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Finding a new way to catch busy bluegill

Published: Thursday, May 9, 2013 8:10 p.m. CDT

In most areas of the country, largemouth bass have either already spawned or are currently in the process of doing so. I know where we live in northern Illinois, the buck bass just moved up this week and have fanned out beds almost overnight.

I have been checking the lake in front of my house daily. It is interesting to see how things can change. During our drastic weather patterns, the bass would move up just to have cold weather push them back down again. This time, though, they are up and ready to proceed with this spring ritual.

The smaller, male largemouth have fanned out beds. They use their tails to push away soft silt, small weeds and other mushy debris from the bottom of the lake. All of the beds that I could see were clear circles with a pebble and rock base. They then hang-out near these beds waiting for the larger females to move up and use them.

It is during this time that the male fish are quite aggressive and will protect their nest from all kinds of critters that may be troublesome. This is aggressive nature is what anglers rely on to make catching these fish so much fun.

Most seasoned bass anglers have pursued bedding bass at some point in their fishing careers. I have caught countless bass off of the beds and traditionally soft plastics or jigs are the tool most often used.

Once a fish becomes “locked” onto the nest, they are easy to catch. A persistent angler can even coax a roaming fish to nab a lure if enough patience is employed.

As I walked down to my dock, I had one rod and a crankbait tied on. I had been fishing the day before out on the lake with this little crank and the spring bass love it, especially in the Fire Tiger color. That particular pattern does a great job of mimicking bluegill. Of course, around our parts, bluegills are a major food source for most predatory fish.

I noticed the beds around my dock and that there were some male bass watching over them. I was too lazy to walk all the way back to the garage and change lures, so I stuck with the crankbait. I realized that a crank is a most untraditional tool for tempting bedding bass to bite, but it was worth a shot.

I cast past the bed and tried a variety of retrieves — starting, stopping, jerking, reeling fast and slow. I soon saw that a quick reel-and-stop technique was getting the bass quite irritated. Even when it would swim away from the bed, it would quickly turn and watch that troublesome intruder.

The body language of the fish was clear. The fins were flicking, the eyes were intense, and the focus that largemouth had on that lure was impressive. It was not at all pleased with being disturbed. All of these things are good signs for the angler.

A couple of casts later, that thing had enough. It surged at the lure as it sat, slowly floating upward, and absolutely blasted it. Game on!

I moved to the next bed and had the same results. I was, shocked to be honest. I'm sure that there are others out there that have caught bedding bass on a crankbait inadvertently, but what about deliberately? I know it was a first for me. If I had the boat in the water, I am quite confident that I could have moved down the shoreline and repeated this sequence time and time again.

That is the great thing about fishing. You can always learn something new and grow as an angler.

Will this always work? Probably not, but if you are looking for a new challenge, try it out. I sure will keep it in mind when a finicky bass ignores traditional plastic offerings when guarding a bed.

As always when bed fishing, quickly unhook the fish and release it right back to the nest so it can keep guarding those eggs. Fishing for bedding fish is always a lot of fun, but we have to respect these fish and let them finish the spawn. Good luck.

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