Dissect Any Farm Pond For Great Bass Fishing
These techniques and lures are all you need to work over the bass in most any small lake.
From tempting spotted bass with topwater plugs on Allatoona and Lanier to chasing linesides on Oconee and Clarks Hill, I love about any type of fishing. But if I could choose my perfect day on the water, just show me a farm pond that’s home to a few bass, put me in a low-sided jonboat, and hand me a sculling paddle. That’s my fishing heaven.
There are times—often—when I want to avoid ski boats pulling tubers in figure eights and wave runners who seem to think they’re supposed to zip between your boat and the bank you’re casting to. Farm ponds provide a perfect, relaxing setting for a day of fishing. And the bass catching can be phenomenal.
Just for clarification, a farm pond to me is a generic term for any small lake. They can range in size from less than an acre to more than a hundred acres, and they do not have to be on a farm or in cow pasture.
The attractions of a farm pond are many, not the least of which is a very peaceful, relaxing setting. Daybreak on a secluded farm pond is good for the soul. It could even make a lifetime angler and outdoors lover out of a kid afflicted with a Fortnite addiction. Bass breaking the surface at daybreak of a farm pond—that’s just magical.
Relaxing is great, but the reason I love farm pond bass fishing the best? I love catching bass. Farm ponds, even those that aren’t slam-dunk lakes teeming with bass, can provide great action. Small-lake bass are hemmed up, and the bass catching is even better if you have a plan of attack for a small body of water.
I grew up with a small lake in the backyard and fished it dang near every evening. During college, I think me and my buddies hit every farm pond within 60 miles of Athens. I still love to fish some small lakes in Morgan and Jasper counties near our home.
Here’s what I learned over the years about dissecting a farm pond. In all but the very worst fishing conditions, it’s almost impossible not to catch some bass if you follow this plan.
Most farm ponds and small lakes have a dock. Many of these docks are in rough shape—half fallen in, they might even have bushes or other growth sprouting up through the wooden slats. The older the dock the better, has been my experience.
This most obvious piece of farm-pond structure is often the most overlooked. Or, at least, it’s often attacked incorrectly. I’d venture to bet most anglers, when they arrive at the lake’s edge to fish a farm pond, begin by walking out on the dock and stacking up gear before loading up the jonboat and pushing off to begin the day of fishing. Those anglers just spooked any bass that call that dock their living room, and in a small pond, those bass may have included the biggest bass in the lake. When the anglers come back by the dock an hour or two later and fish it, a dink or two might be all they muster.
Before loading up your gear at a dock, ease down there like you’re stalking a big buck, and fish it from the bank. Run a topwater along the sides, and then work the dock posts with a 6-inch Zoom lizard. Rig it Texas-style with a 1/4-oz. bullet weight, and I’d recommend green-pumpkin and watermelon-candy as can’t-miss colors.
If you don’t get a bite on the dock, you might consider finding a new farm pond to fish—the dock should be a sure thing for a bass or two before you even start your day of farm pond fishing.
First Light Topwater
The reason most anglers make a bunch of noise scaring bass away from the dock is because at daybreak they hear bass busting on top somewhere down the bank. Understandably, you’re in a hurry to get after those bass, and for good reason. Especially in the heat of summer, that topwater bite won’t last long. When the sun hits the water of a farm pond, it’s typically over.
Here’s how we attack the awesome, albeit time-limited morning topwater bite. Whether you’re in a boat or fishing from the bank, make casts as close and parallel to the bank as possible. You want to cover water quickly. Try to pick off as many active bass feeding in the shallows as possible before the sun hits the water.
A buzzbait is a great lure for this technique. When pond fishing, I prefer a soft “bubbler” buzzbait rather than a loud, clacker-style bait.
A white or chartreuse 3/16-oz. Strike King Tri-Wing Buzz King or similar style buzzbait works well in farm ponds, where shallow bass can be more skittish than in a big-water, reservoir-type situation where wave action and noise are common.
If a bass swipes at your buzzbait and misses, or if you’re in an area where a bass has been active in the shallows but isn’t interested in the buzzbait, try a Megabass i-LOUD topwater with a rear prop. This bait, for whatever reason, is a big-bass magnet, especially on small lakes.
It’s not a cheap bait, so make sure you have good line and retie often. I made that mistake one morning on a little 2-acre Morgan County pond. A nice bass, probably 5 pounds or so, broke me off. I was sick about losing that plug, and the bass decided to rub it in by jumping clear out of the water about 15 minutes later trying to shake those hooks from her mouth.
I recommend two other topwater plugs that are more subtle. Don’t fish a farm pond without a Bagley Bang-O-Lure Spintail and a small Rebel Pop-R. Twitch the Bang-O-Lure so the rear prop throws some water over the bait, and then let it sit for as long as you stand it. For farm pond fishing, I like the chartreuse bluegill color, and you can’t go wrong with the classic black-back/silver foil color.
The Pop-R is a smaller option that also can be fished for a subtle topwater presence. The Bang-O-Lure can be a big-bass bait, while the Pop-R is usually better for numbers.
The Dam Corners
Once the sun hits the water, those easy bass slamming topwater in the shallows often evaporate. My next target is the corners of the pond dam. I’ll make sure to fish these two spots before the sun gets high and the temperatures really begin to climb. A bass angler older and wiser than me started me on fishing dam corners, and I remember asking him why this is almost a sure-thing on most farm ponds. His theory was that aggressive bass in a small lake often move shallow to feed, and they then cruise the bank. The pond corners are like a busy intersection, he theorized.
A dam corner usually has a good flat that drops off into some of the deepest water in the pond. If there are good flats, both corners will usually have bream beds during the summer. Run a double willowleaf spinnerbait through these areas, especially around the full-moon period when bluegills are bedding. Trim the back of the spinnerbait skirt so the second blade spins freely.
I can’t tell you the number of nice farm pond bass I’ve caught over the years on a spinnerbait in the dam corners, especially along the deep edge of a bream bed. You can also ply the edges of these flats and drop-offs with a Texas-rigged lizard or worm. The Zoom lizard is hard to beat.
Open-Water Fan Cast
Bank cover gets most of a bass angler’s attention, especially in a farm pond. But some number of bass are usually going to be off the banks, either loafing or cruising the open water in the middle of a small lake. These bass might not be actively feeding, but a reaction bait can often draw a strike.
The bass in most small lakes can’t resist a Rat-L-Trap. Try moving out to the middle and fan casting with this lipless crankbait. They make a zillion colors of Rat-L-Traps these days, but I use the old standard — a 1/2-oz. Trap in the chrome/black-back color. You can cast this lipless crankbait a country mile, and bass love it, especially bass in a farm pond where fishing pressure is light.
When fan casting a Rat-L-Trap, I usually start with a fast retrieve. I make a long cast, let it sink about halfway to the bottom, and then I burn it back to the boat. I’ll quickly work the open water in every direction all the way around the boat. Then, from the same spot, I’ll try a stop-and-go retrieve with the Trap.
Finally, I’ll let the lure sink to the bottom and use a pump-and-fall retrieve, sweeping the rod and reeling up the slack while letting it fall back to the bottom. Cover all of the deeper, open water away from the bank with a Rat-L-Trap.
And last but certainly not least, move the boat about 5 feet more than a long cast from the bank, and work the deeper parts of the pond with a No. 5 Rapala Shad Rap crankbait.
Dissect a farm pond or small lake with these techniques, and more often than not you’re going to leave with a roughed up thumb from lipping largemouth bass.
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