Entire industries have been built around catering to those among us who want to experience the finer things in life. There are even television shows dedicated to the good life. Many equate fine living with five-star restaurants, aged wine and luxury cars.

There are the simple among us, though, who realize that a plate full of cornbread and field peas fills us up more than the diminutive proportions we get at those restaurants, that a fresh beer tastes better than old grape juice, and that a pickup truck will get you from point A to point B just as reliably as an overpriced sedan.

In fact, some might claim the really fine life to be sliding an old aluminum boat into the back of that pickup so they can go catch a mess of bream, which they will later expertly pair with the cornbread, field peas and cold beer. For some, the simple life is the fine life.

And there is no better place to experience this laid-back lifestyle than in North Mississippi, where the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks' lakes are full of fat bream.

Todd Buskirk has been living the fine life since he was just 8 years old. This Tupelo businessman can vividly recall his first fishing trips with his dad. They almost always went after bream to the point that nothing could stop them from bringing home the main ingredient for the night's supper.

"I can remember seeing lightning flash across the sky," Buskirk said, "but my dad would always tell me that lightning was a long way away. We would continue to sit there and pull in the bream. I wouldn't do it today, but it didn't matter to me at all back then."

Through these early trips with his dad, Buskirk developed a love of eating bream that, by his own admission, wasn't that hard to achieve.

"I love crappie, and they're the best-eating fish as far as I'm concerned," he said, "but the big bream up here in North Mississippi are quality eating - it's good stuff. I skin mine, and fry them whole. I've got four kids, so I cut lines around the rib cages and tell them to eat above those lines. They are outstanding."

Buskirk doesn't have to drive far these days to experience this fine living as there are several MDWFP lakes near Tupelo that offer exceptional bream fishing. And a short drive toward the west will not only keep him in North Mississippi, it will keep him neck-deep in bream.

MDWFP districts 1 and 2 make up much of the northern part of Mississippi. Based upon professional opinion and history, districts 1 and 2 have four of the best bream fishing lakes in the state.

Lamar Bruce and Trace State Park are the finest in District 1. District 2 is home to Lakeview/Horn and Tunica Cutoff. Bream aficionados would be hard pressed to find any better fishing in North Mississippi.

District 1

The two lakes in Northeast Mississippi are historically some of the best public water bodies in the state for bream, according to District 1 biologist Larry Pugh. Both lakes are within just a few miles of Tupelo, and although they can be cyclic in terms of which is better in any given year, Pugh said there are few differences in the lakes other than size.

"Trace is larger than Lamar Bruce, but they are both managed the same way," he explained. "They are both fertilized, and there is a lot of misconception about fertilization, but this is really what gets the food chain started."

Fertilizing Lamar Bruce and Trace State Park created a plankton bloom, which starts with phytoplankton - the basis of the food chain. Zooplankton feeds on phytoplankton, and guess what juvenile bream have to feed on? They eat the zooplankton. This management practice is what gets juvenile bream recruited to catchable sizes.

Perhaps the misconceptions come from the fact that bream fishing turns off for a couple days after the process. Buskirk has experienced this shut down after fertilization, but he said it quickly rebounds to normal fishing.

"Whatever they're doing, it works," he said. "Both these lakes are well managed, and the bream get pretty big. I saw in the paper recently somebody caught 52 that weighed 28 pounds. There have certainly been bigger stringers caught, but that's a good example of what can come from these lakes. In fact, I believe some new state records are swimming around in these two lakes. It's just a matter of finding them."

Lamar Bruce and Trace State Park also are what Pugh called "bass crowded." This term simply means that they have a lot of bass in the 3/4- to 2-pound range. Anytime a lake has an abundance of bass that size, the predator is going to crop off those intermediate bluegills, and the ones that don't get eaten grow really well.

Other than size - Lamar Bruce is 300 acres and Trace State Park is 565 acres - there are a few other subtle differences between the lakes that anglers might want to know. For instance, Trace State Park has produced better redears over the years than Lamar Bruce, which has produced better bluegills.

"Another difference is that we have managed Lamar Bruce more for bank-bound anglers," Pugh said. "It has three good fishing piers that we have enhanced with some gravel beds. There is some bank access at Trace, but Lamar Bruce would be the better choice because there is more access there."

Bream fishing techniques at both lakes are fairly similar. From January through March, Pugh estimated that about 90 percent of the anglers tightline mealworms in deep water before the fish get on the beds.

"These anglers have gotten good at using their electronics, and they are fishing the deeper flats and ditches that are near the bedding areas," Pugh explained. "They catch some really huge prespawn bream, especially bluegill, that way. I don't know what you would call a huge bluegill, but anything over a half a pound is a pretty good bluegill."

After the bream move on to their beds by the middle to the end of April, finding them gets a little bit easier, but Buskirk said it's important for anglers to stick with deeper water than what they might like to fish.

"Once they start bedding, you might find a few up next to the bank," Buskirk said, "but it's not unusual on these lakes to find them bedding in 4 to 8 feet of water. The redears may spawn a little shallower than that, but the lake is clear enough that they don't stay up there shallow for long. They go in and out."

To find concentrations of bream, Buskirk recommended fishing crickets or mealworms around the points in that 4- to 8-foot zone. Go from point to point and try around the creek channels if the points don't work. Fish slowly, and keep the cricket near the bottom under a cork, and you'll eventually find some fish.

One technique that is popular across North Mississippi that works especially well when fish are bedding in deeper water is to roll-cast a cork and cricket with a fly rod. This technique is similar to a roll-cast with a fly, but it's a little more difficult to execute because of the distance between the cork and cricket.

"You pull the cricket up to the surface and basically roll your arm and shoulders to pull off the cast," Buskirk explained. "You've got to get the bait skimming across the water, then you roll it over. This allows you to fish about 18 feet out in front of you, which means the bream will see your bait before you spook them off the beds."

District 2

This district used to have three premier bream fishing lakes, but Flower Lake had to be removed from consideration because the only public ramp has been removed, and the MDWFP no longer has public access to the lake.

Now Horn Lake, also known as Lakeview, and Tunica Cutoff are the best bream lakes in the region. Both differ greatly from the District 1 all-stars in that these lakes are connected to the Mississippi River.

"Lakeview straddles the Mississippi and Tennessee line," said District 2 biologist Keith Meals. "It's pretty much three lakes in one that are connected by some shallow channels. You've got the main lake, Mud Lake and Cocklebur Lake, which you can only get into when the water level is fairly high."

Being that Lakeview is basically in the lap of Memphis, this 1,200-acre lake does receive a lot of pressure. It remains a good bream lake, though, and the average fish pushes a half-pound, and there are good numbers of bream, too.

"This is a very fertile oxbow," Meals said. "It does have a connection to the Mississippi River, and the water level is manipulated via gates through the run out. I think because of the connection to the river, we've gotten the Asian carp in it recently. We'll have to keep an eye out for what effect they'll have on bream fishing."

Meals said the primary species in Lakeview is bluegill. There are some redears, an occasional warmouth and some green sunfish and even long-ears, which locals call "pretty things."

"The lake is lined with large cypress trees all the way around it," Meals said. "It just has some excellent shoreline habitats, and there are some good sandy-bottomed areas if you can find them. They're plentiful enough, though. If you can find that good cover with a sandy bottom, you're in business. There is little or no vegetation in the lake, though, except for one stand of pads. There is little submerged stuff, although we did have some get in last year."

Tunica Cutoff is known more for size than it is numbers, which have declined in recent years. This is still an excellent bream lake, though, and Meals believes it's one of the best late-season bream holes in the state.

"This lake has a direct connection to the Mississippi River, although the Memphis District Corps of Engineers did construct a weir back in 2002 so they could maintain a minimum lake level and full access to the lake," he said. "Because of the cold river water, the bream in Tunica spawn up to a full month later than other area waters. It's usually around Memorial Day near the end of May before they move in."

Spawning occurs earlier at Lakeview, and Meals said the fish would move on to the beds when the water temperature rose to between 75 and 80 degrees coincident with a full or new moon. This normally happens around the first part of May, but it could be as early as late April.

Meals said it's difficult to pinpoint exactly what has caused the yo-yoing bream fishing the last few years. It could be due to the lower water levels created by some drought years, or it could have something to do with the Asian carp. More than likely, it's some combination of the two coupled with some intense fishing pressure.

Techniques for both lakes are very similar, and they involve fishing crickets, red worms, and wax worms under a cork.

If there is a secret on either lake, Meals said it is to pay attention to whether the water is rising or falling.

"If the water is rising, you'll want to get shallow and head toward the bank," he said. "Fish the bank side of the trees in this case. On the other hand, if the water is dropping, you'll want to pull out to the deeper water in front of the cover and fish the deeper edges."

Anglers should keep in mind that Mississippi has a reciprocal license agreement with Arkansas on Tunica Lake, so anglers can fish anywhere in the lake with one license or the other. However, there is no reciprocal agreement between Mississippi and Tennessee. Therefore, anglers will need a Tennessee license if they're in Tennessee waters.

You may not see North Mississippi featured too many times on the Fine Living channel, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have some of the finer things in life. A tube of crickets, a carton of meal worms, a couple corks and a stringer full of fat bream - how could it get any finer than that?