Hoosier anglers enjoy hundreds of bass fishing opportunities. Our clear waters are the envy of those from other states that are not quite as fortunate. Ranging from glacial natural lakes to reservoirs, to farm ponds, Indiana lakes are bass lakes thanks to sound fishery management by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Size limits apply to the lakes in an effort to release some fish to increase the size of the bass in that water. Most lakes in the state have a minimum size limit of 14 inches for keeper fish. Other lakes have site-specific limits.
One step toward finding bass is to vary the places you fish. If you can travel to new locations you might find better fishing opportunities from the ones you traditionally visit. This can be a new lake or even some neglected areas of an old favorite.
Whether novice or more sophisticated angler you can find success on new water by seeking out the thickest, nastiest, cover. Check with local fishermen who tend not to fish such water. No matter how pressured they are, lakes still have areas that are so thick and so dense that even the locals do not bother with them.
The least pressured fish are more likely to bite. Go somewhere where the fish have not seen a lure for a while. That is your niche. It becomes your specialty.
Tournament schedules run heavy from February thru June. Early spring fish chase shad in warmer, shallower water and move toward heavy cover where the forage hides. In the middle of the spring they are much more worried about spawning.
During the spawn they want a hard bottom adjacent to cover. If bass do not have both components they are reluctant to spawn. If they do not have a hard bottom they still get by. But they need cover. Bass will spawn on top of a log. If you see a log tipped up where it is sitting on the bottom they will spawn in up to 2 feet of water on top of the log. Such a location often goes unnoticed.
Anglers that are not properly looking fail to realize that the fish are actually spawning on top of the logs. If you have laydowns coming out of the bank where the laydown is out in 10 feet of water, bass will spawn right on top of the trunk in 2 or 3 feet of water. They always spawn near some kind of cover. So look for some of these locations.
As bass complete spawning the rigors of the activity take a toll on them. They will either go deep or they will go into the heavy cover. In the summer time the majority of fish in most lakes probably go deep because that is where they find most of the forage fish. It is also where they find the more stable water temperatures and less light.
Most anglers usually fish deep. They are out there deep cranking and Carolina rigging. Experienced anglers try to go for shallower fish. If you can get around shade, any kind of shade, work it. Look for overhanging willow trees, a boat dock, or lily pad fields.
These are areas where the oxygen is best. Cool water holds oxygen better than warm.
Milfoil and hydrilla are the good for bass fishing. Some call it grass while others weeds. A weed is a plant that is an undesirable in the location. Weeds grow in the yard. Bass like where grass grows.
Here in our state the large impoundments tend to yield the most fish caught. But that does not mean other waters are not a good places to fish. Sometimes it is a matter of quality over quantity. Still other times a small underutilized lake or pond might be home to that crop of lunker bass. The following Indiana lakes offers some of a variety of sizes and geographical locations you might want to explore this year.
J.C. Murphey Lake
Captain Mike Schoonveld, fishing guide, recommends this lake for bass anglers because it is limited to electric motors. The 1,000-acre lake offers good shore fishing. At times of the year the weed growth may seem impenetrable, but bass like it.
The bass seek shade as protection from sunlight and as a location to find smaller fish upon which they feed. Weeds provide that shade.
Located in the far northeastern part of the state, this reservoir lies within the Willow Slough Fish & Wildlife Area in Newton County. It is the property of the U.S. Corps of Engineers.
Over in Kosciusko County there is this small lake with big fishing possibilities. Winona Lake has a reputation for producing 5- to 6-pound fish. It rates as one of the best northern Indiana lakes for largemouth bass. Like most Hoosier lakes the bottom structure is largely sand, gravel and muck.
One drawback is with the extensive human development in the area it is also popular with recreational boaters and other such users.
Anglers find the best time to get out on the water is in the early morning hours. The eastern shore is shallow extending out about 200 feet from shore with heavy vegetation of the type popular with largemouth bass. This lake has a maximum depth of 72 feet and an average depth of 30 feet. The average depth of clarity tends to be 7 to 8 feet.
The three channels on the north end of the lake and one of the southern also attract bass especially in spring. Later, anglers tend to find fish in the southern portion of the lake.
The primary forage species for bass in this lake are shad and perch. Lures imitating these species are a good idea.
Schoonveld, who has spent a lifetime fishing these northern Indiana glacial lakes, also recommends Lake Wawasee. With a maximum depth of 77 feet and an average depth of 22 feet, this lake is a popular destination for tournament anglers. The 3,060-acre impoundment has a bottom structure of gravel, muck and sand.
Wawasee is located along Indiana State Road 13 at the town of Syracuse. With bass up to 20 inches in length this lake is very popular with tournament anglers. Anglers like to fish the submerged islands, shallow bars and sharp drop-offs. Popular coves are at the west end and the northeast corner where there is no residential development.
The residential development has resulted in the stabilization of the water level. But the washing of nutrients from the land into the lake does affect the water quality.
Over in the north-central part of Indiana is this 1,850-acre natural lake the state’s second largest. It is located in southwestern Marshall County near the community of Culver, Ind. The dam controls the water level. There is 10 miles of shoreline. The average depth is 24 feet, with a maximum depth of 75 feet.
Schoonveld likes this lake for both largemouth and smallmouth bass. There are paved boat ramps and no limitation on motors.
On the border of the central and south sections of the state is Monroe Reservoir in Brown and Monroe counties. This 10,000-acre clear water reservoir is Indiana’s largest lake and a trophy bass fishery. Fish in the 5- to 8-pound range are reportedly available. Most of the fish caught by anglers tend to be up to 6 pounds. Shad are the natural forage base for bass in this water.
Monroe is popular with tournament anglers with fish up to 7 pounds reportedly caught during the tournaments.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns the lake but the DNR manages the fishery. It is located near Bloomington an is basically a pool on Salt Creek.
The clear water in their pursuit of big bass frustrates anglers. Successful fishermen make long casts to shallow water areas so as not to disturb the fish with the action of a boat. The clear water is a product of deep water conditions that are not conducive to weed growth. The lake has a maximum depth of 59 feet. Should the water level lower and stay that way for a while the weed growth probably will return. Such a situation is not likely in the near future.
Locals like to fish crankbaits with a broad bill in this water to get the lure down to the level in which the fish are located. They still relate to structure such as drop offs and ledges, etc. It is just that they are deep water structures. Other lures like worms and jigs work well in deep locations. On sunny days lures that are brighter are best. On cloudy days dark lures with red or orange can be effective.
In the fall the largemouth bass take surface lures in the early morning and later in the afternoon.
Morse Lake is located in Hamilton County not far from Indianapolis. The town of Cicero is on the north end of the lake and Noblesville on the south.
The lake contains 1,500 acres of water with 35 miles of shoreline. It is a privately managed lake. Bass in the lake can be in the 5-pound class.
Gary Garth, outdoor writer from Louisville, Ky., describes this Orange County lake as probably the most consistent bass producer in southern Indiana. It is located about halfway between his Louisville home and Evansville, Ind. It is just south of French Lick, Ind.
With 8,800 acres of water the lake has a maximum depth of 52 feet and an average depth of 22 feet. Most of the wooded shoreline has little development. The bottom consists of mostly mud and clay but some areas near the creek channels have eroded away to bare the gravel and rock underneath. The DNR manages the fishery under a lease agreement with the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the actual owner of the 17,000 acres of land around it.
The fishing pressure is heavy but many anglers catch 3- to 5-pound bass annually. Some fish reach 8 pounds. The many bluegills, gizzard shad and redear sunfish provide ample forage base for the largemouths. There is a 15-inch minimum length limit on keeper bass. Other site-specific regulations include the closing of some areas during the waterfowl hunting seasons.
This lake is probably the most popular tournament lake in Indiana. Anglers prowl the submerged timber, stump fields, winding channels and weed beds as good locations to find bass.
In colder water temperatures the bass are found up shallow and take crankbaits. As the water warms they can be found in 10 feet of water preparing for the spawn. Later they move to the deeper points, and in the hot weather they will be deep relating to the structure found there.
Garth describes this Scott and Jefferson County lake as a “reliable bass lake.” It is east of Austin, Ind., and north of Louisville, Ky.
Commonly caught largemouth bass are in the 3-to 6-pound class. There is a 14-inch minimum length limit for keeper bass. It is a reservoir on Quick Creek. Hardy is the smallest reservoir maintained by the State of Indiana with a surface of 741 acres. The average depth is 38 feet. There are public access boat ramps.
Lure size, color, and presentation are dependent upon the water quality. Lures that work in one particular lake or stream might not work in others.
Take the time to talk with the owner of the local bait shop. Chances are there’s a bulletin board or collection of photos that gives one a chance to see the size of fish taken and often information on bait, location and pattern. Another way to find what lures are best is to check out the tournament results on the local website of fishing clubs. They give tournament results and information on how winners got the job done. Often the color and type of the winner’s lure is given.