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Big Fish in a Small Pond

Updated on September 20, 2012
I caught these in a farm pond using top water lures in warmer weather. The biggest was 7 1/2 pounds.
I caught these in a farm pond using top water lures in warmer weather. The biggest was 7 1/2 pounds.
My son with a 3 pounder. The water is getting cooler, so we had to think smaller and deeper. This fish was caught on a white 1/2 oz beetlespin with a colorado blade.
My son with a 3 pounder. The water is getting cooler, so we had to think smaller and deeper. This fish was caught on a white 1/2 oz beetlespin with a colorado blade.

The Basics of Pond Fishing

No, it’s not what you think. This is actually about fishing and catching big fish in a small pond.

I have fished all over North America most of my life, from the lakes of Canada to the trout streams of the High Sierras and the Rockies, to the creeks, rivers and streams of rural America from New York to Dixie. I have fished for big game fish up and down the Pacific Coast from British Columbia to Mexico, but the most fun I have ever had was fishing in the Midwestern farm ponds. Most of these farm ponds are a virtually untapped resource for big crappie, bluegill and catfish. But the biggest thrill is finding a forgotten pond buried in the trees that is churning with huge largemouth bass.

The usual way to find a good pond is to take a nice country drive. You can see a few ponds from the road, and if you are savvy enough and friendly enough, you can knock on the farmer’s door and ask him for permission to fish. Most likely he will say yes, especially if you promise to share your catch with him. Some will only allow catch and release fishing, but nevertheless, offer something in return, like a couple of hours labor, or have your wife bake a pie for him. You will always be welcomed back.

The best way to find a good pond is from the air, but many of us don’t have the luxury of an airplane. I have found many good spots to fish from my plane, and have even obtained permission from the farmers to land on their fields. But even without a plane, you can still find the good spots with a good Plat map. These can be found in any County Commission or Tax office. They will usually identify the name and address of the landowner as well.

Once you have located a good looking pond, study it for awhile before you cast a line in. It is good to have a good pair of polarized sunglasses to see through the surface glare to whatever underwater features, as well as fish, are available. Study the shore lines; look for areas with a low tree overhang or a sharp drop off. Look for any signs of underwater structure such as rocks, old trees, etc. (this will be particularly handy in avoiding snags and losing tackle). Make a note of a gentle slope of shoreline as well, as these are good feeding and breeding areas for nearly all species of fish. Are there a lot of water bugs? Do you see any young fry (hatchling fish in the shallows about 1-2 inches long)? Is the water clear or cloudy? Is the sky clear or cloudy? All of these variables make a big difference on how successful you will be at catching fish.

Let’s start with the basics. You can use a hook, sinker and a worm and catch a variety of fish including bass, catfish, bluegill (bream) and crappie. If you want to go after a specific fish, such as catfish, there are stink baits and chicken livers available for use. Bluegill will always bite on worms, and crappie will usually bite on small lures or minnows. Some old timers swear by canned corn for crappie. I have always had good luck with the former.

As far as bass are concerned, they are a fickle bunch. They could be swarming around at your feet and chase whatever you throw at them, but will seldom bite. Some days they will tear apart everything that you throw at them. In the early spring, long “stick bait” lures seem to work best in a variety of bright colors like orange, yellow or “fire tiger”. As the summer rolls on, they seem to go for the deep running lures, usually in a more natural color scheme resembling a small bait fish, but in the early mornings and late evenings when the day is cooler, you can get them to hit a popper colored like a frog or salamander. When the water is murky, you would think that the brighter colors would work, but I have always had good luck with a dark “bug” type lure, worked slowly along the bottom.

A lot of times with bass, the bigger the lure, the bigger the fish you will catch. My favorite lures in the crack of dawn hours are the “Zara Spook” and the “Bassarino”. The Zara Spook can actually be “walked” across the water’s surface and its action resembles an injured baitfish or a small snake. The Bassarino is a huge bass plug that comes in a variety of colors and patterns. Again, my favorite is the frog. In one instance, I was casting a Bassarino for some 6lb plus bass when I caught a 17 ½ inch crappie that weighed 4lbs 3oz. It was just 4oz short of a Missouri state record. The best way to find out what they are biting on is to keep a variety of sizes and colors in your box and just keep trying until you get it right.

If All Else Fails

If all else fails and you have no natural bait like worms or minnows, think small. If they are not biting the big jigs, then think outside the box, and start fishing with bait as small as possible. The tinier they are the better. When fish are picky, they will nibble rather than eat. Usually when you are getting down to a ¼ or ½ oz jig, you want to use a light color and maybe an extra split shot a foot or two up the line for extra casting weight. I prefer a clear plastic water bubble about 2 feet up the line from the jig. This is a bobber that can be filled partially or completely with water to give it weight for casting. Once it is under water, it is weightless and has little effect on the action of the lure. You can also cast it out empty and use it as an “invisible” float.

This is just the beginning. There is more to write about fishing than I could possibly put on paper or in a blog. If you have any questions, feel free to write me at, as for me, I am headed down to Lake Lulawissie for some serious crappie fishing.

Good Luck!

The entire contents of this writing, and all writings previous to this one, including the name “Lulawissie”, are the original work of Delbert Banks and are protected by the copyright laws of the United States of America. © 2010 By Delbert Banks.


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    • Iontach profile image

      Iontach 7 years ago

      Wow they are some big mammas you've caught in the pic! Fishing is actually my favourite pastime. Just haven't done it in 2 years.

      I'm more of an angler at heart, tried fly fishing and it just wasn't for me. Once my friend got the fly caught in my eyebrow when fly fishing! Was too close a call for comfort, plus I was pretty useless at it.

      One thing that may have lead me to stop fishing is that where I live, in the east of Ireland, there are basically NO FISH left in the rivers. It is a problem that started a few years ago when a tonne of people from mainland europe came over and didn't realise/ignored the fact that Ireland has a lot of catch and release policies in many places. They also started putting nets and overnight hooked lines in the water! I mean come on.

      It sucks!

      My dream would be to go to one of Americas big lakes and to some fishing there, or go to Alaska for fishing.

      And i've never though about going onto farmers land to fish, that a very good suggestion.

      Nice Hub!