Fish Don't TweetFish Don't Tweet Here's how to find and catch bass in small lakes and ponds year round!
By Brad Wiegmann
Finding and catching fish in a pond would sure be easier if I could only get the fish to tweet me their location and what lure they want. A simple message like, "I am over here, by the laying down log and hungry for a frog." I could tweet back, "A delicious frog lure is on the way, open wide!"
However, fish do not tweet, so it's up to the angler to learn their locations, why they are there and in which part of the water column to find them, in order to catch them.
People fishing ponds or small lakes have a distinct advantage over anglers fishing large reservoirs with miles of shoreline, vast open water and deep water. A pond or small lake has less water to cover and find fish. In a sense, anglers are just crime scene investigators who use fishing poles, reels, line, lures, tackle boxes and boats instead of forensic tools such as UV lights, fingerprint dusters and microscopes to locate and catch fish.
All fish in any pond or small lake will be located in one of these layers in the water column: surface, sub-surface to near the bottom, or bottom; according to the season, structure, and cover available. Other factors influencing these fish are weather or water and light conditions.
Four Seasons, Three Layers - Spring
During the spring, bass will be in one of the following patterns: pre-spawn, spawning, or post spawn. During this period, the majority of bass will be located shallow. The surface layer offers a broad selection of forage for bass to feed on. Productive lures, when fishing the surface layer, include floating minnows, poppers, stick baits retrieved in a 'walk-the-dog' technique and wake baits that run on the surface or immediately under the surface but do not dive down. Soft swimbaits can be deadly on bass if there is a shad spawn during this period. Key locations can be encapsulated boat dock floats, rocky flats or limbs hanging down on the surface of the lake. During post spawn, bass like to suspend over deep water, close to where they spawned. Generally, these bass are somewhat hard to catch but will attack a wake bait when reeled slowly. Another bait that professional anglers kept a secret for years, to catch fish just after the bass spawn, is a twin spin bream-shaped custom built balsa wood prop bait.
In the spring, the sub-surface water layer is extremely small since most of the bass are shallow. Some bass will be chasing bream away from fry or feeding on bream while guarding their spawning beds. Productive sub-surface lures during this time are soft plastic jerk baits and bream-color and shaped crankbaits.
Bass on the bottom layer will be feeding on crawfish. Crawfish-colored and shaped lures and pig, soft plastic crawfish-shaped baits rigged Texas style, and grubs reeled slowly across the bottom. Unlike any other time of the year, spawning bass are extremely vulnerable to being caught off their spawning beds, disrupting the spawning process. How a pond or small lake owner ethically approaches this situation is entirely up to them. If anglers do catch bass off their beds, studies have shown that, if they are caught quickly and then released immediately back into the water, this will increase their chances of continuing their reproductive process or allow the male to continue to guard fry from predators.
Summer is prime time for surface fishing ponds and small lakes. Bass are feeding on amphibians and other abundant forage. Topwater baits like Pop-R, Zara Spook, or double prop baits are productive lures; however, if the pond has aquatic vegetation, no matter if it's emergent, rooted/floating, submersed, or free-floating, a soft plastic frog worked across the surface or near vegetation will result in massive, heart stopping explosions.during summer months. Effective lures for catching bass during this time include lipless crankbaits, soft plastic jerk baits, in-line spinnerbaits, spinnerbaits and swimbaits. These are fast moving baits that generate a reaction bite. During this period, the areas around fountains or aerators become prime locations for forage and bass.
How deep bass will be located during summer months depends on the pond's water condition. It's not uncommon for a pond owner to utilize some type of aeration system to reduce build up of organic muck and to de-stratify the pond. In these ponds, bass can be caught in deep, oxygen-rich water on a Carolina rig or Texas rigged soft plastic baits. Anglers should target brush piles, man-made habitat and ledges.
Hollow Versus Solid Frogs
Anglers have a choice between two types of frogs which catch fish in or around aquatic vegetation: a hollow rubber frog or a solid-bodied soft frog, sometimes referred to as a toad. The hollow rubber frog can be retrieved in a 'walk-the-dog' or stop and go action, while the toad is made for reeling in on the surface.
During the fall, bass go on a feeding frenzy preparing for winter months. Fast, big, noisy surface moving baits draw bass from long distances. Double propped topwater baits, Zara Spooks, buzz baits and chuggers presented near cover will draw strikes. For a short period, soft plastic and hollow-belly frogs will be effective lures; normally when the temperature drops, so will the frog bite.
In the fall, the sub-surface comes alive with forage. Schools of bass cruise the flats searching for schools of baitfish. These sub¬surface bass can be caught on spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits and swimbaits. Depending on water conditions, some bass will still be located in deep brush piles or man-made habitat on the bottom layer that pond owners strategically put in. Texas rigged plastic worms, beaver style, or creature baits can be worked slowly in the cover to catch these fish.
The only drawback to fall is cold fronts moving through, dropping outside air and water temperatures. The best way to catch bass after a cold front passes is flipping or pitching a Texas rigged soft plastic bait close to cover.
Winter is the slowest time of the year for fishing. In northern lakes and ponds, anglers can only fish sub-surface and bottom layers. Prepared bait, live bait, or jigs are popular choices for catching fish under ice. Southern anglers will still have open water for casting lures. The surface layer bites are non-existent. The best bite maybe the sub-surface bite on a jerk bait or crankbait. Depending on water conditions and lake bottom composition, anglers should, in ideal situations, be able to catch bass in deep brush piles or man-made habitat. A black/blue jig with matching black/ blue trailer or dark colored worm rigged on a shaky head jig are productive lures when probing the bottom layer.
There is one exception to the rule of going deep during winter or early spring months. Bass will, at times, move into shallow water after a period of consecutive days of direct sun. A shallow diving, wide wobble crankbait, fished around 45-degree banks near the dam area or area of direct sunlight, will be most productive.
When fishing a pond or small lake, there are two times to use live bait: one is fishing for fun; the other situation is when the bass refuse to bite artificial lures. Anglers still need to present live bait in the appropriate layer to catch bass. Crickets, frogs, dragon flies and toads can be fished on a free line when bass are feeding on the surface. Popular live baits for fishing sub-surface include crickets, minnows, lizards, grubs, or worms. These can be rigged with a bobber and small split shot for casting. A technique for rigging live bait so it suspends off the bottom is a drop shot rig. The hook on this set up is tied above the weight. How far off the bottom is determined by the leader from the weight to the hook. This is an effective technique when the bottom of the pond has algae. If the bottom layer is free of algae, try split shotting a live worm or crawfish.
Where the Fish Are
To be successful when fishing ponds or small lakes, anglers must first break the lake down into three layers: surface, sub-surface, and bottom according to the season. When fishing the surface layer, explosive topwater strikes are the norm, fast moving lures like lipless crankbaits or spinnerbaits get reaction bites in the sub-surface layer and slow moving crawfish or night crawler-imitating lures provoke fish into biting in the bottom layer. Live bait can also be used in any of the layers depending on the time of year.
So, the next tweet I receive will not come from a bass, but from my fishing buddy with information on where and what the bass are biting on. Remember, fish don't tweet.
Brad Wiegmann is a full time fishing guide on Lake SWEPCO and Beaver Lake in Northwest Arkansa . He is also a free-lance outdoor writer for several fishing magazines and has a weekly newspaper column called "Speaking of Fishing". Besides writing articles for his website www.bradwiegmann.com, you may see him fishing bass tournaments, doing seminars, working outdoor shows or featured in outdoor magazines such as BASSMASTER, Outdoor Life and Arkansas Sportsman.
Reprinted with permission from Pond Boss Magazine
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