By Dave Wolak
There’s a small cluster of pads and grass in the back right corner of my favorite pond (below) that only grows in summer. That’s where I always get a bite on a red worm. The runoff pipe from my neighbor Jim’s yard is good for a fish, especially on rainy days, and his little dock is worth a skip or two with a wacky worm as long as it’s sunny and the brim are around. In winter, I’ll spot a couple fish swimming by the rocks at the dam only on the warmest days, and every once in a while I get one to hit a small jig or crankbait. In the spring, I’ve caught two five pounders on back to back buzzbait casts against Jim’s lawn. Last year, the water got so high I even saw “Grumpy” (that’s the pond’s alpha female) spawning in his kid’s sandbox. If this pond sounds familiar, it’s because most bass anglers know one just like it.
I call them “sandlot ponds,” because they’re where good bass anglers hone their skills before going to the “majors,” whether that just means bigger bass lakes or the pro circuit. If you’re smart, you’ll never stop fishing your local pond, because outings here are great exercise. I would argue that fishermen who spend a lot of time on small ponds are much better big water anglers because they’ve had more opportunities to observe common bass behaviors that you might not witness with your own eyes as often or as intimately on a large lake.
Regardless of the size of the body of water they’re living in, bass behavior is similar, so what you observe in a small pond can be translated directly to what the bass are doing on nearby big water most of the time. In 2006, I won one of the biggest tournaments of my career fishing brim beds, and guess where I learned how to manipulate a bass focused on live brim into biting my lures? Without being able to get a visual on their reactions to different presentations in the pond, I may never have figured out that pattern on the big lake.
No matter how busy I am, I always make time to fish my home pond, because it’s the best way to connect the past (what I already know works), present (how behavior varies during real-time seasonal changes) and future (if new lures, colors, and presentations will draw strikes). It’s all invaluable information for success on the big lake.