5 Northern State Lunker Largemouth Hotspots

From Lake Wawasee to Salamonie Reservoir, plus three other picks, here's where you'll find some of our state's best bassing in the northern tier counties. (May 2007)

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

Right now is one of the most exciting times of the year to fish for largemouth bass. And it has a lot to do with the metabolisms of largemouths increasing as water temperatures go up as well. After surviving a long winter, the business of species propagation is of paramount importance to largemouth bass, and their feeding rates will increase in the springtime to prepare for the rigors of spawning. As a matter of fact, in the springtime, the entire aquatic food chain will explode with activity -- and this is good news for bass enthusiasts.

Because of these increased levels of feeding and activity, largemouth fishermen will often use crankbaits and spinnerbaits retrieved at high speed during this time of the year to entice rod-bending strikes. Yours truly has on many occasions enjoyed fantastic largemouth fishing right now by using shad-imitation crankbaits reeled in with a 6:1 ratio level-wind reel at high speed. There is no doubt about it: If you can find where bass are located on a particular body of water in the spring, it often leads to a fishing bonanza! And, fortunately, there are some good places to fish for largemouths in the northern part of the state that are open to the public.

With the largemouth's metabolism kicked into high gear, you'll want to focus your fishing efforts on the most productive waters. Therefore, it is a good idea to focus on bodies of water that have been given a stamp of approval by fishing organizations that put on bass-fishing tournaments.

This is a good way to focus your fishing efforts for several reasons. To begin with, the organizations putting on tournaments aren't going to select a body of water that offers poor fishing. Moreover, we don't want to waste valuable time fishing on lakes that only have marginal fishing potential during one of the best times of the year to fish.

Like a stockbroker finding you the best ways to invest your money, the big-time bass-fishing organizations have -- by virtue of holding a tournament on a specific lake -- found some of the best lakes to invest your fishing time on.

We'll use this line of thinking and pick a few more lakes, based on their overall largemouth-fishing attributes and accessibility. Let's now take a look at several lakes from the northern part of the state down to Indy where you'll likely find good to excellent largemouth angling.

LAKE WAWASEE

Lake Wawasee is in Kosciusko County. Not insignificantly, Kosciusko County is noted for its appeal to sportsmen, and Lake Wawasee's 3,060 acres of largemouth-fishing possibilities help to strengthen this appeal a great deal. Lake Wawasee has an average depth of 22 feet, and a maximum depth of 77 feet; the lake is loaded with the type of underwater topography and structure that experienced bass fishermen know will produce fish.

Wawasee has a public boat ramp on the southeast end of the lake off Hatchery Road at Buttermilk Point with room for 100 vehicles. The lake is (public) user friendly in other ways, too. It has a park, fishing pier, numerous marinas and places to rent boats.

The American Bass Anglers held a bass-fishing tournament on Wawasee last May. Israel Beard was the tournament winner, netting five bass that totaled 9.91 pounds. Fred Bledsoe came in a close second right behind Beard with a catch of five bass weighing 9.44 pounds. The big bass winner in the tournament was Jim Young with a bass of 2.60 pounds.

Because of its varying underwater topography, Wawasee has a lot of good springtime largemouth-fishing potential. For example, the entire northwest end of the lake contains shallow flats with several deeper pockets of water nearby. There is an underwater point on the northwest side of the lake that goes from 5 feet all the way down to 30 feet.

The shallow water at Conklin Bay is a good bet in the springtime, as it is near deeper water to the north. On the northeastern side of the lake, Johnson Bay is a good place to fish due to its topography. The water near Black Point contains prime locations for casting crankbaits in the spring.

Wawasee Lake is a place where you'll want to keep moving around on until you find feeding fish. This is because it is so expansive. There are all kinds of spots that are ideal for largemouths in the springtime. The flats off Cedar Point offer a transition into deeper water.

Because of its varying underwater topography, Wawasee has plenty of good springtime largemouth fishing potential.

Be sure your trolling motor and battery are in good shape, because you don't want any downtime on this huge largemouth hotspot. For more information on Wawasee, call the Tri-Lakes Fisheries Station at (260) 691-3181.

LAKE MAXINKUCKEE

Lake Maxinkuckee is the second largest natural water in Indiana. Located in Marshall County near Culver, Maxinkuckee offers 1,864 acres of water to fish.

Bass anglers who ply the waters of this large lake (and other lakes in northern Indiana) should target the lake's northern and northeastern shorelines and coves. After all, the northern reaches of a lake will "catch" the rays of the sun longer than the southern parts of a lake. This usually means the northern and northeastern bays and shorelines will warm first.

The most dramatic occurrence of this phenomenon takes place right after ice-out. Additionally, these northern shorelines are also more protected from north winds, which are still blowing in early spring when "Old Man Winter" doesn't want to go away.

Since all fish are cold blooded, they really don't seek out warmer water to warm up. However, there are two really good reasons why they seek out warmer water in the spring. First, fish will head for the warmer water because their instincts are telling them where to make spawning beds. The nest building or bedding process typically takes place in water when temperatures rise from 60 to 65 degrees. This is because to incubate bass eggs, the water has to be warm. After the males have done their duty and prepared the beds, the females will come in and lay their eggs.

How fast a lake warms depends mostly on how the sun "hits" the water, along with the water clarity and the composition of the bottom. These natural warming elements can be found by Academy Bay, which is located in the upper northeast part of the lake. Moreover, anglers will also find the water temperatures rising the fastest in the shallow water immediately adjacent to the lake's northwestern shoreline.

Other good spots to try in the spring are the channels in the southeastern section of the lake, and the large flats that run north and south on the southwestern side of the lake, where there is deeper water nearby.

There is a state-owned public access with a boat-lunching ramp on the southwest side of the lake off West Shore Drive. For more information on Lake Maxinkuckee, call Northern Region fisheries biologist Bob Robertson at (574) 896-3673.

SALAMONIE RESERVOIR

At 2,855 acres, Salamonie Reservoir presents anglers with plenty of largemouth fishing opportunities. This reservoir is located in Huntington and Wabash counties near Mount Etna. Maximum and average depths vary from summer and winter pool, and the reservoir can have a depth of 65 feet near the dam. In fact, when Salamonie is at "high" pool, the majority of the reservoir has deep water.

For example, on the western end of the reservoir, maximum depths range from 45 to 65 feet, with depths near the shore's edge going to 35 feet. This means the underwater topography of Salamonie is pretty steep. Moreover, the deeper sections are not where you'll what to concentrate your efforts for largemouths during the spring.

By fishing Lake Shafer in the spring, you'll miss the crowds of summer and have a good shot at catching some largemouths as well.

Instead, you'll want to fish the finger that juts to the south near the boat ramp at New Holland Road on the southwest side of the reservoir. This finger has contour lines of 5 feet near shore at the extreme end of the finger. Additionally, this finger has a spot on the western shore where the water runs to 15 feet deep, which will provide a deep-water sanctuary for largemouths to escape to if they perceive a threat. Target the breaks between 5 and 15 feet and you'll likely connect with bass right now.

Monument Island on the eastern side of the reservoir looks like it's a bass hotspot, but keep in mind the water around this island drops off extremely fast to 15 and 25 feet, without much shallow water along the shore. It's probably worth tossing a few casts here anyway, but the finger where a small creek drains into the lake is a better bet in the springtime.

The finger at Little Majenica Creek is to the east of Monument Island; there is another small island right at the mouth of this finger. Just to the east of this "no-name" island, there is a 15-foot breakline that butts up against the shoreline. The water near shore in this location is 5 feet deep, thereby producing the exact situation you're looking for (i.e., plenty of shallow water with deep water nearby).

Another potential hotspot is the finger that Majenica Creek drains into (this is a different creek than Little Majenica Creek). This finger is immediately south of the aforementioned finger that Little Majenica drains into. The underwater topography here is also ideal for bass, as the depth is 5 feet near shore with water running to 15 feet nearby.

Salamonie has five public boat ramps, thereby making it very easy to access. The Department of Natural Resources has also stocked walleyes in Salamonie Reservoir, and the crappie fishery here is good as well. There is also a fishing pier for shore-bound anglers. For more information on Salamonie, call the Tri-Lakes Fisheries Station at (260) 691-3181

LAKE SHAFER

A bass tournament was held on 1,291-acre Lake Shafer last June. The tournament winner was David Dunn with five largemouths that totaled 10.08 pounds. Darrel Knies caught the "big" bass of this tournament, and it weighed 2.98 pounds.

Lake Shafer is in White County near Monticello. We can tell from the tournament results that the bass caught during the tournament weren't extremely large, but they're definitely in the "keeper" category and big enough to put a smile on your face.

Indiana Beach Amusement Park is located on Lake Shafer, and it is a well-known Indiana vacation spot. Bass fishermen can use this amusement park (on the northwest side of the lake) as a reference point. The finger just to the north of the amusement park, where Honey Creek runs into the lake, is an ideal spot for catching largemouths in the springtime.

Just upstream of the Norway Dam is also a good spot for largemouths because of the stair-stepping contours that run from 5 feet near the shore to 25 feet near the dam. Lake Shafer is not very wide and in many ways resembles a large river. However, it does have several fingers and coves that can hold largemouth bass in the spring.

Keans Bay, on the southwestern side of the lake, is a good example of a finger that's worth fishing. The water here is shallow where Keans Creek empties into the bay, but near the middle of this finger, the water runs from 10 to 15 feet deep.

The areas near the shoreline of Hoagland and Big Monon bays (where the lake splits) are also good places to try for largemouths in the spring.

There are several boat landings with ramps located around the lake. These are open to the public, but they are not free. Lake Shafer is loaded with campgrounds, marinas, and there is accessibility to shoreline fishing.

By fishing Lake Shafer in the spring, you'll miss the crowds of summer and have a good shot at catching some largemouths as well.

GEIST RESERVOIR

Geist Reservoir is on the northeast side of Indianapolis. Geist is 1,900 acres in size, with an average depth of 11 feet; its maximum depth is 30 feet. A bass tournament was held on Geist Reservoir last May. The winner of this tournament was Glen Phegley with a catch of 7.76 pounds. Phegley's largest bass weighed in at 3.53 pounds.

The largest bass caught during the tournament was a 4.79-pound lunker that just missed going 5 pounds! Richard Joyce caught this fish.

Unfortunately, there are no public boat ramps on Geist, but there are privately owned ramps where boaters can gain access. For all practical purposes, there is no shore-fishing on Geist, because it is surrounded by private property.

In typical fashion, Geist Reservoir snakes along the path of the old creek bed from which the reservoir was made when Fall Creek was dammed. This reservoir is about five miles long and three-quarters of a mile wide at its widest point.

Geist Reservoir is loaded with coves and prime spots for springtime largemouth fishing. Largemouths will often go into the shallows to feed and, of course, make their spawning beds. And to reiterate, the shallow areas they use are most often located near deep-water sanctuaries. Geist is loaded with this type of underwater topography. The fact that bass stay near deep water is a behavioral characteristic that holds true no matter what time of the year you're fishing for them.

A good spot to fish for largemouths in the springtime is along the reservoir's southeastern shoreline near the dam. The water here is shallow along the shore, but quickly drops to 25 and 30 feet. If feeding or spawning bass feel they are in danger, they can eas

ily escape to the safety of deeper water.

Geist has several islands that have fairly large and shallow flats along their shorelines. Most of these have a contour line that is 10 feet deep. These flats transition into deeper water; work these transition points with your shad-imitating crankbaits.

The shallows and deeper water around the bridge on Olio Road are good bets for springtime largemouth action. If you'd like some information on the American Bass Anglers Organization, you can visit them on the Web at americanbassanglers.com.

Good fishing!

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