Bluegills and Redears

Rick Bramwell

bluegills and redears

Bluegills and Redear Fishing

Wild Goose Chase

I haven’t been on a wild goose chase in quite a while but I was on a dinger early. It actually began last spring about May 26. James Lasswell sent me photos of big redears he and his partner had caught while practicing for a crappie tournament on the Ohio River. Actually, it was a little creek feeding the Ohio River. All the redears came from a shallow point and a backwater slough behind the point.

James even sent me a Google Earth photo of the point so I would recognize it. A couple of my buddies were not up for this 200 miles adventure so I went myself. As I launched two anglers were leaving with five small crappie and three dink bluegills. The water had a lot of color to it and the point was further upstream than anticipated. Would my lawnmower battery provide enough power there and back bucking a strong north wind?

redear fishing

From 200 miles away, Lasswell was guiding me on the phone. “One more bend and you will see it,” he said. I fan-casted the entire area without a strike. I must have been a week early because they were not there. And, no other anglers were on the river. With the battery losing power, it was a slow trip back to the ramp. Tim Cates said, “I have a friend in the area if you don’t make it” I made it but my problems were not over. It was quite a chore on a steep ramp to load my 150 lb. pond prowler in the back of my pickup.

Tonight, I’m staying in a fleabag motel in Tell City. If my boat is still in the back of my truck. I plan to fish Indian Lake in the Hoosier National Forest. I might as well run down another dream in pursuit of the very elusive redear sunfish. One thing I learned is Highway 66 is the least traveled road in Indiana. It is a beautiful scenic view that gives glimpses of the Ohio River.I also discovered there is another Sulfur Springs besides the one in Henry County, but with no Iron Kettle.

I stopped at Levenworth’s Stephenson Hardware. There is a fancy restaurant that overlooks the river. Friendly people. A guy my age asked to join me. I learned that we knew some of the same people in the DNR and an old writing friend from the area. I spent the night at a discount motel in Tell City. All the rooms came with shopping carts, but I got a good night’s sleep. 

Tuesday morning, I headed north on the second leg of my trip. My destination was Indian and Celina Lakes just off Highway 37. Indian was drawn down for repairs so I launched my Pond Prowler II on Celina. A confidant told me the exact spot at the far end of the lake. Many were fishing, but none were catching. The redear on the nest was small and not interested. Part of the problem was the gin-clear water. The other was weeds. The best way to fish here is with live worms and a slip bobber. My cast and retrieve jigs approach was out. I soon left that beautiful area and headed for Spencer. I negotiated a U-turn in the middle of the highway when I saw a “Fresh Strawberries” sign.

At the cabin in Spencer, I put the battery on charge and took a nap. Joshua Pedroza and I were catching bass, crappie, and big bluegill three hours later. However, because of an algae problem, much of the lake was unfishable. 

My trip was salvaged, as far as the fishing was concerned. It was also a great adventure with the bonus being finding field ripe strawberries.

Bluegills and Redears

Monday evening found me fishing for bluegills and shellcrackers on the banks of a local pond. The water was clear enough for me to see big grass carp working the shallows. Some of the swirls could have been bass but this hole is not known for lunkers. However, this day showed me a couple of things, I’ve never seen before. Check out the Hairy Cricket Jig. Bluegills and Redear Shellcrackers love them.

bluegill jigs
Bluegill jigs The Hairy Cricket Jig

I should have retied my line to the hook-snap, but I didn’t. A few decent bluegills were followed by a strong fish that I knew, by the fight, was a big shellcracker (redear). It was a fish not to be seen-my line broke.

I tied on a new snap and clipped a black/white Muey jig to it. A few casts later something hit my weighted bobber which was only set about a foot deep. I landed a big sunfish, but the hook was dangling outside its mouth. My hook-set had driven the open end of the little snap into the fish’s mouth.

On an ensuing cast, something big hit my bobber again. This time I twitched the jig and the fish hit it. A big something, bass or grass carp, definitely not a bluegill or redear, rolled and broke my line.

As I walked further along the shore, a bullfrog made two leaps towards water landing in a waiting bass’ mouth. I think the bass was watching another frog along the edge and was in the right place at the most opportune time.


I’ll be hanging my tree stand in a new woods this year. I met a farmer at Cabela’s who agreed to let me hunt after receiving some sage fishing advice. His property is in Rush County.

The Deer Reduction Zone season opens September 15, 2019. Get the details, maps, and videos at

This month brings forth many seasons:

Snipe: Sept. 1 – Dec. 16
Sora: Sept. 1 – Nov. 9
Early teal: Sept. 14 – 29
Dove: Sept. 1 – Oct. 20
Canada geese (all zones): Sept. 14 – 22
Deer reduction zone: Sept. 15 – Jan. 31, 2020
Youth deer: Sept. 28 – 29
Deer archery season: Oct. 1 – Jan. 5, 2020

There has already been a deer hunting accident. Hunters are out scouting and putting up tree stands. One Indiana man was hospitalized when a strap broke. He was fortunate someone was with him when the mishap occurred.

Check your equipment. Falling from trees is the number one hunting accident. Hunting from the ground is much safer, but I still like the comfort of a ladder stand and the versatility of a climber.

I get a number of hunting-related emails with a recent one shining a light on a big mistake, I’ve been making.

I have been hanging camo-colored trail cams on the edge of trees along deer trails. It should have been obvious with the photos and videos of deer noticing, licking and jumping away from that I was not fooling the herd, especially, the mature deer.

Two years ago, I proudly showed friends a photo of a big buck. It was the only one. He never came back.

This season, I will hang the cams over my head and angle them down as was suggested in the story, I read.

When the dog days of summer set in, I tried to locate those big Geist Reservoir redear in deep water. I never did. A few small ones lingered in the shallows, but the big ones had moved or wouldn’t bite.
Steve Jett and I gave them a try last Thursday over a morning water temperature of 68 degrees. It did not take long to find them right off the bank.
Normally, I do best with a small plastic grub on a 1/32 nd. Oz. jig. This day, Steve was putting a hurting on me with a 1/16th oz. jig. It is rare that redear wants a faster fall but it worked on this day.
Our largest redear was 12-inches. We caught several from a school in the middle of a shallow bay. What we caught about 40 of were yellow bass. They were everywhere. Steve also caught a big crappie. The good fall bite is on.
A three-day regional bass fishing tournament was held last weekend on Geist. A heavy sack of five fish, the first two days, weighing well over 18-lbs and anchored by a five-pound plus fish were tops on the leader board. The overall winners on Sunday had over 19-lbs. With big bass a 5.74-lbs.

My Search For Big Shellcracker

I’m puzzled. Bass anglers are catching two-pound plus redear on 10” worms at Geist here in Indiana. I’m pretty sure the big ones are deep, but I and my buddies can’t find them. If you are bass fishing Geist and have caught even one of these big shellcrackers, I need some advice.

Let’s begin with depth, bays, main-lake point, secondary points, flats, up the creek, main lake, or drops. Are they in weeds or on wood?

I, Steve Jett, and 12-year-old Nash Joslin fished Geist early last week. We found plenty of eight-inchers in shallow water. They were right on the bank with some full of eggs. The young man had a good time and even caught a keeper bass.

A couple of days later Joe Jones and I concentrated on deep water. We even switched from jigs to drop-shooting live worms. Joe shared an in-depth article about fishing for redear. The writer said, “Redear seem to disappear in the summer.” He also said they will go as deep as 30-feet. All the videos on YouTube show these fish coming from shallow water. Is there a reason, I can find no videos of these finicky finned fish being cranked up from deep water?

I’ve read a couple of times that readers like to inspect a bait before they eat it. This could be true. The snails and clams they feed on cannot escape. Where I’ve gone wrong, I think, is these fish are super aggressive when they are nesting. I take advantage of that with small plastic grubs and jigs. I really do not like to fish live bait and when I do, I keep it moving.

Big Redears On 10 Inch Worm

An angler who has caught jumbo readers on 10” worms told me they seem to play with it. He keeps twitching it, in place, hoping the readers will get the attention of a big bass. Most of these anglers are using a 5/0 hook on these big worms. That is a mighty big hook for any panfish. One guy caught three over two pounds on a big worm from the same spot, last week. This tells me the big one’s school together.

My next lure to try is an eight-inch plastic worm pre-rigged with three small hooks. One bass fishing buddy told me his friend catches bass and redear on a Kelly Plough Jockey with the three-hook set-up. I should cruise around during the Tuesday evening bass tournament to find some good deep holes. The bass and readers seem to share some of the same habitats.

One thing for sure, if I can’t find the big shellcrackers in deep water, come late September they will move shallow again. Saturday evening, I finished my chores with about an hour of daylight left. I drove to a local pond that was turning over with patches of slimy algae on the surface & no wind. I was about to quit when I heard a bass roll in a shallow pocket about the diameter of a kitchen sink. My 10” red shad Gary Hardwick worm made a perfect soft landing weighted only with two bb split-shots. The big bass sucked it in and headed for deep water. I good hookset was needed because the hook had to go through the worm twice. The ribbon tail had folded over the hook. The three-pound plus bass made my day.

Finding The Big Redear On Geist Reservoir

About Rick Bramwell 38 Articles
Grew up in rural Indiana fishing farm ponds and hunting woodlands. Bramwell has been writing outdoors for 48 years. He harvested the record typical whitetail for his county and hunts rabbits with his beagle Tramp. He fished bass tournaments, including Red Man, until 1989. Bramwell has put together an ultra-ultra light system for catching panfish that mostly involves tight-lining a small jig. He attended college at Indiana State and Anderson University. Bramwell has two sons in their 50s, Brian and Gregory. A daughter Jourdan age 27. His greatest memory: fishing trout, salmon and halibut in Alaska. Bramwell's passion, apart from the outdoors, has been coaching high school age fastpitch softball.