Not long ago, Joe Cermele sent me a question from his uncle, who was doing some pond reconstruction work on a golf course. He and the team had just dropped a big concrete drain overflow into one of the ponds (pictured), and considering backhoes and bulldozers were needed, the fellas disrupted and dirtied up that pond pretty severely. Just for kicks, Joe’s uncle started firing a crankbait around that overflow less than an hour after placing it, and despite the chocolate water, he started pounding bass right up against it. This begged the query of how long it takes for bass to adjust to and orient around new structures. It’s a great question, which I can start to answer by saying it depends on the size of the body of water.
I believe that pond bass react much quicker to significant changes like this than lake bass. Reason being, pond bass are used to rolling with the punches because they have no choice; they’re in a small, closed system, so they usually decide to use or not use a change to their advantage fairly quickly. And this doesn’t just apply to new structure. For example, if the air temp drops into the low 50s overnight, you better believe that a bass in a small pond is going to feel the effects of that temp change much sooner than a bass in a 50-mile long lake. And that’s only one example of many. So the real question is, are pond bass immune to change, or do they just learn how to adjust faster? I’d say it’s a little of both.
Big-lake bass have the ability to choose a more suitable environment immediately, and they do so in order to keep more consistent surroundings. The big difference, however, is that unlike pond bass, they aren’t forced to stay home, say, if the toilet overflows or there’s a fire in the laundry room. They could bail immediately and head to the beach house or Holiday Inn down the street. That exodus may make us as anglers believe that they are there and just not biting, but I feel in many cases we as anglers are just two steps behind the roving bass’s move, therefore we’re just chasing memories. Pond bass? They’re still home, fixing the toilet and putting out the fire. They may not bite, but they’re home. So in the case of this drainage overflow, think of it like this: It’s a small close-knit neighborhood. All of a sudden there’s a car accident outside. What does everyone do? Runs over to check it out.
And then when they realize that suddenly this car accident presents a new place to take advantage of forage, they use it right away. It makes perfect sense, because while the bass are familiar with every inch of their pond, so is their forage, and rest assured, that forage knows how to stay away from the bass. Drop in an overflow box, and suddenly everyone is thrown off their game. Joe’s uncle hit this at the perfect time, because it won’t take long for everyone in the pond to adjust to the box, and the forage is going to know not to swim within ten feet of that thing.