Big Bass From Smaller Hoosier Lakes

Beaver, Huntingburg and Scales lakes may not be household names, yet they still produce big bass for anglers in the know. Here's what you should know. (April 2008)

Photo by Ron Sinfelt.

A lake doesn't have to be big to offer up some great bass fishing. As a matter of fact, smaller lakes are often better bets than larger waters when it comes to tangling with good numbers of lunker-class bass. You certainly can't always expect to have 50-fish days, but true trophies are sometimes lurking in the depths of these overlooked waters.

The bass in many of our smaller waters are educated. It's open to debate how long a bass will be conditioned to avoid any bait they've been caught on, but that they do remember is undisputed. When you're tackling a small lake, you know that many of these bass have been caught before. They aren't going to fall for the same trick twice. It's uncanny that bass have the ability to successfully ignore these baits, at least through the rest of the open-water season.

Dealing with "educated" bass in these lakes means experimenting with off-colored baits and different presentations than you might be used to. Fishing with either an undersized or an oversized bait, finessing with soft plastics and either speeding up or slowing down your crankbaits can all mean the difference between fish on the line or a fishless day. Let the bass tell you what they want.

Here's a look at three small lakes where largemouth fishing can be as good as you want it to be this spring.

BEAVER CREEK LAKE
Beaver Creek Lake is also known as Beaver Lake and Beaver Dam Lake, but no matter what you call it, this 205-acre jewel can produce some nice bass.

"This lake is a good bass lake," long-time fisheries biologist Dan Carnahan said. "Electrofishing catch rates are good and it has some nice-sized bass as well. During a survey a few years ago, largemouth bass numbers accounted for 13 percent of the total fish population in the lake and made up 43 percent of the fish population's total weight. The 369 largemouths that were sampled included fish over 18 inches."

This survey showed a dramatic improvement in the bass population over previous numbers. According to Carnahan, the lake is an excellent fishery for both bass and panfish and at the rate the bass showed up in the survey, the lake would normally be considered top-heavy with predators and in need of more bluegills, crappies and redears.

"Beaver is an all-around excellent fishery and is one of those rare lakes where both the panfish and the bass fishing are excellent," Carnahan said.

The lake has a history of producing good bassin', said Jeff Miley of Jeff's Bait and Gun Shop in Jasper. Best-bet locations on the lake early in the spring include the docks that border much of the shoreline. Some dock owners have dropped brushpiles into the lake by their docks to spice the angling up a bit. If you can find them, these can be the hotspots.

Rat-L-Traps and jigs in the dam area are consistent producers, Miley said. Riprap banks sometimes hold bass early on if the sun is warming these areas. If a brushpile can be found in combination with other cover, chances are you'll connect with a bass or two.

The lake's deepest point is over 30 feet at the dam. The lake averages about 15 feet throughout most of the lake. A permit from the Jasper Park and Recreation Department is required to use the lake's concrete ramp located at the west end of the lake off East-Jasper/Dubois Road.

For additional information, contact the Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) District 7 at (812) 789-2724, Jeff's Bait and Gun Shop at (812) 482-6672, or the Jasper Park and Recreation Department at (812) 482-5959.

HUNTINGBURG LAKE
"Huntingburg has always been a good lake to catch big bass from, but the numbers have gone down a bit," biologist Carnahan said. "Huntingburg's fishing has changed very little since the last survey in 2000, but it continues to be an excellent lake for big largemouths."

Gizzard shad are the main forage for bass in 188-acre Huntingburg, a fact to keep in mind when it's time to tie on your favorite lure. Silver, white and other shad-imitating crankbaits should ring the dinner bell for Huntingburg bass. If your lure looks like a shad, it stands a good chance of being hit.

The 2006 fisheries survey proved to be fairly impressive for a small lake. Thirty-nine largemouths were caught during the survey that measured up to 21 inches or longer. Thirty-one percent of the bass caught measured at least 14 inches. There were some whoppers in the mix.

Anglers will find both smaller and larger bass in the lake and should probably err on the side of using oversized baits rather than smaller ones. By mid to late spring, bass are feeding heavily and can be taken by anglers who are willing to choose their offerings wisely. Remember that the lake is a small one and many of these largemouths will have been caught before. Trying a wacky-rigged worm, a wobbling Rapala Fat Rap or a slow-rolled spinnerbait may be an approach these cautious bass aren't expecting.

Huntingburg reaches to 23 feet but averages just over 10 feet deep. This water is owned by the city of Huntingburg and a permit is required to fish the lake. Outboard motors are prohibited.

The lake is approximately a mile west of the town of Huntingburg on state Route (SR) 64 in Dubois County. The boat access is located off SR 64 on the north side of the lake. Huntingburg offers good shoreline access for bank-fishermen.

Contact District 7 at (812) 789-2724 for more information.

SCALES LAKE
"Scales is an excellent lake for panfish and smaller bass with a 12- to 15-inch slot limit on the largemouths," biologist Carnahan said. "In the spring of 2007, we surveyed the lake; we didn't find as many bass as we usually do, but it's still a good lake to catch a lot of bass in."

Bass over 15 inches are available for the savvy angler who knows how to fish for them. These bass will fall for the usual largemouth tactics but can be fussy, too. Trying something a little different may pick up a big largemouth when it passes up presentations it's used to seeing.

A 2006 fisheries survey of 66-acre Scales Lake showed a healthy population of bucketmouths that made up 17 percent of the lake's total fish population by weight. Even so, most anglers aren't looking for them.

According to Greg Ashley of Buck and Jake's Outdoor Outfitters, the locals aren'

t talking much about the bass. Bluegill and redear fishermen score big here, so bass are relatively overlooked.

Coontail, sago pondweed and curlyleaf pondweed are predominant in the lake and during summer. Curlyleaf pondweed can take over most of the lake. Every year, an herbicide is applied to reduce the amount of submerged vegetation.

The park has a campground and offers a chance for a relaxing weekend with some decent largemouth bass fishing as the main attraction. A handicapped accessible boat ramp and fishing pier are available on the north end of the lake, and shoreline fishing access is good. An entrance fee is charged to get into the park and an additional fee is charged to launch a boat. Boat rentals are available and the park should be contacted for availability. Outboard motors are prohibited.

Scales is part of the Warrick County Parks and Recreation Department. It's located just northeast of Boonville. The lake's bays generally run from 5 to 10 feet deep, while the main-lake basin reaches down to about 20 feet.

For more information, contact District 7 at (812) 789-2724 or the Scales Lake Park at (812) 897-6200. Also, visit the park Web site at www.scaleslakepark.com. For area information, contact the Buck and Jake's Outdoor Outfitters in Boonville at (812) 897-4285.

There you have it: three small lakes that offer big bass fishing. It does prove the old saying "good things come in small packages" after all!

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