Photo by Bill Buckley
There must have been two dozen ponds and strip-mine lakes within a 5-mile radius of my folks' place when I was a kid. Back in those days, my buddies and I guessed weights on a lot of big bass. Our biggest ever was 24 inches long (we always had a tape measure), and we figured she was 9 pounds. I've fished top bass lakes in Texas and Mexico since then and have never caught a bass any larger. It makes me think twice about traveling for bass.
It's No Fluke
I've caught more 5-pound-plus pond bass on subtle, soft-plastic presentations than on everything else combined. Although the average pond doesn't see big numbers of boats every day like your favorite lake, a single angler can educate a bunch of bass in a small body of water quickly. Chances are that the biggest bass in a given pond have been hooked at some point in their lives. So if a lure doesn't look real, they aren't biting it.
Sight-casting to shallow cover is the name of the pond-fishing game, especially in spring. For that, it's tough to beat a Zoom Super Fluke rigged Texas-style or weightless on a wide-gap worm hook. It can be walked across the surface or just under it, or slowly retrieved through a stump bed, one twitch-and-fall at a time.
Maybe the big bass in your local ponds are so wary they won't take a shot at any lure. They will rarely, however, pass up a live bluegill. Though a 4- to 5-inch bluegill may not get hit often, when it does, you'll be measuring the bass in pounds, not inches.
Hook the bluegill under the dorsal fin, about an inch forward from the tail, and clip a large cork to the line 2 feet above the hook (above). Heave this toward a laydown, weedbed edge, stump thicket, or other known big-bass hangout, and wait. There's no mistaking a bite. --W.B.
"We used to fish a little creek that was mainly full of big grinnell. One day I was throwing a spinnerbait and set the hook on a good fish. I thought, great, another grinnell. But then it jumped, and it was a 41⁄2-pound bass. That fish basically came from a puddle." --Terry Bolton, pro bass angler, Paducah, Ky.
Photo by Bill Buckley
1. Fertile Water: Some of the strip-mine lakes I fished as a kid were gin clear. But the best ones had a little stain. Slightly stained water means better fertility. Better fertility means more food for little fish, which in turns means more food for big fish. Stained water also helps hide heavier braided lines.
2. Cover: Baitfish need cover to hide from predators, but big largemouths also spend most of their days resting in cover. The more laydowns and weedbeds there are in a given pond, the more places a big bass can lurk.
3. Deep, Shaded Banks: Man-made ponds are typically shallow at one end and deep alongside the dam. Many times, landowners allow the dams of those ponds to grow up, especially with overhanging willows. Those deep, shaded sides (6 to 20 feet, depending on the pond) provide respite from summer heat and supplemental cover when laydowns aren't available.