Ohio's Finest Spring Bass Hotspots

Ohio's Finest Spring Bass Hotspots

We turned to Ohio's top bass biologists to come up with our selection of southern-region hotspots. Here's where you can find exciting bass-fishing action near you. (May 2006)

Dropping a line into good bass waters in eastern Ohio isn't hard to do. The region offers plenty of excellent bass-fishing destinations where anglers can expect to find good action this spring.

Here's a look at some waters in the eastern half of the state where you'll have a shot at both good numbers of bass and some trophy-class fish. A few of these waters are well-known -- a plus for traveling anglers looking for consistent bass producers -- while others are lesser known, but showing a lot of promise this spring.

LADUE RESERVOIR

"We always get good reports from bass anglers on LaDue," said Matt Wolfe, an Ohio Division of Wildlife District Three fisheries biologist.

"The biggest largemouth bass I've seen recently has been a 7 1/2-pounder taken in a tournament."

A perennial favorite of local bass anglers, LaDue continues to produce big largemouth every year. Its bonus smallmouths are always a welcome addition during mixed-bag tournaments.

LaDue Reservoir can be divided into two very different waters. The northern, deeper half is where smallies concentrate. Some of these push the 4- and 5-pound mark and can measure from 18 to 20 inches. Largemouths, which prefer the shallower, weedier southern section, have been taken in the 8- to 9-pound range.

This great 1,500-acre fishing hole is in southern Geauga County, approximately 30 miles east of Cleveland at the intersection of U. S. Route 422 (which bisects the reservoir) and state Route 44.

Fishing pressure can be heavy on LaDue and it may take that special touch to get the bass to bite. Be patient. Target the structure along the shoreline, especially the bridges and stumps on the south end.

Wolfe recommends jerkbaits and slow-rolling spinnerbaits on the humps for springtime bass.

Only electric motors are allowed on the lake. The City of Akron maintains an unimproved boat launch on the south end of the lake off state Route 44 and a boat ramp and boat rental at the city park office at the south end of Valley Road.

For additional information, contact the ODOW's District Three office at (330) 644-2293.

BERLIN LAKE

Berlin Lake usually flies under the radar, but the secret is out. The bass-fishing prospects on this lake are excellent for 2006.

This 3,280-acre lake in Portage, Stark and Mahoning counties has been coming on strong. In spring 2004, the ODOW's electro-shocking surveys showed that of the largemouths measuring over 8 inches, 59 percent were at least 12 inches long. Twenty-five percent of those fish exceeded 15 inches.

"We sample Berlin every year, so we have a pretty good handle on the bass population. There are a lot of big largemouths and good numbers of smallmouth bass in this lake. The water level fluctuates with draw-downs and the water acts more like a river than a lake, which is one reason why the smallmouths are doing so well," said Wolfe.

Largemouths may be found in the flooded vegetation and bays in the southern end of the lake. Plastic night crawlers and small crankbaits often take nice-sized fish.

Biologists have sampled smallmouths up to 17 inches. Smallies dominate the lake due to the changing water levels and abundant rock humps and sandbars. They frequent the more open northern end of the lake near rocky ledges and sandbars.

Bass also prowl the sunken Christmas trees and old wooden pallets placed as fish attractors. These older structures are widely scattered around the lake.

The white bass are found below the dam and may be taken on small spinners and spoons.

The four-lane boat ramp is on Bonner Road at the lake's northern end near state Route 224 and the state Route 14 bridge.

Berlin Lake is 60 miles south of Lake Erie and 25 miles west of the Ohio-Pennsylvania state line. For additional information, contact ODOW's District Three office at (330) 644-2293.

LAKE ERIE

"May 1 through June 23 is closed to the possession of black bass on Lake Erie," said Travis Hartman, a fisheries biologist with the Sandusky Fish Research Unit. "Anglers may target bass but must immediately release any that are caught."

With that in mind, there's still plenty of good bass fishing on this Great Lake. Largemouths are not normally associated with Lake Erie, but there's a viable fishery there if you know where to look for them.

According to Hartman, harbors containing vegetation hold numbers of largemouths, with good potential for 5-pounders. As the water warms in the spring, the largemouth fishing in the harbors can become fantastic.

The same techniques used on inland waters will take big-water largemouths as well.

Largemouth bass aren't commonly targeted on Lake Erie, and fish will be caught that are as old as 11 years. The 1998 and 2001 year-classes are especially strong, Hartman said.

Better known for its exceptional smallmouth angling, Lake Erie will produce great catches of smallies from Lorain to Conneaut. The harbors and harbor break walls are the hotspots at this time of the year. Outside of the harbors are rocky shorelines, rock reefs and dropoffs that can be hotspots for big bronzebacks as well. (Cont'd)

Hartman pointed out that Conneaut is especially well known for early- season trophies weighing in at over 5 pounds. The reef at Avon Point and the shoreline dropoffs from Avon to Lorain have produced good numbers of bass in the past.

Strong year-classes of smallmouths that anglers can expect to tangle with this year are from 1993, 1996, 1998 and 2001, said Hartman. These fish will range from 14 to 29 inches and weigh from 1 1/2 to 4 pounds.

Access points for boaters and shoreline anglers are abundant. A detailed listing is available from the ODOW's District Three office by asking for the Lake Erie Fishing Guide.

Contact the Fairport Harbor station office at (440) 352-4199 for central basin fishing information, and the Sandusky Unit at (419) 625-8062 for western basin information. For a recorded up-to-date Lake Erie fishing report during the season, call 1-888- HOOKFISH.

TYCOON LAKE

"Tycoon Lake reigns as an annual powerhouse for trophy bass in southeastern Ohio," said Dave Bright, a fisheries management biologist for District Four.

"This lake basin covers 204 acres and is equivalent to a highly productive farm pond. Our electro-shocking surveys have consistently yielded good numbers of black bass representing many year-classes. Tycoon offers a good opportunity for anglers seeking trophy-class bass."

The 18-inch minimum size limit has really paid off, said Bright. Anglers can score big largemouths out of the shoreline trees lying in the water along the central part of the west and north banks. Concrete blocks have been placed in 9 feet of water about 20 feet out from the floating fishing pier on the east side of the lake south of the boat ramp.

Tycoon Lake is in Gallia County. Only electric motors are allowed.

The lake lies between state routes 325 and 554, five miles northeast of Rio Grande. The ramp for smaller boats is off township Road 21 west of the dam and where county Road 17 runs north to the lake. Access from state Route 325 is via Eagle Road. From state Route 554, access is off township Road 20 (Vaughn Road) and county Road 17 (Tycoon Road).

Tycoon Lake is 18 miles from Gallipolis and 52 miles from Chillicothe.

For more information and a map showing fish concentration devices, contact the ODOW's District Four office at (740) 589-9930.

LAKE RUPERT

This 322-acre lake in the Wellston Wildlife Area in Vinton County is a real sleeper. Since 1990, a 12- to 15-inch protected slot limit has been in effect.

"Electro-shocking surveys have shown multiple year-classes of largemouth bass available in good numbers and of high quality. Individual bass over 8 pounds have been collected during the surveys," said Bright.

By May, spawning largemouths have moved out of the warming bays and will tend to hold off sloping points and near any submerged cover they can find. The narrow bay extending from the mid-lake eastward holds largemouths all spring. Casting spinners into the lily pads in the north end is also worthwhile. This is a good lake for plastic worms as well.

At various times, a few hundred Christmas trees have been sunk in the lake and can attract early-spring panfish -- which in turn draw in the bucketmouths. A boat ramp is on the west shore.

Lake Rupert is a mile north of Hamden along state Route 683 a half mile north of the intersection with state Route 93. The lake is 75 miles from Columbus and 30 miles from Chillicothe.

The ODOW's District Four office at (740) 589-9930 in Athens can provide more information.

SENECA LAKE

The productivity of the waters within many of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District lakes is well-known among fisheries managers in Ohio. One of these, Seneca Lake, has all the traits of a high-quality bass fishery.

"Seneca Lake is one of our top black bass fisheries in District Four," said Bright. "Recent electro-shocking studies revealed numerous fish from 7 to 20-plus inches in length. Growth rates are above average thanks to ideal conditions in the lake, and a 15-inch minimum size limit is in effect to maximize the lake's potential."

Over 900 Christmas trees were placed into the lake in 1999, and more were dropped in 2002 and 2004. Seneca Lake anglers should try fishing the coves with plastic worms and spinners for early-season action. The best spots include Cadillac Bay, the weedy upper sections of the lake and the bays off state Route 147.

White bass may be taken along state Route 313 and above the Owl's Nest area. Smallmouths will be found in limited numbers on deep structure, while largemouths are scattered throughout the lake on shallow structure.

Seneca Lake is a 3,508-acre Big Bass Program lake with 47 miles of shoreline in Noble and Guernsey counties. The lake is two miles east of Senecaville on state Route 313, and 12 miles southeast of Cambridge off Interstate 77 and state Route 313.

The ODOW's District Four office at (740) 589-9930 can provide maps and more information about the lake.

DOW LAKE

A little-known fact that local anglers don't advertise is that smaller lakes, like Dow, that receive annual stockings of trout can also produce monster bass.

A 2004 electro-shocking survey revealed that the lake had plenty of 12-inch and smaller largemouth bass, which speaks well for future angling opportunities. Of interest to anglers this year are the 22-inchers that are weighing in at 6 pounds. The 12- to 15-inch slot limit in effect for the last 17 years has contributed to the lake's excellent bass fishery.


Berlin Lake usually flies under the radar, but the secret is out. The bass-fishing prospects on this lake are excellent for 2006.
 

"The most recent electro-shocking survey indicated that the population of bass was moderate," said Bright. "An increase in the number of larger fish within the population was noted versus past surveys. The harvest of bass under 12 inches has increased the size structure of this species."

When small rainbow or golden trout are stocked every April, bass hear the dinner bell ringing. Trout are easy for bass to eat and provide a high-calorie meal. Panfish can outgrow predation thanks to their sharp dorsal fins, while bass sometimes eat the slimmer, smoother trout even when the fish are several inches in length.

Dow Lake, in Athens County, covers 153 acres and has a 10-horsepower limit. Beginning in mid-summer, anglers should plan on dealing with thick submerged vegetation in shallow bays, along the shoreline and in the upper end. Sixty brush piles were sunk in various locations in 2000 and 20 felled trees were left in the water along the shoreline in 2001.

Dow Lake is part of Stroud's Run State Park in Athens County. District Four can provide more information at (740) 589-9930.

SALT FORK LAKE

"The implementation of a 15-inch minimum length limit for largemouth bass in March of 1992 has contributed to this water area being on our list of great destinations for black bass," said Bright.

The ODOW put on the work gloves in the early 1980s to find out what kind of potential harvest regulations would increase both the sizes and numbers of Salt Fork bass. Minimum length limits rose from 12 inches to the current 15-inch level, with special attention given to ongoing electro-shocking surveys and growth-rate assessments.

What level of success has been achieved?

"The presence of both largemouth and smallmouth bass in multiple year-classes should provide bass anglers with plenty of opportunities for smaller, younger fish, and the potential for a trophy bass with every cast," said Bright.

Salt Fork covers 2,952 acres in Guernsey County with 74 miles of shoreline offering plenty of good bass cover. There is no horsepower limit on the lake, which lies in Salt Fork State Park seven miles east of Cambridge on U.S. Route 22, which intersects and crosses the lake twice.

For maps and more information, contact the ODOW's District Four office at (740) 589-9930.

OHIO RIVER

Largemouths are holding their own in the backwaters and tributary streams on the Ohio River's Meldahl Pool.

The l pool covers 95 miles of the Ohio River between the Meldahl Dam west of state Route 133 and state Route 41; and pool includes Greenup Dam, which lies 14 miles south of Portsmouth.

Look for largemouths where weedbeds have become established out of the main current, especially in the lower section of the pool. The weedy stretches downriver from Brush Creek are a sure bet. Stream confluences also draw their share of bucket-mouths.

Smallmouths and Kentucky spotted bass are also present in this stretch of the river, but not in great numbers. For these species, fish the bottom structure and contour changes in the main river.

The water near this lock and dam may be restricted from boat traffic during high security risk events associated with the federal government's Homeland Security program.

A new development this year will allow more boater access to some of the Ohio River Lock and Dam tailwaters. Buoys are in place to clearly mark the off-limits areas. Additional information about this change in policy can be found on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Web site at www.orh.usace.army.mil. The best advice is to contact the lockmaster for the dam pool you'll be fishing before you go.

The Meldahl Pool lies in Clermont, Brown, Adams and Scioto counties and covers 21,700 acres.

Contact the ODOW's District Four office at (770) 589-9930 to request a copy of the Ohio River Fishing Guide, which details boater and bank-fishing access.

These waters are going to shine this spring. If you're looking for hot spring bass action, this is where you'll find it.

The ODOW offers a list of fishing hotspots, locations of fish concentration devices and lake contour maps that are available free and online at www.ohiodnr.com.

For more trip-planning assistance, call 1-800-BUCKEYE.

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