I fish and guide on big lakes, but I’ll be totally honest—once the local schools dismiss for the summer, you usually won’t find me on a recreational lake after lunchtime on the weekends. I’m not too hot on the idea of jumping wakeboard wakes and dodging jet skis and small ponds are a great way to escape the crowds.
I recently fished a small, private pond with Strike King pro Greg Hackney and we put together 5 tips that will help you catch more pond bass this summer.
1. Don’t overcomplicate things
Like most of us, Hackney’s love for bass fishing began on the banks of local farm ponds as a child. Although he didn’t have the latest and greatest equipment, he was able to simplify his approach and catch a lot of big bass using the little gear he had.
“The best thing about fishing small ponds is you can keep everything simple without having to spend a lot of money,” Hackney said. “At most, I’ll carry 3 rods with me. If you’ve got enough rods to cover the top, middle and bottom of the water column, you’re going to catch plenty of bass.”
Pond bass are notorious for being fairly indiscriminate feeders. The majority of ponds experience little to no fishing pressure, resulting in a lot of big, uneducated bass. According to Hackney, all you’ll need to catch summer pond bass are spinnerbaits, topwater frogs and big worms.
“By throwing a spinnerbait such as Strike King Hack Attack Heavy Cover Spinnerbait, you’ll be able to mimic shad, bluegill and even small crappie, which are all major staples in the diet of pond bass,” Hackney said. “These bass also eat a lot of leeches and small snakes, making a Strike King Rage Tail ReCon Worm a great selection. The big girls also love to ambush frogs and there’s no better frog imitation than a Strike King KVD Sexy Frog. With these 3 baits, you’re almost covering their entire diet.”
2. Pay close attention to environmental cues
I’ve started keeping a close eye on environmental cues when pond fishing and it’s paid big dividends for me. If you pay attention to your surroundings, you’ll know what the bass are feeding on.
When I first approach a pond in the summer, the first thing I look for is topwater baitfish activity. If you notice small, isolated patches of slight ripples on a calm day, don’t mistake that for wind—that’s a telltale sign of active bass chasing bait. This is a perfect time to throw shad imitation baits such as spinnerbaits and small lipless crankbaits. Simply throw past the bait ball and retrieve your lure through the school.
If you don’t see any topwater activity, soft plastics are an outstanding choice. Many ponds lack big concentrations of bait, forcing the bass to look elsewhere for food. In lieu of shad, these bass will feed on big leeches, lizards, snakes and even eels in some parts of the country. To match the available forage in these situations, I utilize big worms, soft plastic lizards and paddle tail worms on simple Texas rigs.
During the mornings and evenings, it’s important to use your ears. Here in Georgia, you’ll often hear a single frog begin croaking just as the sun dips below the trees. Shortly after, you’ll start to hear hundreds of frogs croak. When this happens, I stop what I’m doing and throw a topwater frog. Frogs are most active in lowlight hours and after rain showers, and trust me—the bass know when they come out to play.
3. Learn valuable lessons with an ultra-light rod
If you like to fish big lakes, I encourage you to bring an ultra-light rod the next time you go pond fishing this summer. It may feel a little awkward at first, but if you can draw a strike on a tiny crankbait such as a Strike King Pro Model Mini 3, you’ll learn a lot of lessons on fighting big fish.
“I learned how to fight big bass by using an ultra-light rod on small ponds,” Hackney said. “When you hang into a 5-pounder on 4 or 6-pound line, you’ve got to make all the right moves in order to catch that fish. If you can get comfortable doing that, those skills will absolutely transfer to big lake fishing and make you a better all-around angler. Not to mention, it’s a ton of fun!”
4. Downsize to a shorter rod
It seems like there is always a good population of shallow bass in small ponds—even in the heat of the summer. It can be pretty tricky, however, to get your bait to these fish on overgrown, unmanaged ponds. Hackney learned his lesson early in life and started using much shorter rods to increase his casting efficiency.
“On overgrown ponds, I rarely use rods longer than 6 feet,” Hackney said. “A shorter rod will really help you cast around bushes and trees while also giving you more room to set the hook in tight places. I’ve always done the majority of my pond fishing with a 5-foot, 6-inch pistol-grip rod.”
5. Get creative with your approach
In the heat of the summer, many pond bass will flock toward shallow feeder creeks in search of better oxygen levels. Some of the most productive ponds are often overgrown and overlooked, making it difficult to fish heavily wooded areas. That’s never stopped Hackney from getting to the big ones, however.
“A good pair of hip boots is invaluable,” Hackney said. “I’m sure wading around in a little pond will look funny to your buddies, but I’ve caught some of my biggest fish doing this. Sometimes all you need is a few extra feet to reach that good looking laydown or stump, and this is a great way to do it if you don’t have your own boat.”
Whether you’re a tournament angler seeking relief from the summer crowds of your home lake or a year-round pond angler, don’t let the warm temperatures scare you away from your local ponds this summer. If you keep things simple, pay attention to environmental cues, use the correct tackle and think outside the box, you’re going to unlock some serious summertime fun.
by Walker Smith