As the weather is warming up, more people are getting back on the water. The fish are also moving towards the flats, the shallower parts of a pond or lake. If you have been fishing around this time of the year, you would have noticed this too. But one thing that many people, not just beginners, get wrong is where to fish. Often people fish in the wrong places , or with the wrong baits. There is an old saying "90% of the fish are in 10% of the water". It sounds really cliche, but it's true.
Fish, including bass, seek cover for protection and food, as well as well oxygenated water to breathe in. Those vast, empty flats, after all, are empty for a reason; there is no food, shelter, or oxygen for bass. There simply is no reason for the bass to go there. on the flip side, good habitat has oxygen, food, and hiding places, all they would need to survive.
Above: Prime bass habitat. Submerged trees, providing cover and attracting fish, along with a few patches of plants to oxygenate the water. Four bass were seen cruising around this area, along with a large shoal of sunfish.
Places that bass like to go to include reeds, submerged timber and rock piles, and healthy weed beds. Notice that I said healthy weed beds. Bed of brown, decaying, and yellowing plants are dying, unhealthy weeds, and hold no fish. Rotting plant matter depletes oxygen in the surrounding water, and fish need oxygen to survive. The lack of oxygen also drives away prey, such as crayfish and bluegill. Healthy plants are green, vibrate, and should have little minnows darting in and out of them. You can also see bass cruising around the edges, or inside the bed, waiting for an opportunity to ambush.
Reeds, unlike submerged plants, however, don't have to be healthy. Dying reeds don't pollute the water as much as submerged plants do, and I have caught many fish amongst dying patches of reeds. Of course healthy, green reeds are preferable to unhealthy and dying ones, but ding reed beds are still fishable. When fishing reeds, you should master underhang casting, which is to cast underneath of overhanging structures. Practice casting into tight spots. Otherwise, you may snag your lure while fishing reeds, because all of the fish congregate underneath overhanging structure.
Most people know that fishing private farm ponds catches you lunkers, but what about their less well known but just as good cousins, the forest pond?
Forest ponds are as the name says: Ponds in the forest. But we aren't talking about your regular park pond, or those town lakes with a small grove of trees. No, we're taking about the ponds deep in the forest, well off the beaten path. Those ponds that maybe see one or two hikers, or better, none at all. When the pond is shielded by a barrier of bushes, brambles, and wild hedges, then it is good fishing.
Above: One of my honey holes, in a small natural preserve. A small stream feeds into it, leading to fat, healthy bass, and sees no fishing pressure.
One of the other reasons that forest ponds are such good fishing is that trees often shield the pond from much of the elements. In addition, some forest ponds are fed by small creeks or springs. The influx of fresh, well oxygenated water and stream forage fish, such as small trout or chubs, leads to fat, healthy bass. I also have found frogs and bugs to be especially common near forest ponds, leading to some intense topwater action in the summer. Always carry a frog or two in natural colors when you are going to a forest pond in the warmer months.
I have found forest ponds to be especially weedy in the summer, due to the nearby trees dropping their leaves in to the pond, leading to increased nutrient levels in the water as the leaves decay. The high nutrient levels trigger increased plant growth. Definitely do not use anything with trebles in the warmer parts of the year. Fishing most forest ponds is like fishing a farm pond. On the weediest of the ponds, however, the only things you could use are weighted texas rigs (I like curly tailed, thick worms and bigger craws with flapping claws - think large profile) , punching gear, and frogs. Make sure you are also dressed for the environment - wear long pants, hiking boots or at least old sneakers with traction, and put on plenty of bug spray. I don't recommend using long rods (use rods around 7') unless you have to, because the rod gets caught on the brush.
Every bass angler has a honeyhole. It's your secret spot where you catch all your big bass. They can be an inlet to a lake, a deep hole where the fish are stacked up, or an unprepared pond. No one else knows about it, and you want it to stay that way.And when you bring your friends along to fish, you have them blindfolded. Some anglers even have more than one honeyhole. They can be ponds, pools in creeks, or parts of an reservoir. Every bass angler should have a few honey holes they can go fishing at.
However, honeyholes are often hard to find. The chances of finding one at a public lake that gets pressured hard, for example, are almost close to none. A lake that you can find listed on a county or tour website probably is overpressure, and all the honey holes there have been depleted. I like to related to private ponds; I simply ask the landowner if I can have permission to fish there, and maybe do some chores to ensure I can come again. Private ponds are almost never pressured, and hold big, eager bass.
Above: Private or farm ponds make some of the best honeyholes.
Many relatively unknown reservoirs may also have some honey holes. Reservoirs are usually located in the country, so the water can remain pure, so they usually don't get much traffic, unless the reservoir is a famous fishing or recreational area (Toledo Bend, Smith Mountain Lake). Speed boats, swimmers, and of course fishermen all scare away or pressure the bass. Even still, such reservoirs are often too large to be completely fished, and if you fish around, you may find one or two relatively unpressured spots.
There are a lot of unfished or less pressured creeks and rivers out there. If smallies are your thing, then many of them hold unpressured fish. No one simply fishes them. If you want to find some unprepared spots, simply hike further down than most people. Larger rivers, such as the Mississippi, although very pressured, may have some backwater bends that people often overlook. Make sure to thorough explore weedy or swampy areas; people and boats often don't enter such areas. There was an instance last year, when I was fishing the Potomac, when I was fishing a pressured area by a beach, where people where fishing and swimming. I didn't get a single bite. But just thirty or so feet away was this inlet to a creek. It was surrounded by bush, but when I got through all the brambles, I found a large pool. The fishing there and outside was literally night and day; I was getting a fish a minute, whereas just thirty feet away I wasn't getting a single bite.
We all love fishing private ponds. Free from fishing pressure, these jewels hold eager fish and big fish. I have caught many of my PBs (personal best) at these ponds. The catch about these bass is that they have never seen fishing pressure before, so they will bite much more eagerly than lake or reservoir bass, even the big 'uns. They are also quite accessible, and are many located quite close to your house.
However, in order to fish these ponds, one must have permission. Sneaking in and out has its problems (I've heard stories of landowners shooting a trespassers). Please don't break the law to fish. It makes all of us look bad.
So how does one get permission to fish a private pond?
Above: Ponds are found pretty much everywhere. I have caught my PBs at some of the ponds shown above.
Most of time, you simply ask, and the landowner lets you fish. Most people are very gracious about it, as long as you don't stir up problems or bring a big crowd. If you want to fish the pond again, make sure to ask whether or not you can come for repeated visits.
However, sometimes its good to pick up some trash or do some outdoors work (if the landowner is a senior) after you fish so you get permission to continue to fish the place. I cannot tell you how much people appreciate the gesture. Small things make the difference in whether or not you are allowed to fish there again.
Hi. I am Ian, an extremely avid bass fisherman living in Howard County, MD. I like to bank fish and fish at local ponds and small creeks. I will explore budget friendly options for people to use in this blog. I hope I can teach you something.