"The worst thing you could do in here is run the trolling motor," quipped Grenada bream expert Brad Kilgore as he sculled with one hand and flipped his cork back into the hole from which he had just snatched a feisty hand-sized bream.

By maneuvering his boat the old-fashioned way, using a short oar to hold it in position, Kilgore was able to land the cork in the still-widening ripples that the last fish had made upon its exit. Just like the last dozen or so times before, the cork hit the water, paused, then suddenly sank from view as if it had been tied to a brick. Kilgore hoisted back his long jigging pole, and swung a carbon copy of the last fish to his grasp.

Very few fishing idioms are as widely held and undeniably truer than fishing for bream during the full moon. For generations on end, grandpas passed along to their grandsons the simple wisdom that bream bed on the first full moon in May. Another simple aspect of grandpa's fishing lore is that the same tackle, tactics and approach that supplied him with plenty of fresh bream fillets still work just as well today.

"The hardest part about catching bream this time of year is finding them," said Kilgore. "I may spend a good half a day checking out possible locations before I come across bedding fish."

Unlike reservoirs, even Mississippi's flood-control reservoirs, fluctuations in the level of the Mississippi River have profound effects upon the water levels, and subsequently the quality of fishing, in oxbow lakes. One standard in common found in the majority of oxbows is that the inside bends of the lakes typically host the best habitat for bedding bream.

"I much prefer to have the water level about 3 to 4 feet above the original bank," Kilgore said. "That puts 2 to 3 feet of water up in the cypress and willow trees, and makes it easier to locate bedding fish.

"If the water is too high, there can be acres and acres of places for fish to bed, and if it's too low, there's not enough shallow bottom."

Kilgore starts his bream-fishing forays the week before the first
full moon in May. This is the time when males infiltrate the shallows and begin seeking out and creating nesting sites. Bream prefer hard bottoms for nesting, even if that hard bottom is covered with several inches of mud.

To get to the hard bottom, male bream will fan the bottom with their tails, and create a saucer-shaped nest. Although this can be accomplished in open water, as in the case of low water levels, bream feel much safer and more secure hiding their nests around structure. In oxbow lakes, this structure is most commonly in the form of willow and cypress trees.

"It's hard to look at the surroundings and determine where bream will bed," said Kilgore. "Unlike crappie, they don't relate to bottom depth changes like ditches and creeks."

The bream fishing rig is simple. A long, ultralight jig pole or bream pole is rigged with a No. 6 hook, split shot weight and topped off with a toothpick cork. No action or retrieve is needed; simply drop the rig into the bed and wait for the cork to go under or slip off to the side. When the action is hot, the cork may not sit on the surface for more than a second or two.

When he's not traveling on national crappie tournament circuits, Whitey Outlaw relaxes by fishing for bream. He's fished all over the country, and has a knack for finding bream beds in even unfamiliar waters. He just follows his nose.

"I start looking for bream on the beds the week before the full moon," he said. "Bream will go to fanning their beds, and when they do, they stink. You can smell them from 100 yards away. That fanning will also cause bubbles in the water. When I'm in an area I think bream would bed in, I'll approach with the wind in my face so I can smell them, and I'll look for bubbles or fish popping on the surface."

Like Kilgore, Outlaw is not a fan of using trolling motors for bream fishing. He fishes from a 14-foot jonboat, and when he gets in the vicinity of where he may find bream beds, he gets out the paddle and sculls.

Outlaw finds bream on the beds during the full moon and then again on the new moon. He concurs that for a few days between these cycles, bream show a tendency to pull off the beds and hold in a little deeper water, but they're back a couple of days prior to the new moon, and will repeat that cycle up to three times over the course of the summer.

Outlaw points out that the No. 1 factor for bream to bed is a hard bottom. Second is cover. He doesn't have much success around live cypress trees, finding instead that dead trees, stumps and fallen limbs have better appeal to spawning bluegills.

"I'll paddle into a swampy looking area, and if there's a stand of dead trees or a blowdown tree that's dead in the water, I'll ease over and probe the bottom with my rod," he said. "If I feel a hard sand, gravel or clay bottom, it's a pretty good bet there'll be some beds around it.

"I'll tell you something else: The best early spring bait is a catawba worm that comes off of a catawba tree. You can even order them online nowadays. Next best is a swamp worm we call bluebait. It's about the size of a small nightcrawlers. We go into a swampy area and look under some logs or dig them out.

"But they only work when the water is still a little cool. Once the water gets hot, in the upper 70s and low 80s, I don't use anything but crickets."