Try Small Lakes for Bass
Dr. John Woods 05.27.15
So you’re getting ready to fish a small lake for bass. It may be that small pond behind your house. Maybe it is the neighborhood lake or you live in a residential area with recreational fishing opportunities. Or perhaps the town you live in has a small city lake that allows public access. Small lakes are everywhere, so just look around.
If you stood out on the end of a small lake boat dock or out on the edge of the bank looking out across the water, what do you see? What are you looking for? Maybe you know the lake well having fished it many times before, or perhaps it is your first time to fish a new spot. How do you know where to start? If you’re after bass, you have to calculate the best places to cast a lure to pry a big largemouth out of the cover to the boat. After all that is the fun of bass fishing.
Do you just jump in the boat, push off, and start casting, or do you project a plan of attack on the lake? What is the best way to analyze a small fishing lake to maximize your bass fishing efforts? Or is this simply over thinking a way to go about bass fishing? Experienced bass anglers are already chuckling at this idea, but without that real life practical experience, then you may need some help getting started.
“When I approach a small lake I want to fish, especially a brand new place, I try to look at all sides and edges of the whole body of water. If the lake is too big to see closely the whole thing, then I might use my compact binoculars to inspect it. I like a good overall orientation before I head out,” says Jason Pope of Madison, Mississippi. Many times good, obvious bass structure just “pops” out when you look over a small lake.
“I fish a good many local private lakes so some of them I know pretty well. I always keep my ears open though to new opportunities to fish somebody’s lake where I can either cast from the bank or slip in with a small johnboat. Naturally I like to take on a new lake to learn its structures, layout, and bass hiding cover.”
“Mainly I am first looking for any kind of obvious bass holding structure across the lake, scanning back up into noted coves, grass fields, lily pads, or downed tree structure. A lot of times I do what most small lake bass anglers do; I just ease around the whole perimeter of the lake casting often to see what hits. More often than not though, I head straight to an inviting section of the lake with obvious cover features,” Pope said.
Bass Hiding Spots
Where do bass hide? Well, just about anywhere there is some kind of cover. If the weather is hot and the sun is beating down or the water temperature is pretty warm, then bass will be lurking in spots where they can be in cooler water. This means plenty of natural cover, usually not at depth out in the open water of the lake. They hide where they can eat, too.
Logic would dictate, like Jason Pope says, to just work along all the perimeter edges of the lake slowly, moving from suspect cover to the next. Certainly there is nothing wrong with that strategy, especially on a new lake not fished previously. I mean, how else would you really know where bass cover was without trolling the entire lake?
Typical bass hotspots have never changed that much over time. The only difference is that the characteristics of a lake can change over time. New structure could have been added, Mother Nature could have downed some trees along the banks worth checking out, or other fish habitat could emerge over the years. All of the visible structure should be fished without mercy. Don’t risk passing something by because it looks tough to fish. Give it all a go.
This can certainly be the case with grass fields that pop up from time to time from season to season. Likewise lily pad fields can grow and extend further out across the surface of a lake. Some bass anglers might suggest this is a mixed blessing. Without a doubt bass are going to congregate under the protective cover of lily pads, but the cast fishing can be tough. Fishing in pads will certainly test your abilities to put a lure in the little open bits of water among the floating pads. If a bass strikes, then the fight is definitely on, that is for sure.
If you’re like me, I spend more time tangled up in the lily pad stems and root structures than pulling out fish. However, when you can “jerk” a largemouth out of that thick type of cover, more often than not, the result is going to be a pleasing one.
Mother Nature is a natural for providing good fish cover, and you need to plan to fish them all. Certain other hot bass areas include submerged or partially submerged tree trunks and limbs. Fish around any noted tree stumps that are available, especially if they are in a good shaded area. Be sure to cast around any boat docks.
Though it can also be tough fishing, work around brush cover like button bushes, willows, and other scrub brush growing out of the water. Move in as close as feasible and short cast if you have to. Water depth may play a role in this as well. Bass will hide up in shallow water, but it needs to be a foot deep or so. Sometimes you can see them moving as you ease up in the boat. Go slow and keep quiet when trying to sneak up on bass.
Fishing a small lake for bass can be great recreational angling fun. Scan the lake, look for structure, and work the edges, banks, and cover. With any luck at all, you can pull some good largemouths out of small lake water.