The trick to finding these trees is not to look for a tree. I look for one little twig sticking above the water that may only be 3- to 6-inches long. Remember that this twig is coming off something. A little twig has to have a bigger limb to grow off and the bigger limb has to be connected to another limb, which has to be connected to a tree trunk. Anybody can find a whole treetop, but not everybody is looking for small twigs.Click to enlarge

Question: How are you reeling that crankbait through the treetop?
Blakely: When my crankbait hits a limb or a twig, I let it float up for a second, and then I crank it down really hard. Most of the time, the bass will take the bait when I first start cranking it down, after I let it float up. Sometimes the bass will take the crankbait when I pause it. I’ve learned that if you continue to burn the crankbait through the limbs, you don’t get near as many strikes as you do when you pause the crankbait and let it float up over the limb.

Question: Billy, how are you getting the bass out of the trees, once you get them to take the crankbait?
Blakely: I’m using 17-pound-test monofilament line, and I’m horsing them out of the limbs. I break some bass off, but you have to get a fish on your lure before you have a chance to catch it or break it off. I’ve found that this type of line, retrieve and color of Strike King crankbait causes the bass in our lake to bite. The job of any lure is to entice the bass to bite. What happens after the fish takes the lure is between you and the fish.

Click to enlargeQuestion: Why do you like monofilament line instead of braided line?
Blakely: Monofilament line presents the lure to the bass better than braided line does. Braided line doesn’t have any stretch, but monofilament line does. When you’re fishing the crankbait, you want a line that will allow the fish to inhale the bait. Monofilament line does that better than braided line. Also, because of the stretch in the monofilament line, you won’t pull the treble hooks out of the fish’s mouth as often as you will when you use braided line. I start on one shoreline and fish every piece of wood I can see sticking up above the water that’s 30 yards or more out from the bank. I may fish from 100 to 200 trees in one day of crankbait fishing. Earlier this week, I was crankbait fishing with a 13-year-old, and he caught a 7-pound, 2-ounce bass using these tactics. That was the biggest bass he’d ever caught. We caught about 12 or 15 more bass that day that weighed from 2- to 5-pounds each. I guarantee that little fellow will never forget the August day he fished in 100-degree temperatures and caught the biggest bass of his life.

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: Go Pier Fishing

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 4