I often see people throwing big, 4" craws in creeks. The dead stick it, they finesse it through, but they still catch little or no bass. Why?
I find creek bass to be shy to big craws. Remember, crawfish aren't exactly a dead or dying shad. They have their claws up in a defensive position, ready to tussle and pinch with an incoming bass. Also, they might get scared by the sound of a large bullet weight or jighead hitting the water, being creek fish. As much as bass like 'em, you have to realize that craws have to be smaller for creeks, also because creek bass tend to be smallmouths, not largemouths. If you flip over rocks and examine the crawfish, you will actually find creek craws to be on the smaller side, but like those massive red Louisiana bayou craws.
Above: Creek bass are more apt to choose the smaller craw, on the right. However, the big one will catch bigger fish.
In creeks, 2"-3" size craws are sufficient. It seems the smaller you get in that range, the more bites you get, and those bites aren't even small bites. Shown above is a large craw, and a small craw commonly used by local bass fisherman in HoCo for creek fishing.
Once you catch a bronze back, you are hooked. A 2lb smallmouth feels like a 4lb largemouth. Smallmouth live in waters too warm for trout. These proud fish live in creeks across the U.S, as well as deep reservoirs and lakes.
Wait, deep reservoirs and lakes? Why not shallow? There is a reason that you don't see smallmouth in those shallow 1 acre ponds, teeming with bluegill and largemouth bass. Smallmouth prefer colder water than largemouth (though not as cold as trout). Although they are feisty and aggressive fish, they don't seem to compete well with warm-water game fishes, such as orders of bluegill and largemouth bass. However, in cold water, they seem to dominate.
Above: Small creek smallmouth live in streams like this one. Picture from wikipedia.org
In small creeks, the role of the bluegill as a main forage fish for bass is taken over by creek chub or various other minnows. Notice the creek minnow taken in the picture below, part of an YFS display tank, is slender and soft finned, while bluegill are disc shaped and have sharp fins. In the creek that the minnow was caught from, the minnow was the main forage fish for the smallmouth bass.
Above: Slender minnows are a typical forage of smallmouth bass.
Smallmouth bass seem to not like to eat bluegill at all. They seem to grudgingly eat them, to my observation, while the largemouth bass, despite preferring slender and so finned fish, will eat bluegill. I have creek fished next to a friend with a Storm Live Bluegill, a really realistic bluegill swimbait. I was using a soft plastic jerkbait, which was long, white and slender, resembling an injured creek minnow. Guess who was seriously outfished? I think a reason that smallmouth don't do well in ponds is that they really don't like eating bluegill, the main forage fish in ponds.
This is a continuance of my previous post.
There is one fish, however, that seems to be in every neighborhood pond. It is the goldfish.
Lots of goldfish get released by their owners each year. Entire swaths of Florida's canals are filled by fish such as Mayan Cichlids and Tilapia, releasees from aquariums or escapees from fish farms. Exotic fish, such as the notorious snakehead, often excel in adapting to new habitats.
Goldfish (goldfish, btw, are very similar to carp, but were domesticated in the past) and carp are very common in tiny ponds. They take much more abuse than bass (extremely low oxygen, very warm water, raw sewage, etc), and eat everything, from common pond algae to crawfish. They seem to hop from pond to pond better than bass, too.
If you do find a carp/goldfish filled pond, you can still fish it. Carp/Goldfish can get very big, and they put up a good fight. They also are very smart, and easily spooked. In Asian, they are the freshwater gamefish of choice. Small ones act like panfish, bring everything, while the big ones get huge, and are very hard to catch. Truly, if you find a carp pond, you're in luck. Since they get big, they make good "personal best fish" photos.
This is a question that I sometimes get. Those tiny ponds and those forest ponds..... are they stocked?
Sometimes it pays to be realistic.
While bass do have an amazing ability to somehow wind up in many waters, sometimes, too small is too small. Let's be realistic.... a 20' by 20' patch of water only 6' deep will not have bass. Remember, bass are carnivorous. There's only so many minnows in that puddle until they run out. Granted, some .4 acre ponds I seen have held bass, but don't expect anything below that to hold bass.
Above: Sometimes, they do surprise you.
Another problem is that these ponds don't have a source of fish. While many of the ponds are stocked in the past by the government, got fish from floods, or have had past owners stocking them, many ponds, especially if they are covered in massive, undisturbed blankets of algae and are in the middle of vast woods, have no fish, and are most breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Many ponds are actually vernal pools, large puddles formed by spring rainwater and drying up by the fall. They are breeding grounds for some endangered salamander species and frogs, but there are no fish.
Now, there are signs that point to ponds having fish, in my experience. If there are minnows, there will be larger, fishable fish. If there is a creek nearby, there could be fish in that pond from floods. If the pond is an acre or larger, there is a better chance of it stocked. If it is in a farm, it could've been stocked by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service in the past
To be continued,
Everyone that likes to fish loves smallmouth - and nothing is better than creek smallmouth. However, when most bass fishing articles online refer to the word "creek," they mean something larger than 15 ft in diameter.
However, smallmouth live everywhere, and those smaller creeks that run past people's homes are a good candidate to start fishing for smallmouth. I have caught 2lbers in some really small creeks, from inner city Baltimore to the suburbs of Howard County.
Above: There's a fish..... in that trickle?
Never hesitant to find smallmouth in any reasonable water.
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.