KEVIN VANDAM: Deep Bream Beds are the Coral Reefs of Freshwater - Major League Fishing
KEVIN VANDAM: Deep Bream Beds are the Coral Reefs of Freshwater
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KEVIN VANDAM: Deep Bream Beds are the Coral Reefs of Freshwater

Image for KEVIN VANDAM: Deep Bream Beds are the Coral Reefs of Freshwater
Deep bream beds are underwater ecosystems where bass flock in the dogs days of summer. Photo by Phoenix Moore. Angler: Kevin VanDam.
July 15, 2021 • Kevin VanDam • Angler Columns

Summer is upon us and the “dog days” are ahead. Unless you’re fishing for smallmouth in the northern part of the country, July and August are often considered to be the leaner times for bass fishing.

The postspawn frenzy is over, the “mega-schools” have broken up, water temperatures are reaching their highest points of the year and bass sort of scatter out and sulk. Indeed, finding reliable fishing patterns for the next couple of months can be a challenge. However, deep bream beds offer a good cure for the dog days of summer.

Fishing bream beds for bass is a well-known pattern during the late spring of the year. Bass will often run in wolf packs and raid shallow bream beds in 2 to 6 feet of water.  This is usually a visual pattern as anglers can see the bed aggregations, which look like large waffles under water.  Bass lurk on the deeper outskirts of the beds, working together to corral the bream to ambush them, making them an easy forage target.

Depending on where you live in the country, this pattern is good from April until about June. Years ago, we figured once we stopped seeing bream beds in the shallows, they were done in spawning for the year.

Oh, how wrong we were about that one!

Deep Beds Deep in Summer

Thanks to the amazing technologies of side imaging and Humminbird’s 360 imaging, we have since learned that different varieties of bream, including bluegills, spawn in deeper water – and deeper into the summer – that we once thought. In many states, bream will bed well into August and September. And I’ve seen bream beds as deep as 15 to 17 feet in the middle summer, far off the bank.

Deep “waffles” are the sunken treasures of catching bass in the dog days of summer. Those deep beds are like underwater ecosystems; I think of them as coral reefs in freshwater. Scanning around deep docks, piers and pilings are good places to start. Offshore places such as deep points, shoals, humps, flats or river bars in 10 to 20 feet are likely areas too. Having some kind of cover on those places is a big help: rock, shell, brush, scattered logs or laydowns all help make attractive bedding areas for bream.

Seeing a deep bream bed on Mega Imaging is quite the sight. Today’s electronics are so good that many times you can actually see the bream on their individual beds in the imaging.   

Hubs of Fish Activity

As with most freshwater fish, the moon plays an important role in the timing of the bream spawn. Full and new moons are the best times when bream beds are bustling with activity. But don’t think those are the only times to find and fish deep bream beds. Many times bream will use the same beds all summer long. They will just clean them out with each moon to start the process over.

For that reason, deep bream beds really are like a coral reef in the ocean attracting some kind of fish activity all the time. Once the bream are done spawning and the bream fry hatch, all kinds of other little fish come in to eat the fry, keeping its bass-attracting power up in between spawns. Bass know those bream beds are a reliable source of food all summer long so they will always be close by. Also, bream are likely to use the same bedding areas year after year, so I always mark them with a waypoint. 

Lure Options for Deep Beds

Some suggestions for summer bluegill bed lures include crankbaits, shaky heads, football jigs, wobble heads and Carolina rigs.

I always set up on a deep bream bed where I can see it on my Mega 360. The first bait I will usually try is a crankbait that will contact the bottom where the beds are. A Strike King 5XD in a Natural Bream color, grinding through the beds can fire up big bass lurking around the bed first.

After that, I’ll drag around with a 3/4-ounce Tour Grade football jig with a Rage Craw trailer in a blue craw with red flake. I’ll then show them a 3/4-ounce Tour Grade Tungsten Swinging Football Head Jig with a Rage Menace in the same blue craw red flake color.  Also, I’m not too proud to drag an old-school Carolina-rigged lizard through a deep bream bed. Sometimes the “weightless” presentation of the lizard hovering over the beds imitates bedding bream better than anything else.

If I’m dealing with clearer water where a more finesse-y approach is needed, I’ll go with a shaky head teamed with a Fat Baby Finesse Worm in blue craw with red flake. Dragging something slowly in and out of the individual craters, or beds, is what trips their trigger. Whatever you use, cast far beyond the bed complex, drag it through and then continue to drag your bait a good way out of the beds. Many times, bream eaters lurk on the outsides of the beds, waiting for a bluegill to get just a little too far from home base before engulfing it.

If your lake has become seemingly lifeless during the dog days of summer, try getting out in the 12- to 18-foot range and side-scanning for deeper bream beds to see if you can find a coral reef of fish life that others haven’t found.