Bluegill Rigs with Reelfoot Lake’s Billy Blakely

Boat Ramp Bluegills with Billy Blakely

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New Tricks for Bluegills

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John’s Note: Billy Blakely is the chief guide for Blue Bank Resort ( – 877-258-3226) on Reelfoot Lake in northwest Tennessee. From May through October, Reelfoot is one of the premier bluegill fishing lakes in the nation. Because he’s been fishing and guiding all his life, Blakely has assumed through the years that he knows where every bluegill bed on the lake is located until recently when technology drastically has changed his ability to find and take bluegills.

15 New Tricks for BluegillsI’ve been fishing for bluegills on Reelfoot Lake for 30 years, and I’ve developed techniques that I feel give my clients the best chances of catching bigger bluegills. As I’ve mentioned in Day 3, we’ve consistently caught more big bluegills fishing with crickets instead of worms. However, a couple of weeks ago I had Charlie Brewer, Jr., of Slider fame (   fishing with me, and he showed me a technique for catching bluegills that I wouldn’t have believed would produce bluegills on Reelfoot Lake. I would cast out a cricket and a cork onto a bluegill bed that I had found, and when I’d bring the fish to the boat, Mr. Brewer and his friend would cast 1/16- and 1/24-ounce jig heads with small grubs attached to them. They weren’t using any other type of tackle like bobbers, leads or hooks, and they’d swim those little jigs through the bluegill beds using this tight-line technique and reeling slowly. They kept the jigs just a few inches off the bottom and consistently caught as many if not more bluegills than I caught fishing with crickets and a slip cork. I was amazed at how many fish they caught! Before Mr. Brewer and his friend left Reelfoot, I made sure that he had given me one of those little Slider panfish kits with 1/16- and 1/24-ounce round jig heads and a wide assortment of little small rubber grubs that I could thread on to the hooks. Using those jigs was a fun way to catch bluegills. Although that was the first day I had tried swimming tiny grubs through bluegill beds, you can be sure that day won’t be the only day I fish those little Slider grubs through bluegill beds.

16 New Tricks for BluegillsHow to Make Bluegills Bite:

We’ve had an unusually cool spring on Reelfoot Lake in 2016. I don’t know why, but when the water temperature stays cool, the bluegills seem reluctant to bite. Although I can see them on their beds with my depth finder, when the bluegills are in their shut-mouth stage, I’ve learned if you aggravate them a little, they may start biting. When I cast my cricket over the bed, and my cork stands up, indicating the right depth, I’ll start twitching my rod tip to make the cricket look like it’s attempting to get away from a bluegill. Once I get one bluegill to bite, that fish will start running in all the other beds. I have learned that if I take that bluegill off the hook, re-bait with another live cricket and cast to where I’ve just caught the first bluegill, I’ll usually catch several more bluegills out of that same spot. The best we’ve ever done at Blue Bank Resort is catching over 300 bluegills off the same bed.

To learn more about bluegill fishing, go to, and click on his Kindle eBook and print book, “Reelfoot Lake: How to Fish for Crappie, Bass, Bluegills and Catfish & Hunt for Ducks.”

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