Gill shares tips on 'Scoping during the spawn - Major League Fishing
Gill shares tips on ‘Scoping during the spawn
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Gill shares tips on ‘Scoping during the spawn

How the Mercury pro utilizes his 'electronic eyes' when bass are on beds
Image for Gill shares tips on ‘Scoping during the spawn
Bass Pro Tour rookie Drew Gill doesn't stop relying on his Garmin LiveScope when bass set up on spawning beds. Photo by Jody White. Angler: Drew Gill.
April 17, 2024 • Tyler Brinks • Bass Pro Tour

In his short time on the Bass Pro Tour, Mercury pro Drew Gill has made quite a name for himself thanks to his prowess with forward-facing sonar. The Illinois native has two Top-5 finishes in three BPT events already in his rookie year (plus a win on the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals at Lake Sam Rayburn).

Gill freely admits that he’s “All ‘Scope, all the time,” the latest (and most impressive) display being his massive 77-pound, 15-ounce Day 1 at PowerStop Brakes Stage Three Presented by Mercury on Dale Hollow Lake. While he caught most of his fish in the highland reservoir between 20 and 30 feet deep, he uses the technology in all situations and depths, not just in deep water.

Gill has also been utilizing his forward-facing sonar during the spawn for the past few years in shallow water. The FFS wunderkind shared some of his insight on targeting spawning bass with this exploding technology.

Keep it turned on

Gill is not the first or only angler to lean heavily and successfully on FFS in shallow-water-spawning situations – Florida pro Scott Martin’s early February BASS Open win on Lake Okeechobee demonstrated how effective the technique can be. In 2023, Gill also secured three top-three finishes in springtime Toyota Series and Tackle Warehouse Invitationals competition, his eyes on his LiveScope screen the whole time while many other anglers were peering through polarized sunglasses at the shallow water around them.

“I think most people shut off their electronics when they go shallow, but I think that’s a big mistake,” Gill asserted. “Using (FFS) is one of my favorite ways to fish around the spawn. I’ve caught many bed fish while watching my LiveScope.”

Gill’s reasoning is twofold: He believes it makes him more efficient, and it provides some much-needed space between his boat and sensitive, spawning bass.

“Having distance between you and the fish is so important so you don’t spook them and are out of their sphere of awareness,” he said. “If you can keep your boat past that 40-foot mark (away from the bed), or even further, you’ll catch more of those fish much quicker. Most of the bed fish I catch with (FFS) will bite in the first three or four casts. And it’s not complicated with baits: I like basic stuff like a Big Bite Baits Trick Stick.”

Drew Gill says using forward-facing sonar to catch bedding bass simply takes a bit of practice. Photo by Jody White.

‘Scoping out bedding fish

So, how does Gill do it? The most challenging aspect (as is the case with all FFS applications) is interpreting what you see on your LiveScope in shallow water, but Gill believes that anglers can catch on quickly with practice. Simply locate a bed fish with your eyes and then back up and see what it looks like on your screen.

“Generally speaking for shallow water, I like the screen cramped in quite a bit and not out 100 or 110 feet as I do offshore,” he said. “Instead, I’ll have it at 50 or 55 feet out, and the bottom will be set at 14 or 15 feet. If it’s set too deep, the returns won’t show up as well, and it’ll look like a rock on the bottom. With practice, you can see those glimmers that show something is living. When you know a fish is there because you saw it on a bed, it’s a great way to practice and get a feel for what you see on your screen.”

Gill also uses a large swimbait to help locate those sneaky beds. The big swimmer has been an effective practice tool for anglers for years, but it’s extra helpful around the spawn.

“Those fish will come off the bed and show themselves as they follow the swimbait,” Gill said. “You’ll watch them follow it about 10 feet and then go back (to the bed), and you’ll know it was a bed fish and can come back and catch it later.”

Reading what your FFS screen is showing you is a key to success when targeting fish on beds. Photo by Garrick Dixon

Forward or perspective mode?

Each electronics brand has different terminology for this, but all offer the option of seeing in front of the boat in two different modes. Gill prefers the standard forward view for targeting spawners.

“Perspective is a good tool when you’re getting used to the shallow water LiveScope because it gives you a top-down view,” he said. “But, if you want to get a better look at how the fish react to your bait, the forward mode will give you a much better view of what’s happening and allow you to see the short movements of the fish. You can read their behavior and see changes on your screen when a fish is either nosed down on your bait or flat. Those sharp changes in your return are when the fish is excited and aggressive.”

Forward-facing sonar continues to make waves in the fishing world, and it’s now officially a year-round approach. Those who’ve embraced it fully, like Gill, continue to find ways to use it in all situations and seasons.