Bass Habitats

Bass Habitats Learn about different bass habitats such as rivers, lakes and ponds. Discover how you should fish them to catch more bass.


Fish habitat

Rivers can provide excellent habitat for bass. Rivers are highly oxygenated and the oxygen is usually evenly mixed from top to bottom. Rivers often receive less fishing pressure than lakes. Temperatures in a river are moderate as compared with lakes. Rivers are generally slightly warmer in winter and cooler in summer than lakes. Look for bass close to, but out of, the direct flow of the current. Shoreline objects such as stumps or logs serve as current breaks; bass will hold on the downstream side of these objects. Bars are good places to fish in a river also. As active fish will herd schools of bait onto these areas. River bends, floating cover, the bottom and the surface are other good bassin' areas in rivers. Midstream structure, such as a large log or boulder in the middle of the current flow, can provide outstanding bass potential as the fish has a "conveyor belt" bringing food past.


Streams are largely overlooked for bass fishing, but can provide excellent angling, especially for cooler-water varieties including smallmouths. Look for bass in deep holes below rapids and along the face of a bluff or steep bank. Undercut banks where current has washed away the soil offer excellent holding areas, especially in a narrow stream where hiding places can be at a premium. Bass avoid heavy current, so look for objects in the stream (trees, rocks) and fish near them.


Tailwaters can provide good bass fishing, although heavy current is often not conducive to bass fishing. Bass tend to seek objects such as wing dams, stumps, rocks, logs, etc. that break up or deflect the current flow. Baitfish may school up heavily below dams; many are injured as they pass through the turbines into the tailrace. Here, bass can feed heavily. Tailwater fishing is best in extremely hot weather and in the fall, as the tailrace tends to be cooler than surrounding water.


In a reservoir, the water level often fluctuates due to seasonal drawdowns. Where these fluctuations occur, it is difficult for shoreline weeds and vegetation to take hold. Consequently, bass must use shallow brush, logs, etc. for cover. When brush deteriorates after the lake has been flooded for several years, shallow fishing becomes tougher and the bass tend to move offshore. Inundated structure such as flooded creek and river channels, submerged islands, humps, stump rows, standing timber along a channel and man-made structure including flooded roadbeds, fences and house foundations provide holding and hiding places for bass. In addition, many reservoirs offer a forage base consisting primarily of schooling baitfish, such as threadfin shad. These tend to follow drifting blooms of algae and plankton, which move with currents and wind. Offshore points assume tremendous importance to the bass; they use points as a reference marker and ambush place that puts them between deep and shallow water. Oxygen stratification is often a warm-weather problem in reservoirs; hence, bass may be found only at a certain depth - the "thermocline," which contains cooler water and higher oxygen content.


Small lakes and man-made ponds offer good bass fishing and can hold big bass. Many are on private land. Obtain permission from the landowner before fishing.
   The shoreline is the most important area of most ponds for bass, especially if the water level remains fairly constant throughout the year and shoreline vegetation takes hold. Fallen trees, deep holes and rocky areas around man-made dams offer good bass fishing.
   Ponds may become heavy with vegetation, making bass fishing tough but bass habitat better. Heavily fished ponds can often be most productive after dark.

Natural Lakes

Bass fishing can be good to excellent in natural lakes, depending on the region of the country in which they occur. In the deep South, shallow natural lakes can house giant largemouths. Small natural lakes are often bowl-shaped and the focus of life tends to be around the weedy shorelines.
   Larger natural lakes, especially in the North, can have natural reefs, offshore weedlines, humps, holes, islands and other structure. Northern lakes can be rather infertile, meaning the water is very clear with not much plankton or algae. Here, bass are often not the primary species; walleye or trout may be more common.

Rocky Lakes

Deep highland reservoirs tend to be quite rocky, without a lot of brush or weed cover. These lakes often are tough to fish due to deep, clear water, lack of cover, and other factors. In some of them, smallmouth bass may be the prominent species, although largemouths and spotted bass can occur, too.
   In these lakes, points, deep river and creek channel drop-offs, and shallow spawning flats focus much of the life. The main forage base is often crawfish and nomadic baitfish such as threadfin shad.
   Natural rocky lakes, such as these that occur in the far North, can be excellent for smallmouth bass fishing. These lakes may be large and the angler should concentrate on offshore reefs, rock piles, rocky islands and humps, points, etc.

River-Run Lakes

River-run lakes are typically narrower than most reservoirs, with more current flow. The lower end is typically the widest point; the lake tapers into a river throughout much of its course. River-run lakes offer fair to good bass fishing. Spawning is difficult in these lakes since they are used primarily for flood control and navigation, not sport fishing, and water levels can fluctuate quickly and dramatically. Current is a factor to contend with in these lakes. Often cover is limited to shallow creek arms and the shoreline. Fish will hold out of the current around structure such as rocks, fallen trees, wing dams, rock piles and boulders, riprap around the dam, etc. River bars and drop-offs are especially important structures in these lakes. Look for active bass chasing baitfish onto the shallow ends of the points and bars and fish fast-moving baits that can work well around current, such as a lipless crankbait.


  • I fish a lot on small lakes and ponds in the upstate of South Carolina, and I have found that if you throw a buzzbait in the right corners of the lake/pond then it will produce a lot of bass. Throwing a black buzzbait in the back corner of a small pond, I caught 7 bass ranging from 2- to 3-pounds a piece. Seeing a fish come up and hit a buzzbait is a great feeling and I suggest that everyone should try it at least once! -- Kevin Broome
  • I fish golf course ponds in Sand Diego a lot. Even though I have tons of other private ponds. I usually rope the bass every day I go. Early pre-spawn I splitshot worms and lizards. Late pre-spawn I have had a lot of luck with Pins minnows. During spawn use Bitsy jigs or 8-inch worms. Post-spawn I have had a lot of luck with worms, jerkbaits, Slug-Gos, 1/8-ounce spinner baits, buzzbaits and most of all poppers kill them. Tip: If you get kicked out of one pond have a back up pond... and dress nice. -- Captian Matt
  • I've found that if you fish in small ponds enough you can figure out where the fish hold. When I know the location of these fish and where they're holding, my two favorite lures are usually a 6-7 inch tequila sunrise colored Powerbait worm with an 1/8-ounce bullet head or a silver blade spinnerbait, depending on water clarity. I can usually pull out fish on almost every cast. -- Tommy B.
  • I catch a lot of bass in rivers in upstate New York using an orange and red Rat-L-Trap. Drives the smallmouth wild. -- George
  • I've been fishing for 30 some odd years. It is my experience that it doesn't matter what your favorite bait is. That is, it might work on one lake and not on another. I fish many different lakes in many different states. I have found that you should master three or four baits such as spinnerbaits, crankbaits, worms, just whatever, and fish them hard. Confidence is the key. If you have confidence, you will catch more fish. Keep it simple and just fish. Good fishing to ya. -- Garry

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