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FatBoy

fall pond forage?

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I've been reading a bunch this fall about bass following the bait fish this time of year.  They all say to find the bass, you need to find the bait fish.  But most of what I've read is talking about shad-based reservoirs, etc.  How about small ponds where the main forage is bluegill?  I imagine the same idea applies; to find the bass, find the bluegill.  But where can I find the bluegill?  Where do bluegill go in small ponds when the water hits the low 50s?  Shallow?  Deep?  Where?

 

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My local ponds contain a variety of minnow species, but bluegill appear to be the prime baitfish. They always feed on zooplankton in shallow water at some point in the day. In a pond, all bass, including the biggest bass, must search for food. They may have a favorite spot and patrol a general area, but throughout the year they will roam the entire pond for baitfish.

The vast majority of the bass I catch, especially big bass, are hunting or staging in the deeper water just of the bank shelf. They will strike bluegill and other minnows in the shallowest water, but they generally don't stay there. As I have suggested in other posts, cast parallel to the bank, out five to fifteen yards. The bass are (usually) there.

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I've been seeing them bust the top of the water too, and of course always to far from your casting lol.

They are definitely eating this time of the year, so when you find them, it's on.

casting parallel helps one by finding the ones on the bank, and two by bringing the fish up once they've seen your bait coming along.

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RW's advice is great for general conditions, but you should be able to refine it further for the particular conditions of your pond. Each shoreline of the pond I regularly fish (main forage: bluegill) offers a very different topography. On one side the water drops from a foot to seven, or even ten or twelve in some spots, within about three-to-five feet of the shoreline. On the facing shore, the dropoff is more gradual, while on a third shore there is an expansive plateau with water ranging from one to three feet and then a moderate slope down to about ten feet.

Over the past few weeks (although I haven't been out in two weeks now, so things might have shifted a bit) I've been finding the choiciest bass in about 5-8 feet of water. On the first shoreline I described above, this means casting parallel to the shore only a yard from shore, whereas on the facing shore it means casting ten yards from shore.

If you can, note at what depth you're catching fish and adjust your parallel-to-shore casts to the right depth.

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nboucher,

Your post is 100% correct. Always make adjustment for "actual" vs "hypothetical" conditions. If you know about specific structure in the pond you are fishing, focus on that, too. Most of the ponds I fish don't have any "cover", but if yours do, that is something else you will want to focus on.

Another point I'll touch on is the time of day. In general, predators are focused on baitfish not bottom dwelling prey this time of year. This is why I think "minnow type" lures are most effective in the fall. I have been having very little success with soft plastics in the morning, but both jigs and soft plastics are still working for me, midday.

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Good stuff, guys.  My pond has little interesting structure.  It's basically just a big bowl.  There does seem to be a bit of a flat on one end, but that's about it.  

My problem is that I can't seem to find the right depth, I guess.  I've been trying cranks at a bunch of depths, lipless cranks and spinnerbaits, but not much luck.  Also, the water's gotten really murky during the last couple weeks.  I don't know if it's turn over, or what.  

But does anyone know about bluegill behavior as the water cools?  What are they doing this time of year?

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Good question, and maybe someone knows more about bluegill habits than I do. I assume their metabolism slows as the water temps drop. That would mean their feeding behavior would slow but other than that it should remain unchanged as long as the zooplankton is available on the surface.

One thing about fall fishing here in New England is that the wind becomes more of a factor. Calm days become rare. The effect on the zooplankton is that a few days of steady breezes from one direction will push the zooplankton to one side of a pond and the bluegill will follow. So I tend to concentrate on the shoreline that the wind is blowing toward.

As far as finding the most-productive depth is concerned, I like to use a few different Rapala DT cranks this time of year until I find the one that works (the DT-6 has been working for me recently; I like blue shad color over bluegill because the pattern is close to bluegill, but it has a bit more flash). Jigs have also been productive in five or six feet of water. Others have been having success with X-raps and husky jerks, but the pond I'm fishing these days has enough submerged lily pad stems to make those a bit tricky. As the water cools further, though, I may use them more. For me they combine the best of jigs and cranks: they offer a minnow-like presentation, as a crankbait does, but you work them slowly, as you would a jig. That's a good fall combo.

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Well, in New England, bluegill and shiners are the most common forage generally. The pond I regularly fish doesn't have a way for shad to get into it, and I've caught bluegill there and no shiners. That's not to say there aren't some shiners in there, but undoubtedly bluegill is predominant.

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How can you guys tell what the "main forage" in your pond/lake is?

Excellent question!A conservation official may be able to tell you what baitfish,perch,etc. has the highest population in that body of water.Does it make it the "main forage"?It may beens there are more of them but,is that baitfish the most efficent to feed on?Heres what I think,bass may have their own preference.I have caught bass in 1 foot of water and within the same hour caught them 15 ft. deep.Could the 2 different bass been feeding on the same type baitfish?Probally not.Mature bass are going to feed on what is most efficent.On another note,test have shown that crawfish are a bass' favorite.Is that because of taste or is it because they are easier to catch?

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Guest avid

toss out a cast net.  You;ll be amazed at what you can pickup

Also if you have really really tore up a bass trying to land him and there's no way he's going to live, then kill him quickly and  gut him to examine the stomach contents.

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