Bass Fishing on Small Ponds
My earliest fishing memories as a child include fishing at one of the small farm ponds that dotted the landscape of our family’s farm. The ponds were created to water livestock, but the stocked fish were an added bonus enjoyed by the entire family. Thirty years later, I am still fishing these same ponds.
More than 3 million ponds are in the United States. This means that if you do not own a pond yourself, you probably know somebody who does.
Fishing at a pond can save money on gas, and allows an angler more time to fish in most cases. The reason for this is that instead of spending time in an automobile driving to a far off lake, time can be better spent fishing a nearby pond. And the money you save on gas can be spent on more important things.
Ponds are capable of holding lots of fish, and not just little fish. A well managed pond can hold truly monster-sized bass, and other fish. Also, statistics show that an angler can catch twice as many fish from a managed pond in an hour compared to fishing an hour on a lake.
Not all ponds are created equal though. With a little fishing at different ponds, you will quickly rule out the ponds that are not good producers.
To find ponds, drive back country roads searching for ponds back off the road, or one that are not easy to get to. Aerial photos, topos and Google Earth are all good search options. Ponds that are off the beaten path are often the best because they receive little, to no fishing pressure.
Communicate with people who spend time in the country, and are in contact with landowners. You will be surprised what doors open up with a little networking. Talk with rural mail carriers, UPS drivers, school bus drivers, township workers, etc. for possible fishing leads.
The hardest part of fishing a big lake is finding the fish. They could be anywhere within hundreds, even thousands of acres of water. Because ponds are normally less than a couple of acres in size, finding the fish just got a whole lot easier. The only thing left to do is enjoy a day of fishing, and the know-how to fish ponds.
If the pond is small enough, you will be able to cover the entire body of water from the shore. That is the best choice because bass in these tiny waters do not like a disturbance, and could shy away from your bait presentation.
For bigger ponds, I sometimes have to get in, or be in the water to cover it all. Wading is good if you can move slow enough without causing a ruckus, and disturbing the already skittish bass. A better option would be a small john boat, or what I use, a canoe.
Because bass are normally on edge in ponds that are often small with clear water, light tackle seems to out perform other actions. A 5 ½ to 6 ½ foot medium action spin or baitcast rod topped off with a reel filled with 6 to 12-pound monofilament line.
Beginning in the spring, and going through the fall, fish the shallowest waters first, and make your way to the deepest. For instance, at dawn fish the shallowest waters of the pond. These waters could only be a few inches deep, to as much as 3 or 4 feet deep. Mid-morning, begin fishing the mid-depth areas of the pond. As midday arrives, begin to fish the deepest water of the pond, often near the dam. During the winter, reverse this routine, and fish the deepest water first, working your way to the shallowest.
In order to catch bass from a pond, you must fish every inch of the water. Use a variety of lures and retrieves.
I love to fish topwater lures in ponds, but only in bigger ponds of at least 1 acre. The skittish bass can be spooked by the loud noises of some topwater lures. Lures come in small sizes, so use them.
Propeller plugs like the Cotton Cordell Boy Howdy, wobblers like the Jitterbug, chuggers like the Hula Popper, and stickbaits such as the Storm Thunderstick are all good choices. Keep the retrieve steady, and as subtle as possible.
With spinnerbaits, you can use both small spinnerbaits, and in-line spinners like a Rooster Tail or Blue Fox. Unless you are fishing a pond of several acres, stick with a spinnerbait 1/4-ounce and smaller. Heavier spinnerbaits tend to scare fish.
Texas-style rigged plastic worms 4 to 6 inches in length are awesome on pond bass. They do not scare the fish when they hit water’s surface, and their movement can trick the smartest bass into biting. A worm is an especially good option for large ponds. Try colors like black, blue, green, purple, and brown. If bottom-hopping the worm is not working, try swimming the plastic worm back with a split-shot sinker about a foot in front of the worm, or do not use any weight, and retrieve the worm near the surface. Change things up in the spring months, and use a plastic crawfish.
Ponds are not normally deep enough to fish deep-diving crankbaits, but medium and shallow diving crankbaits often work. Try to replicate what the bass are feeding on like bluegill and crawfish when choosing a crankbait’s color. Stay away from lures with wide, wobbling actions, and choose one with tight, subtle wiggles.
It would be hard to look at two ponds and describe the differences between the two. But the more you fish ponds, the easier it will become to identify bass holding structure. Some ponds will be small enough that you can fish the entire thing, ponds with a lot of structure needs extra attention.
Start your fishing on the edge of the shoreline. As long as it is not too shallow, bass will hang out there. Late in the day, and at night when it is hot this is a good location to find bass. The same is true during the winter and during the midday in spring.
Fishing near the dam is a good bet. This is the deepest part of the pond. Look for pipes that drain excess water. Bass often hang there looking for baitfish.
Every year, I discard my Christmas tree in one of my ponds, and many other pond owners do the same thing in their ponds. If you know where the trees are located, swim a lure by to pull a big bass out of its ambush spot. These trees also hold and attract minnows that attract bass.
Speaking of trees, a tree branch hanging over a pond provides shade and cover, and even the occasional meal when a bug drops off.
Lily pads, cattails, and milfoil is an attractant to bass. Even a drop-off just a foot or two can hold a bass.
Points are great on big lakes, as well as in ponds because of the change in structure they provide.
Fishing big lakes has techniques that work, but the same techniques might not work when you are fishing a pond. Take your time and learn what you can about pond fishing. Sometimes the best teacher is practice.