Indiana Bass Fishing Outlook 2018

A 2017 survey of Geist Reservoir near Indianapolis found many bass up to 20 inches in length. About 80 percent measured longer than 14 inches. (Shutterstock image)

Some of the best Indiana bass fishing can be found at these locations.

Perhaps most important to the bass angler this time of year is paying attention to the surroundings.

Weather plays a vital part in selecting bass fishing locations. In spring, you desire a long sustained warming trend to raise water temperatures into the comfort zone of the bass.

Any change in air temperatures affects the activities of bass. Several days of warm temperatures followed by several days of cold weather is a negative change which hurts any bass-fishing patterns. Wind and rain sometimes hurt your chances of locating lots of bass.

Generally, bass are easier to locate this time of year because they are going to migrate to shallow water as soon as they can. Bass will first stage in deep water off a spawning flat. As they try to go shallow, if they hit a cold front they back off to the staging area. As the weather warms they try again. They may repeat this action for a few days or even weeks. Once the water reaches the right clarity and temperature they move in and spawning begins.

Weather is not the only factor influencing the bass action this time of year. You should also look to the predominant cover where you can find fish. It might be wood or grass. If present check out ledges, rock piles or huge beds of vegetation. They are not present in all lakes. You should try to dissect the lake as to what structures and cover might be available.

Fishing Tips from the Pros

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Let's now look at some of the more promising locations recommended by local biologists and anglers statewide.

NORTH

Worster Lake

Potato Creek State Park is 3 miles east of North Liberty in north-central Indiana. That is also about 12 miles southwest of South Bend. District fisheries biologist Tom Bacula of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources is getting good reports coming from anglers finding numbers and size of largemouth bass from the 327-acre Worster Lake located inside the park.

There are significant numbers of 20-plus-inch fish that run 4- to 5-pounds in weight. The legal size limit on the lake is 14-inches, and Bacula reports there are lots of that size present.

Bruce Lake

When asked for another bass lake, Bacula replied that when it comes to finding big bass he recommends Bruce Lake in Fulton County. "There are not big numbers but there are some "toads" in that lake," he noted.

During a survey conducted in the spring of 2017 Bacula found 13 percent of the bass were over 18 inches. The largest fish surveyed was 21.4 inches in length. Bruce Lake is a 290-acre lake between Winamac and Rochester in the north-central part of the state. Pontoon and fishing boats are available for rental at the lake. 

West Lakes Chain

Noble County is Jed Pearson's hot bass catching area. Pearson is the district fisheries biologist for this area. He recommends what is often referred to as the West Lakes Chain as a top bass catching area.

The chain consists of connecting lakes that present a small boat paradise. Waldron Lake, Jones Lake, Steinbarger Lake and Tamarack Lake are the largest. The Elkhart River connects them. They are roughly 3 miles east of Rome City. On the chain at Albion is the Chain O'Lakes State Park. During a 2017 survey Pearson found many bass in the 3- to 5-pound class, with an occasional 6-pounder.

Lake Wawasee

This is another lake recommended by Pearson. In surveys he finds largemouth bass up to 4 pounds.

bass fishingLake Wawasee in Syracuse, Ind., lies in the northeastern corner of Kosciusko County. There are actually seven lakes in and around the city. Formerly it was Turkey Lake. Lake Wawasee is the largest natural lake in Indiana.

Glaciers formed it. The lake is 3,000-acres with a maximum depth of 77-feet and an average depth of 22 feet.

There are several marinas available which charge a nominal fee to launch a private boat. Fishing and pontoon boats are available for rent at the marinas.

The lake usually freezes over each winter and ice fishing is popular.

CENTRAL

According to Corey DeBoom, IDNR District 4 fisheries biologist, the largemouth bass populations on a number of central Indiana lakes and rivers are in good shape.

White River

The White River in Indianapolis does not have the size right now but there are some significant numbers.

This river has endured a complicated past with being listed in 1997 as one of the United States' most threatened rivers due to pollution. In 1999 there was a massive fish kill along some 50 miles of the river. Following a clean-up operation financed by private and governmental efforts some fish naturally retuned to the affected area by 2000. Later that year, the IDNR conducted a re-stocking program. Today it is in better condition than prior to the spill.

The White River is actually two rivers: the East Fork and the West Fork. The East Fork begins at the confluence of the two waterways near Columbus. It remains a major Indiana river for the entire course.

The river is accessible to power boats the whole length but there are dams that block it to boats that cannot be portaged. Both forks of the river have low head dams. They can be dangerous and caution is advisable.

Geist Reservoir 

A 2017 survey of Geist Reservoir on the east side of Indianapolis found many fish up to 20 inches in length. About 80 percent were over 14 inches. In the slot between 14 inches and 20 inches were some good numbers foretelling an excellent future for the fishery.

Geist Reservoir covers a significant portion of northeastern Indianapolis. It has a surface of 1,890 acres, making it the second largest manmade lake in the state. Fall Creek feeds into the reservoir on the north and back into the creek on the south end. In between are 17-miles of fishable water. It spans portions of Marion, Hamilton and Hancock counties. It is rather shallow with an average depth of 10 feet or less. The shoreline contains private development in the form of homes and condos.

Brookville Lake

This reservoir contains both largemouth and smallmouth bass. It is a 5,260-acre lake that is part of the Brookville Lake-Whitewater Memorial State Park Complex. The lake is in the east fork of Whitewater River valley.

Located in Franklin and Union counties of southeastern Indiana, the federal government purchased the lake for flood control and recreation. It helps reduce flood flows in the Ohio River. Other bass species found in the lake include striped bass and smallmouth bass.

Summit Lake

Summit Lake is one of those surprise fishing locations and is located in Summit Lake State Park named for its location at one of the highest elevations in the state. DeBoom reports a healthy population of largemouth bass in this lake.

The lake itself is an 800-acre flood control reservoir located at the headwaters of the Big Blue River. It is located near new Castle in east-central Indiana.

Boat rentals of row boats, paddle boats and canoes are available in the park. Also it is possible to launch private watercraft from any of the three ramps in the park.

Eagle Creek Reservoir 

This lake on the west side of Indianapolis contains some quality largemouth fishing. In the last survey by the IDNR, 35 percent of the largemouth bass were between 14- and 20-inches in length.

Also present are white bass, yellow bass and hybrid (wiper) striped bass.

Located so close to our capital city ,this lake does experience considerable pressure from both anglers and recreational boaters on weekends. There is only one public launch ramp.

The lake is 1,300 acres in surface water. It is relatively fertile and contains abundant structure. Despite to high use during the weekends the fishing pressure during the week is relatively light. Shore-fishing is popular. Bass anglers tend to focus on the riprap areas during the spawn. Later they spend the day on the windward side of the lake casting crankbaits, spinnerbaits and soft-plastics. Noisemaking lures are popular.

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SOUTH

Monroe Reservoir 

With a surface area of 10,750-acres, Monroe is the largest lake in the state. It is another flood control lake that is in Brown and Monroe counties southeast of Bloomington. Fishery management is for largemouth bass and panfish. Since 1973, there has been a minimum keeper size for bass of 14 inches.

Studies of bass-fishing success in the lake show a consistent harvest every year for the past 10 years. In times of high water levels the harvest declines but regains its average as the water returns to normal levels. The average length of largemouth bass is 15.8 inches. They ranged from 7 inches to 21 inches. Twenty-seven percent are over the minimum 14-inch keeper length.

The adding of hybrid striped bass is primarily to utilize the shad forage fish. Also present are yellow bass and spotted bass.

Brandon Barrett, professional tournament angler and guide on southern Indiana lakes, recommends that anglers fishing the lake for the first time focus on the coves. He looks for creek channels with a hard bottom. The bass seek out these areas to spawn. 

Early in the spawn he focuses on points and structure as the fish move from deep water to shallower areas in preparation for the spawn. This usually occurs as water temperatures rise toward 65 degrees. In the colder weather, he seeks his quarry deep on creek bends. As the water warms he looks to rocks and stumps on points. He is particularly prone to fish calm, protected areas away from the mud bottoms.

Patoka Lake

This 8,800-acre southern Indiana lake is 25 miles long, with 161 miles of shoreline. The average depth is 20 feet, with a maximum depth of 60 feet. Although there are other species in the lake, the most popular quarry for anglers is the largemouth bass. They prowl the rocky points, steep banks and weed beds.

The lake is located just south of French Lick and West Baden.

According to the people at Patoka Lake Marina, the average largemouth bass is about 16 1/2 inches in length, which would run a little over 2.25 pounds. Some reports are coming in of fish in the 3- to 5-pound range and a few over that.

Brandon Barrett likes this lake for its similarity to his home lake of Monroe. In the early spring recommends vertical fishing the rock wall areas. He begins there and then checks out the river channel located closest to the rock wall. From there he recommends moving out from the rocks to the creek points. Warming weather results in the fish moving into the coves with hard rock bottom.

He likes to move up into the Patoka River and the Little Patoka River in search of clear water. 

Now that we've covered a few of the state's best bass angling locations, it's time for you to get out and explore one of these waters or another hotspot near you.

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