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Shellcrackers on the Beds...Sooo Spooky! Need Help!

OK, looks like July 2, 2012 will go down as one of the all-time great panfishing days in history with a slew of high-end specimen of many species hitting the board tonight. Congratulations to all! Here's how my day went, the short version...

I hit a pond at about 3:30 pm that we had caught big red ears from in the past...had caught my previous PR there two springs ago. Saw some big fish bedding 2 weeks prior but could not get them to bite ANYTHING! The bluegill were still on bed, and the frequency of 10- inch fish made the live bait choice of worms/#8 Aberdeen hooks on 2 pound mono an easy choice for success.

Here's the problem...I spotted a pair of bedding red ears that I know were 12 inch, or better, class fish. I stayed back from the waters edge, made gentle casts with the half-nightcrawler presentation and tried to stitch them through the bedding areas, like Fish Chris does in his California lakes. The fish would come in and inspect the worm, turn away, come back again, nose up to the bait, then just hover above it or cruise off. Slight movements of the worm often resulted in the 'crackers bolting off and leaving a cloud of sediment that would disapate in a few minutes. I worked on those two individual fish for 1 hr and 45 minutes without so much as a strike from either one. During that frustrating time, I would occassionally cast out beyond the bedding areas, slightly deeper, and hookup with quality bluegills from 9 to 10.5 inches. I managed 15 of those and a couple of 1.5 lb largemouths. But no redears.

 Each time I caught a fish, I would work it down and away from the rest of the bedding fish and release them several yards away from the area as well. I would bait up wait several minutes, then ease back in position to coax the 'crackers.

This is the area that had the spawners, and they were easy to spot with cheapo-polaroids. I was working a worm near one of the redears when another shellcracker literally came from nowhere and nailed the worm, and I set the hook immediately to a screaming drag on two-pound test! Great fight, and the result was this Personal best of nearly 12 inches long...

Believe it or not this redear was smaller than the two that had eluded me all afternoon, and just got me pumped up to catch the larger fish. But, it didn't happen, but still, a PR is a PR, and always makes for a great day fishing regardless of specie or size.

I have seen spawning red ears in the past just inch up to a worm, quickly inhale it and expel it in an instant out side of their bed. I need help...I think I am going to try whole garden worms or redworms rather than the half-nightcrawler option.

Any suggestions to capitalize on these great fish would surely be appreciated! Thanks!

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Comment by Jim Gronaw on July 8, 2012 at 10:32am

Great job, Jacob! I think I have to use smaller, livelier worms that will not get mushy as soon as I put them on the hook. S'pose to cool down this week, and that might give me a better chance if I can separate the gills from the reds...bluegills might backoff into deeper water.

Comment by JBplusThuy on July 7, 2012 at 9:07pm

FWIW, my personal best redear came on a whole nightcrawler, so that could be worth a try. Maybe also try some of Leo's Lunker Loogey (a bit of work, and the worm has to be dry to stick to the Loogey) but it sounds like you're up against it. Maybe conditioning them a la Nightcrawler Secrets might also help. For quick conditioning, I've read (but not tried) that you can drop the crawlers in a cup of ice water  a few minutes before using them.

Comment by dick tabbert on July 7, 2012 at 7:57pm

Good going Jacob Linder Hill. Putting it together made it productive for you and some learned something in the process.

Comment by Jacob Hill on July 7, 2012 at 7:44pm

Thanks for all the help guys. I actually made a suggestion on Tuesday but as I proved to myself a weightless worm as suggested earlier in the discussion. I picked up the biggest, best redworms I have ever come across at a bait shop that just opened up near my house. The nightcrawlers quickly become mushy in this hot sun. I iced my redworms down to keep them lively and put them all together in a big plastic container. They stayed extremely lively and just danced in front of the redear. The redear were isolated from the aggressive gills by thick weeds and ate a dancing redworm. They were timid, but they ate it. Thanks for everything again.

Comment by Jim Gronaw on July 5, 2012 at 3:35pm

Thanks guys...this has all been great information!

Comment by Troy Dorman on July 5, 2012 at 12:54pm

My experiences with redear are that I just keep learning more and more about them. They are a very stealthy, elusive fish and smarter than a bluegill. They like ACTIVE REDWORMS and are VERY picky, hence they're a difficult fish to pattern and catch on a consistent basis. Some of us can't back down from a really good challenge and redear are my calling. I've started to fish 100% of my time for crackers, they're just an amazing fish that's not only smart but tough as a street fighter. In many lakes around here, bluegill are smallish and you just can't get much meat off of them so the natural choice becomes a shellcracker. These crackers will generally top out at 11inches in Southern Indiana but even the 9 inch class fish produce good fillets. There's a limited number of 12in+ crackers around my home base but they're smart and hard to catch. Even when hooked they're strong enough to ruin your day by popping the line or breaking the hook.

I'm fixing on driving down the road to Barkley Lake/Kentucky Lake for some serious cracker action. I'm thinking of going in September or October and targeting large flats in the 10-12 foot depth range. Also will target mouths of bays, they seem to like those too. Look at Rick Gamblin's picture on this site for a quick peek at Barkley Lake crackers...


Comment by jim cosgrove on July 5, 2012 at 9:31am

had the same problem this spring my self,giant redears bedding amongst the gills.gills would hit anything thrown close ,the redears would not even look at any thing.well at least you know where they are and can hopefully get later on.

Comment by Vince Fusco on July 4, 2012 at 10:16am

You are right on the money Tony about the Georgia Jumpers.  I have raked back leaves in my woods and find them there. I wish I could mail you some, Jim. I just don't think they would make it in this heat. 

Comment by Jim Gronaw on July 4, 2012 at 7:07am

Awww maannn! Tony's runnin' off when I need him the most!

Just kiddin! Hey , the early morning gig might be it, although I did take some extra steps to stay concealed, just have to do better.

Comment by Tony Livingston on July 4, 2012 at 7:04am

Matter-of-fact..... I think I've convinced myself to hit the water for a few minutes!

Good luck all!!

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