John's Journal...

How to Bass Fish During the Drought with Billy Blakely

Go Pier Fishing

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 when you say go pier fishing?
Blakely: At Reelfoot, we have a lot of piers and docks that stick out in the lake. Most of these piers and docks have brush in the front of them. I fish these areas with the new Strike King KVD (Kevin VanDam) spinner bait in the bluegill color. Lake residents pile brush and these new PVC-pipe fish attractors on the front of their docks. Because the water level’s so low, and these docks and piers stick out so far into the lake, these spots are ideal for finding and catching bluegills. Many bluegills hold on these docks because they’ve been evicted from their homes. The places where they’ve once lived along the shoreline have dried-up. So, like Click to enlargeevery other fish, the bluegills have to find a new home. The only problem is when the bluegills move to their new homes, there generally are some big bass already holding on those docks. I’ve found that the KVD spinner bait in the bluegill color will set those bass under docks on fire, causing them to strike. Sometimes you can burn that spinner bait through the brush out in front of the docks. But most often at this time of year, you have to swim the spinner bait up to the brush, stop your retrieve and let the spinner bait fall down into the brush. Once the spinner bait hits or almost hits the bottom, you start your retrieve, and that’s usually when the bass will take the bait.

Another technique that works well when you’re fishing these brush piles is to slow roll the spinner bait around and through the brush pile. I’m fishing the spinner bait on the same 17-pound-test monofilament line I’ll fish my crankbaits with a Loomis 7-foot, 1-inch rod and a Quantum 7.0:1 gear-ratio reel. We used this tactic last week and caught 17 bass. Most of the Click to enlargebass were taking the spinner bait after we’d let it fall through the brush tops and then cranked it back up to the surface. None of the bass were hitting the spinner bait on the fall. All the bass were taking the bait when it came back up through the brush.

Question: Billy, what color blades are you using, and are you using a trailer hook?
Blakely: I’m fishing with one gold and one silver blade. The KVD spinner bait comes with a trailer hook and a Perfect Skirt, which hides the trailer hook. The trailer hook on this particular spinner bait with this type of skirt stays in line really well and doesn’t hang up as much as a trailer that flops around on the hook that’s in the spinner bait. Yes, you will hang up sometimes, but not nearly as often as you do with other spinner baits.

Question: What will happen if the water continues to fall at Reelfoot Lake?
Blakely: You’ll see more of those big stumps that were invisible before holding big bass. The bass will continue to move out to the deeper grass and lily pads, and more shad and bass will gang up in the mouths of ditches and creeks. The techniques I’ve discussed this week have been and will be effective until we get cooler weather and more water. Bass don’t die when you have a drought, and the lake shrinks. They justClick to enlarge move out to deeper cover, or they hold under those same logs, stumps and brush piles that were so deep you’ve never seen them before. You don’t move out of your house when the air conditioner breaks. You may have to run fans or get it fixed, but you still have to live in your home. Instead of staying in the upstairs bedroom, you may move down to the basement and sleep on the floor. Bass do the same thing. Droughts also will enable you to find new places to fish that you may never have seen or considered fishing before. If you mark the places you find with your GPS, you can fish them when the water rises.

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

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 5