Plan for Farm Pond Success
By: Mike Pehanich
Forethought and strategic tackle planning can make a big difference when fishing small waters.
Small waters are the breeding ground for many, if not most, of today’s ardent fishermen. But I’ve found that the way to reap the richest rewards from a pint-size fishery is to size it up as if tournament money were on the line and to gear up accordingly.
It’s a fun exercise that not only allows you to make the most out of even short outing but makes you a better angler overall.
Every body of water is in constant flux. Ponds age more rapidly than big waters, so the changes they will undergo can happen very quickly. Habitat changes. Vegetation appears and disappears. Siltation will occur. Water clarity may change dramatically.
Recently, I had the chance to revisit a farm pond I had only flirted with years ago. I had thought often of the water and imagined it neglected.
I worry about neglected waters as if they were my own children. Had it suffered any fish kills? Was it filled with stunted bass? Did it harbor any jaw droppers?
I would soon find out.
The pond had been ringed with vegetation the first time I had seen it, and, on the north end, matted grass had reached a third of the way across. The vegetation had been managed with rakes and chemicals in recent years, so I imagined that I would find aquatic grass still in evidence though somewhat sparse.
With the exception of a small beach area, I remembered that the banks fell off fairly quickly, and I guessed that there were a good many undercut areas where bass could find umbrage. Trees and bushes lined the bank at the southeast and northwest corners, with overhanging branches in the latter area providing shade. Deadfall and stickups made for neat natural cover; a dock and beached swimming platform provided manmade shade.
I’d have only a few hours to fish (one hour in the morning, two hours at mid-day) but I wanted to learn as much as I could about the pond and those fish in the time I had.
A weak cold front had come in with the prior evening’s rain, so I suspected that I might need to drop a jig on the nose of a bass tight to cover early in the day. I would look for active fish with moving baits and work cover and shaded areas with plastic worms and jigs later.
Meteorologists called for humidity and cloud cover by noon, and that prediction inflated my hopes of a middle-of-the-day topwater bite – not nearly so rare a phenomenon as many bass anglers claim.
I loaded up a Piscifun Fishing Tackle Backpack for the outing. The pack, available through the Piscifun website (www.piscifun.com), was designed with the angler-on-the-move in mind and with the kind of care you’d put into the layout of a high-end bass boat. It has well-conceived compartments and accommodations for all the tackle, tools and accessories you will need fishing afoot including a reinforced top pocket (for my prescription sunglasses); a protected inner compartment for tackle or valuables; an easy-access phone pouch; a drain pocket for a water container; two built-in band sheaths for pliers and other tools; pockets and a large top compartment for soft plastics, reels, spools of line and more; and enough gut space for three to five mid-size tackle trays depending on how you employ its compartments.
I was betting on a jig bite. I’d filled the Piscifun tackle trays with jigs to cover most possibilities – flipping/pitching jigs, swim jigs, football jigs, and finesse jigs. The jig emphasis narrowed my need for soft plastics to frog- and craw-type trailers. I wanted some trailers with active appendages
such as the Strike King Rage Craw and Berkley Powerbait Chigger Craw for both the flipping jigs and swim jigs. I also had smaller craw tails and twintail grubs for the finesse jigs.
If fish were active and moving, I was ready with swim jigs, shallow running crankbaits (squarebills and a couple of mid-depth crankbaits), an array of standard topwater lures.
And I rarely go to farm ponds without a hollow-bodied frog.
When you have narrowed fish-holding areas, it’s hard to beat a wacky- or Texas-rigged worm. I brought stickworms (Yamamoto, Bass Pro, Powerbait) and Jackall Flick Shake worms along with Jackall’s wacky jigheads and some wide gap worm hooks.
On the water
I liked the flexibility of the plan and my tackle selection. I had covered the high-percentage possibilities but had a few extra chips placed on a topwater bite….Just on a hunch!
A north wind blew early on, and with it came bluebird skies. Water was murky, too. I kept to the east and southeast bank for the short early morning hour. Nothing chased my moving baits, so I gave up on them early to pitch jigs.
I could produce no action around the dock, but I quickly provoked a strike from a fat bass lying in ambush in the grassy undercut bank area in the southeast corner of the pond. A big fish rolled on the same jig in the stick-ups on the south end, and I finished the morning by catching a pair of two-pounders from the finger-like structure near the stick-up on an unweighted Senko and a Flick Shake worm.
Errands filled the rest of the morning, but I was back on the water shortly after the noon hour. Conditions had changed significantly in that time. Water clarity had improved, and a soft
southwest wind had ushered in haze, humidity and softer sunlight. I added three new buzz-style topwater baits from the Floating GrassBurner series made by Evolution Baits to the Piscifun backpack.
Vegetation rose in clumps and small surface mats on the north end. I worked the clumps with a hollow-bodied frog and drew an explosive strike in the thick growth in the northeast corner. Had the mats been thicker, I would likely have stuck with the frog a lot longer. But the scattered clumps of grass called for something different. I tied on the Floating GrassBurner. A 2-1/2 pound largemouth blasted it on the first cast. The next two casts drew two more strikes and brought a second bass to bank.
The topwater bite remained hot for the next hour or so. Ten bass fell to that buzzing topwater bait.
When the action tapered off, I hiked to the south end of the pond to work the finger structure and stick-ups, confident there were more fish in the area. A Flick Shake worm on the deep end drew an immediate strike, and a bass I estimated close to the five-pound mark went airborne, sending the jighead and worm flying with a headshake.
More fish followed.
You can’t expect every pond hopping adventure to come together as well as this one did, but you’ll do well to put together a best-bet game plan before you fish. It’s easy to underestimate the complexity of farm ponds, quarry lakes, strip mine waters, small development lakes and the like. It is fine to take a more leisurely approach to such waters. But you will reap bigger rewards if you’re a man (or woman) with a plan and a tackle bag tailored to the task at hand.
Don’t camp your booty on one patch of grass and expect the fish to come to you. Plan to cover as much of that pond or lake as you can. Better yet, have a plan of attack that finds you concentrating your efforts at high-percentage locations on the lake.
Don’t limit yourself to a barebones pond rod and solitary tackle tray. Many small waters in Illinois and across the Midwest are loaded with bass including genuine trophies. Bring the lures and tackle that will allow you to adjust to your discoveries.
Pack a comfortable backpack like the Piscifun Fishing Tackle Backpack with tackle tailored to the season, the pond, and the fish you’ll likely find there.
Sound preparation brings big returns, even on small waters.