With an estimated 80 percent of the population living within 10 miles of a bass pond, it is a lot more economical to fish locally and spend less money on gas and less time on the road…
I had an hour free before I had to head to work and the spring-fed waters of the cool green fishing pond looked too tempting to resist. Grabbing a spinning rig from the truck, I arched out a small grub on 8-pound fishing line, waited for it to drop a few feet, and then slowly cranked the reel handle.
A solid take thumped up the thin graphite rod and a bass responded to the sting of the hook by wallowing deep, then arching clear of the water in a spectacular water-spraying leap. Working the plump 4-pound fish in, I twisted the lure free and watched as it swam back into the depths.
A 3-pound bass topped off the session, just as my allotted hour elapsed. Shaking my head in awe at the action I’d just enjoyed, I stashed the rod away and reluctantly headed back to work.
That experience in a nutshell sums up some of the appeal of pond fishing. Lots of action, no other anglers on the water to compete with, and a location so accessible that you could slip in a quick hour’s fishing without making a major day-long event out of it, like most major big-lake destinations require.
Ponds have always been my favorite type of water for largemouth fishing. And I also enjoy the panfish that are a common bonus. More and more anglers are finding that these waters offer some of the best bass sport in America. There are no long drives to reach the water, no waiting in line to launch boats.
It’s a more low-keyed type of fishing. The only competition is between you and the bass. You’ll find peace, solitude and a relaxed atmosphere on ponds. If any boats are used, they’ll be small ones you scull gently with a paddle or propel with a quiet electric motor.
Use a small boat or float tube to
maneuver around in large ponds.
With an estimated 3 million ponds scattered across the country, these small waters are also extremely convenient to fish. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife service estimates that 80 percent of the population lives within 10 miles of a bass pond. Instead of spending half of your fishing trip on the road, you can devote more time to actually fishing and save on gas expenses. And as I found out in the scene described earlier, if you’re pressed for time fishing ponds are great for a half-day session or even just an hour or two on the water.
But action is also a main attraction of ponds. A North Carolina survey found that farm pond anglers take twice as many bass per hour as fishermen on big lakes. And not just little ones. A good pond can produce huge bass. Ohio, Maryland, Kansas and Louisiana are among states that have had current or former state record bass caught from ponds.
Not all ponds offer good bass fishing but with a little trial and error experimenting and investigative work you can gradually uncover a handful of ponds within short driving distance. Then plan on dividing your time between them so you don’t over-pressure any of them.
Study topos, aerial photographs and Google Earth. Also try simply driving down back country roads searching. Try to locate ponds that are not easily visible from the road or ones that require a walk to reach. These are likely to offer the best fishing.
Now the fun part begins: enjoying the fishing you’ve found. Fortunately, due to their confined size, you’ve already overcome one of the major hurdles of fishing big lakes. The fish are basically located for you. When you work a pond thoroughly and methodically, you know you’re putting your lures in front of fish.
Bass Pro Shops Uncle Bucks Pond
Prowler Fishing Boat (trailer not included)
Whenever possible, fishing a pond entirely from shore is best. This is the easiest and most convenient approach. It also lets you probe the water with the least disturbance. This is particularly important when the pond is less than an acre, since the bass in these tiny waters can be very skittish.
For larger ponds, several fishing options are available. Wading can be productive if you move slowly and avoid creating fish-disturbing wakes. Just make sure the pond bottom is firm enough. Float tubes are useful in deep ponds of several acres or more. Small one or two man mini-bassboats like the Bass Pro Shops Uncle Bucks Pond Prowler II Fishing Boat, jon boats, canoes, kayaks or inflatable rafts are other good options powered with either oars, boat paddles or electric trolling motors.
Bass Pro Shops XPS Hyper Braid 8
Because of the small quarters they inhabit and the clarity of the water, pond bass tend to be skittish. Light tackle is usually best. An ideal pond fishing rod and reel outfit would consist of a medium weight spin or baitcast fishing rod of 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 feet.
Example: Bass Pro Shops Graphite Series Spinning Rods or the Bass Pro Shops Crankin’ Stick Split-Grip EVA Casting rod.
Also a good fishing reel spooled with 6-12 pound monofilament fishing line like Stren’s Original Monofilament Fishing Line or 8-30 pound braided fishing line, depending on the size bass present and amount of cover.
Fishing big impoundments can teach you bad habits that will reduce your catch if you carry them over to pond fishing. To succeed on small waters, you must behave more like a trout fisherman than a big water basser. Wear camouflage or drab-colored clothing, walk softly and keep a low profile.
Lure choice will vary with the depth and
size of the pond you’re fishing.
Basically it helps to divide ponds into three water levels: shallow, medium and deep. The shallows are typically in the upper end of the pond or feeder arms. These range from inches to 3 or 4 feet deep. The medium depth levels are in the mid-pond sections. The deepest levels are found downstream in the lower third of the pond in front of the dam.
From late spring through fall, probe the shallowest waters right at dawn. Move to the middle depths after about 8 or 9 a.m. and fish there until close to noon as light intensifies. From around lunch time through late afternoon, switch to the deepest waters near the dam. Keeping this guideline in mind helps put you on the most productive part of the pond at the most appropriate time. (In winter, reverse this strategy. Fish the deep end first, moving to the thin water late in the morning and afternoon as the sun warms this area.)
The main key to successful pond fishing is to be methodical. Leave no potentially bass-holding spot un-probed, and use a variety of retrieves from fast to plodding, erratic to smooth.
Lure choice will vary. As a rule, select lighter, more compact lures than you would for big impoundments, because of the skittishness of the bass and the smaller, often clearer environment they live in. Here are some proven choices.
Bass Pro Shops XTS Pencil Plug
1. Topwater Lures. These lures are fun to fish on ponds, but it’s usually best to reserve them for waters at least an acre or more in size. Topwater lure action can be too loud and obtrusive to use on tiny ponds, and may spook fish in those situations. Use smaller sizes available of propeller plugs like the Tiny Torpedo, wobblers like the Arbogast jitterbug, stickbaits such as the Zara Pooch or Puppy, and chuggers like the Pop-R. Keep the lure movements as subtle as possible, working them with slight twitches and quiet, steady retrieves.
2. Thin-Minnow Plugs. These are the most versatile lures for ponds Try twitching minnow plug lures like the Bass Pro Shops XTS Pencil Plug lure on top, jerking them deeper in a stop-and-go bobbing retrieve, and crank them in slowly and steadily so they form a distinct V-wake on the surface. Best sizes for ponds are 3-5 inches, with silver sides and a black back the most reliable color.
3. Shallow-to-Medium Crankbaits. Deep-diving crankbaits often hang up in ponds, but small shallow and medium-divers can be effective. Go with bluegill, crayfish or shiner finishes to mimic the main forage for bass in most small water and choose models with tight, subtle wiggles, rather than wide, wobbling actions.
4. Spinners. I use both small spinnerbaits and in-line spinners such as the Mepps for pond bass. Unless you’re fishing larger 3- to 10-acre ponds, stick with small one-eighth and one-quarter ounce spinnerbaits, since the larger ones can spook fish. In-line spinners can be even more effective at times because of their compact silhouette and subtle action.
Zoom Shakey Tail – 6 inch plastic soft
5. Weedless Spoons. Offerings such as the Johnson Silver Minnow Spoon fishing lure, and other weedless spoons can be excellent pond offerings, particularly where brush, snags and weeds are prevalent. Silver, gold and black are the top colors. Fish these with a slow to medium retrieve, dressed with a small pork or plastic twister tail.
6. Plastic Worms and Crayfish. Rigged Texas-style or in double-hook models, 4-6 inch plastic fishing worms like the Zoom Shakey Tail – 6 inch plastic soft bait can be deadly on pond bass. And in spring, crayfish versions are superb. They enter the water with a light plop that doesn’t spook fish and have a subtle, slinking action that can fool even the heaviest bass. Most of your largest pond bass will likely come on these offerings. Black, blue, green, purple and brown are top colors. The standard bottom-hopping retrieve is often best, but don’t get stuck in a rut. Try medium swimming retrieves with a split-shot crimped a foot head of the worm or slither the lure across the surface with no weight if bottom dredging doesn’t produce. Be creative.
7. Grubs. These are the ultimate day-savers for pond fishing. If all else fails, grubs like Bass Pro Shops Spring Grub soft plastic fishing lure rigged on light lead-heads, or Carolina-style 2-3 feet behind a fishing slip sinker and swivel are the lures to tie on. Motor oil, smoke, pumpkinseed, lime, purple, black and firecracker are the prime lure colors for fishing in ponds. The best size is 2-3 inches. Their compact size and subtle action make fishing with plastic grubs a great choice on finicky fish following a cold front, or when the usual collection of pond lures doesn’t produce.
Bass Pro Shops Spring Soft Plastic
The edge of the pond shoreline is the best place to look for bass.
At first look, ponds may appear featureless and uniform. But as you study and fish them, you’ll realize there is quite a bit of cover that bass relate to. Even though some ponds may be small enough for you to simply fish all of the water, areas with structure demand extra attention.
1. Edge of shoreline. This is the place to start. Bass will often hold there if it’snot too shallow. This is particularly good cover late the day, at night during hot weather and during midday in late winter and spring. The bank provides structure, and food often tumbles in from land.
2. Water near the dam. This is an attractive spot for bass because it is normally the deepest part of the pond. Also look for standpipes that drain surplus water. These offer bass great spots where they can hide and pick off unwary baitfish finning by.
3. Inlets. If a pond was created by damming a creek, the inlet where the current washes in is a great spot to hold bass. The cool current attracts them and minnows and insects are found there.
4. Dropoffs. Even just a foot or two of sharp change in depth can hold bass in a pond.
5. Trees and brush. A tree branch overhanging the edge of a pond provides shade and cover as well as food when insects tumble off into the water. Brush in the water is a great spot for minnows to hang out near and bass that want to gobble those baitfish.
6. Rocks and logs. Any structure such as this will hold crayfish, baitfish and insects and attract bass for the security structure it offers.
7. Weeds. Any vegetation such as lily pads, milfoil, bulrushes, arrowhead or cattails is a magnet for bass in ponds.
8. Points. These are favorite targets on big bass lakes, but they can also hold bass in ponds because of the change in underwater topography and structure they offer.