Some of the best summer fishing takes place on small waters – little lakes, ponds, pits, and virtual puddles that range mostly from 2 to 200 acres in size. While there may be some technical difference among scientists between the definition of a pond and a small lake, as well as regional preferences in terminology, for the sake of this article, I’ll use the word pond to refer to all such small waters.
Whatever you call them, they’re intimate, fairly easy to fish, economical with respect to lack of gasoline consumption, frequently productive for a variety of species, and capable of holding bragging-size fish. Many ponds are not accessible to the public. Private ponds usually get less fishing pressure than publicly accessible ones.
Some ponds are fished from big boats, some from small electric motor-powered boats or cartop craft (especially jonboats, kayaks, and canoes), and in many instances they’re approached from the bank. Shore-based anglers tend to be stationary or to fish the same places due to access, which is a big impediment to success, especially in summer.
Work a Little Harder
A lot of shore-based fishing effort occurs at the most accessible locations, in part because of bushes and brush that rings many such waters. A lot of fishing occurs from a dock. Thus, if possible, it may be a good idea to get to less-regularly fished bank locations that others can’t readily get to.
Wearing hip waders is a good idea, in case you need to take to the water or walk through slop, and they help in places with ticks, chiggers, and poisonous snakes.
Many small waters have a lot of muck on the bottom, however, so be extremely careful about wading. Test the bottom first, or you could sink to your thighs or worse. A float tube can be a good option, although I wouldn’t do it where alligators exist (the gator on the surface isn’t the problem, but the lurker below who thinks you look like a giant duck is).
Many small waters have thick masses of aquatic plants near the shore and sometimes extending a good distance from the shore, which makes it hard to fish swimming and surface plugs, although not weightless worms, weedless spoons, weedless surface lures, and sometimes spinnerbaits. This is especially true in summer, meaning that you might prefer fishing such waters during the winter and early spring before the vegetation gets thick.
However, where bass are your intended target, it’s better to look for places that have cover than to fish those that are cover-less. Also, concentrate on places that for some reason are different than the rest of the lake – a point, a lone set of lily pads, a bank with good depth nearby, etc.
Tactics and Tackle
Wherever you fish, make initial casts from well behind the edge of the bank to avoid spooking any near-bank fish. Cast in a fan pattern to thoroughly cover 180 degrees from where you stand, but if you walk the bank or wade, make sure to cast parallel to the bank and to weedlines. Start with something subtle rather than noisy. In a particularly promising place, change lures when your first choice doesn’t produce; weightless soft plastics are very good.
Also, use a line that is strong enough to deal with good-sized fish that you may have to wrestle out of cover. Thin but strong, and with good abrasion resistance, are the characteristics you need. And make sure your rod can handle some rough stuff. I recently broke a rod in the ferrule because it was too light to drag a thrashing 5-pound bass through a yard’s worth of bank brush. It was my own fault.