Pond Fishin'By Bill Schultz - June 1, 2003
I've been lucky. Over the past decade I've had access to a pond six miles from my home that's loaded with nice-sized bass and big bluegills. Many days after work I just don't feel like hauling the boat to a lake, or even driving to a river, but I still want to scratch my fishing itch. So I head to the pond.
Finding Ponds and Gaining Access
Ponds are everywhere, and often overlooked. In cities you'll find them in parks, subdivisions, condo developments and industrial parks. Rural areas are home to many famous farm ponds. Old quarries filled with water can be great places to fish. Webster's dictionary defines a pond as "an artificially confined body of water." When I called the Wisconsin DNR they told me they don't have a specific definition of what constitutes a pond. I think of ponds as anything from the size of a small yard, to a few acres. Anything much bigger, I think of as a small lake.
The number of ponds in southern Wisconsin became abundantly clear in April as I flew across Wisconsin from Milwaukee to the Mississippi River on my way to Arizona. From 31,000 feet I could see ponds everywhere, in all shapes and sizes. That secret pond near Madison, with the monster bass, stuck out like an emerald jewel.
As many of you know who've read my "Smallmouths by Foot" article, I love to walk, wade and explore small rivers. Finding ponds can be easy, but sometimes it takes some exploring and searching. The effort may well be worth it. Ponds in public locations are there for the fishing, but gaining access to private ones takes some "finesse," to use a fishing term.
In the early 90's I met a woman in a class I was taking and found out that she lived on a farm with a pond, and the pond was stocked with bass and bluegills. I asked if I could fish the pond, assuring her I wouldn't be keeping any fish. She said yes and let me fish whenever I wanted. When the property was sold I grew to know the new owners and they also let me fish whenever I want. The bonus with this family is that now when I fish the pond I have a fishing partner, their youngest son. I'm sure they hope someday he becomes a doctor or scientist, but I think we have a future bass pro in the making.
Remember, asking permission doesn't automatically mean you're going to get it. If you're turned down, thank the person, but ask again next year. Maybe they'll change their mind. If you do get permission to fish their pond, be respectful -- and it's best to keep your good fortune to yourself. In his "April Bluegills" article in this magazine, Ted Jarosh talks about a friend's farm pond with big bluegills. As Ted noted, "I'd love to tell all my friends at Waters and
As a thank you to the generous pond owner, you may offer to help with some pond maintenance or give him or her a gift certificate to a restaurant at the end of the season. I make sure the young guy who fishes me has a good supply of equipment and lures. These thank you gestures are appreciated and will keep the welcome mat out for next year.
Why I Like Fishing Ponds
I've already mentioned how convenient pond fishing can be and catching fish is high on my list of why I like pond fishing. A pond is also a great place to experiment. When I get new equipment, I'm usually at the pond giving it a good test. Testing a new lure in a pond is great, especially if the water is clear and you can see the action. The pond I fish is fairly clear so, wearing my H3O polarized sunglasses, I can watch the action on that new Rebel Bumble Bug or see how the new Riverside Craw Bug looks as I work it along the bottom. If you have a lure that's not swimming properly, a pond is the perfect place to tune it.
Ponds are great places to observe spawning habits of fish. Over the years I've closely watched the spawning habits of both bluegills and bass. The knowledge I've gained from these observations has been very helpful.
Ponds provide a quiet escape. If you're fishing a private pond, you'll probably be the only one there, and many times the public ponds can be pretty quiet, especially on weekdays. These small bodies of water are a great place to teach a child how to fish in a safe environment, and best of all the kid will catch fish.
How to Fish a Pond and What to Use
Most of the ponds I've fished have bass and bluegills as the primary tenants. When I discover a new pond and get permission to fish it, I'll do a quick survey. I check water clarity and structure, like downed trees or various types of weeds, likely places that will hold fish. I usually begin fishing at one end and work my way around the pond, coming back to spots that I've found to be productive. Generally I use lighter equipment and tackle. When going light I fish with St. Croix 6' to 7' light action rods, with Shimano 1000 series or Okuma 15 series reels spooled with 4-pound and sometimes 6-pound Silver Thread Excalibur line. Soaking a wax worm under a bobber is a great way to catch bluegills, but I prefer using small crankbaits. I love the Rebel "critter" baits. They work great for bluegills and amazingly well for bass.
The Teeny Wee-Crawfish has been my favorite for bluegills ever since I caught two on my first cast with this lure. I also like using Rebel's Crickhopper, Teeny Wee-Frog, Hellgrammite, Cat'r Crawler, Tadfly and am excited about the new Bumble Bug and Big Ant. Most of these are floater divers and can be worked as topwaters by casting, letting the lure sit, and then giving it a few twitches. Because they float to the surface slowly, another great technique is to retrieve and then let it sit for a few seconds and repeat. If the fish are fairly active a steady retrieve works great. These little fish-catching magnets have a very tight wiggle and give off tons of vibration. The small #14 trebles work perfectly for bluegills; however, be ready for surprises, as these will also catch plenty of bass. A few years ago I caught a 5.5 pound largemouth on a St. Croix 5'6" ultra-light, 4-pound test line and the Teeny Wee-Crawfish. Back-reeling saved the day.
Some days it's fun to simply target bass. In a pond with fairly clear water, wearing my H3O polarized sunglasses, I can watch the bass cruise the shoreline. Using a Texas-rigged Gary Yamamoto Senko or Riverside Finesse Worm, I flip the bait past the bass towards deeper water. Almost always the noise of the bait hitting and the movement of the lure gets their attention and I can see them head deeper to check it out. When I feel the gentle pull and see the line moving, I set the hook for some bassin' fun. For this presentation I use a 6'6" or 7' St. Croix medium-light or medium action rod with a Shimano 2000 series reel or the new St. Croix Avid 2000 series reel spooled with 8-pound Excalibur. With this and all the techniques I've talked about it's important to be quiet and try to sneak up on the fish. As we all know, if you can see them, they probably can see you.
At other times when I'm targeting bass, it's fun to bring out the baitcaster and sling some spinnerbaits. I usually use 1/4 and 3/8 ounce spinnerbaits with gold/silver willowleaf blades and white or white/chartreuse skirts. For this presentation I use 6'6" and 7' medium and medium-light St. Croix baitcasters with Abu Garcia C4, Eon or new Torno reels spooled with 10 or 12-pound Excalibur line.
On quiet summer evenings I love going after bass with topwater lures. The pond I fish most often has a number of spots that I can cast across and fish the opposite shore, almost like fishing out of a boat. I use a variety of topwaters, including the Zara and Super Spook, Zara Puppy, Hula Popper, Excalibur Pop'n Image, Pop-R, Torpedo, Chug Bug, Jitterbug and Devil's Horse. There's nothing quite like the excitement of a nice bass slamming that topwater lure on a calm quiet evening.
With thousands of great ponds across Wisconsin and many other states, don't miss the opportunity to do some exploring and find your own little "fish factory." Take it from me -- you won't be sorry and will love what you find.