Structure — bottom contours that attract bass — forms the foundation of all great fishing spots. And those channel ledges, drop offs, points, flats and other changes are made even better with the addition of cover such as aquatic vegetation, brush, laydowns or broken rock. You have to invest time to find these spots, but once you do, the fishing rewards can be great.
The ponds that Gay fishes have different maximum depths, from only a couple feet to more than 20 feet. If she can’t see the bottom, she drags around a soft-plastic lure that’s Texas rigged or threaded on a shaky head, feeling for structure and cover. If her rod loads but still moves her lure forward, for example, she’s confident that there’s aquatic vegetation present, even if her lure doesn’t bring back a sample. Sharp taps usually indicate rock, and her lure will repeatedly hang and then go free when worked through brush. She said it’s common for a pond owner to sink some cover, such as old Christmas trees.
Most ponds don’t keep all their structure a secret. If it’s fed by a stream or creek, chances are good that it’s shallow near where they enter. Start there in spring, when bass want water warmed by the sun and places to spawn. Look for a channel cut by the inflow; it can make that corner of the pond even better. Deep water is most often found near the dam or outflow. If there isn’t a dam, look for a standpipe, which serves as a pond’s drain. They are placed at the deepest point to ensure the pond can be completely emptied.
If the pond’s water is clear, some of its cover should be visible from the bank. Several of the ponds that Gay regularly fishes, for example, are surrounded by mature trees. So, it’s easy to find and fish ones that have fallen in the water. If you’re fishing in summer, keep an eye open for emergent aquatic vegetation and submerged varieties, especially if they mat on the surface. Both are bass magnets.
Knowing what you’re fishing and where it’s found is half the battle. You also need the right approach, and that starts with adapting to the water color. Gay said it can range from clear to muddy. Her favorite ponds are stained tannic — a color similar to iced tea — because of organic material decomposing underwater.
Stained and muddy water hide approaching anglers from pond bass laying along the bank. But when clear water offers them a perfect view, Gay stands farther from the water’s edge. That lessens the chance of spooking shallow bass. She speaks from experience, having seen plenty scoot off when she wasn’t careful. And in any water color, pond bass may feel you walking to or along the shoreline, the vibrations traveling from the ground into the water. So, step slowly and only as needed.
Gay uses other clues for locating bass, including wading birds such as herons. They feed on baitfish, so where you find them you also are likely to find bass. She’ll watch for theses birds as she approaches a pond, first fishing the stretch or corner where they are standing.
Weather also is a good directional. Bass in ponds often react to weather changes faster than those in larger rivers, reservoirs and lake, a result of swimming in a more confined space. Joey Randall sees that when he leaves the kayak that he fishes bass tournaments from at home and fishes any of several ponds around his Charlotte, N.C., home. He said pond bass can start biting better as soon as clouds cover the sun or a slight breeze blows.
Gay always welcomes wind, preferring to cast from the windblown side, where plankton collect, starting a food chain that continues through baitfish and bass. She said rainy days are good, too. Their low-light conditions offer security to bass, which become more willing to chase and strike lures.
Some pond conditions are nearly impossible to decipher. Gay said water temperature, for example, is an unknown, unless you want to mess with a handheld thermometer. Sticking your hand in it won’t help. The same temperature water can feel cool or warm depending on the air temperature. You may be able to get a rough idea of the temperature by identifying the water’s source. Spring-fed ponds, for example, typically run cooler in summer than those that depend on surface water. So, even when the air is stifling, bass in those ponds may feel fine underwater.
Bank fishing, when compared to boat fishing, changes the locational relationship between angler and bass. On a boat, anglers can easily reposition themselves to present any type of lure. “It’s a big difference being on the bank,” Gay said. While bank anglers don’t have that flexibility, their tackle box is still large. They just need to choose lures that work more horizontally than vertically.
All varieties of soft-plastic lures, especially those Texas rigged, are perfect for fishing a pond from the bank. So are spinnerbaits and topwaters. In fact, if the pond that Gay is fishing has a dock, she’ll skip a jig under it. And if the bass don’t want that, she’ll continue experimenting with different lures and colors until she finds the one that they want, just like a boat-bound angler would do.
Gay will fish crankbaits from the bank as long as they dive less than 10 feet. She steers clear of any that dig deeper. Her reluctance lies in the fact that their maximum depth is reached as the bottom starts getting shallower. That leads to snags, with the lures almost always lost because of the difficulty of getting them unstuck while on the bank.
A few other techniques don’t work well from the bank. Drop shotting, a finesse technique that catches its fair share of largemouth, spotted and smallmouth bass, is one. While you can catch bass casting these rigs, they work best when fished vertically on a spot.