Some great largemouth and smallmouth fishing awaits Ohio bass fishing anglers this spring.
April means springtime for Ohio folks, and springtime means bass fishing for many of those who fish the Buckeye State. Fortunately, the options are many, from sprawling low-land reservoirs to meandering streams.
Read on to learn more some of our state’s best choices for bass fishing this year, backed up by recent survey data by the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
It’s hard to imagine that over 14,000 acres of public fishing water can be overlooked by a segment of the fishing community, but that’s true of Pymatuning Lake, at least when it comes to bass fishing. The lake gets its fair share of attention from walleye and crappie anglers; but its outstanding bass resource is underutilized. Currently it’s one of the best bass choices in northeastern Ohio, where folks have several to choose from.
Consistent with the flat topography found in much of northeastern Ohio, Pymatuning is a flatland reservoir. Bcause Pymatuning is a border lake shared by Ohio and Pennsylvania, both the Ohio Division of Wildlife and the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission have a stake in the lake’s fisheries management. Relatively old — it was formed by an impoundment on the Shenango River over what were largely marshlands — it is crossed by both a spillway and causeway.
The spillway is located near Linesville. The upstream side of the spillway is set aside as nursery waters, and serves as an important cog in the PFBC’s warmwater hatchery program. No fishing is permitted there.
The Route 285/85 causeway cuts across the midpoint of Pymatuning from east to west, essentially dividing the lake into north and south basins. Though the entire lake is quite shallow, the northern portion is particularly so. Depths average five to 10 feet, with the deepest water in the 15-foot range. Below the causeway things are slightly deeper, with a maximum depth of nearly 30 feet found near the dam.
Wood is an important form of cover for Pymatuning’s bass. There is plenty of it, mostly in the form of shoreline laydowns.
Recently Pymatuning’s bass fishery was surveyed by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. Most of Pymatuning’s bass are largemouths. Largemouths were collected at a rate of 52.4 per hour; smallmouth at 8.6. Even though smallmouth bass fishery has been on the downswing in recent years, they are present, with some exceptional individual fish taken on occasion.
The tipsy-turvy weather of last spring hampered springtime bass fishing efforts, but even still, it took over 18 pounds (six bass limit) to win the KBBC event held there last April. Lunker during that event was just over 5 1/2 pounds.
As one would expect, heavy cover tactics like flippin’ jigs, Texas-rigged worms, and “beavers” fished tight to the wood account for a lot of largemouths. Spinnerbaits and chatterbaits worked along weeds also account for some bigmouths.
Boats are limited to 20 horsepower. Access points on the Ohio side of the lake include Padanaram, New Bowers, Birches and the Ohio State Campground launch. On the Pennsylvania side, the better ramps are located at Linesville, Manning, Espyville, Orchard, Snodgrass and Jamestown. Boat anglers can fish with a license from either state; shore anglers must have a license for the state being fished from (all islands are Pennsylvania property).
CLEAR FORK RESERVOIR
Best known as one of the better musky lakes in the state, Clear Fork Lake is currently considered by the Ohio Division of Wildlife to be one of the top largemouth bass lakes in the northwestern region of the state. In 2017, the Division of Wildlife rated it the top bass lake in the state, capable of producing both numbers of bass and large ones as well.
Clear Fork Reservoir covers nearly 1,000 acres with a maximum depth of around 25 feet. Its bottom is gently sloping. Lying east-to-west, its upper (western end) is fed by two inlets. This area contains numerous stumps. The lake’s middle region features several islands. It broadens out within its lower end, near the dam located on its eastern end. Submerged vegetation is common in Clear Fork, particularly during years with light to moderate rainfall, which favors clearer water.
A water supply reservoir, Clear Fork is found about 8 miles south of Mansfield along State Route 97.
Anglers targeting Clear Fork’s largemouths should concentrate their efforts in the shallows. The upper end of the lake features an abundance of shallow habitat attractive springtime largemouths. Largemouths like to spawn near stumps, of which there are plenty in this part of the reservoir.
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The northern shoreline of the lake features a large, rounded bay that warms quickly in the spring — a good spot to work with spinnerbaits and soft swimbaits. Smaller bays break up the lake’s southern shoreline. They too are likely candidates for May largemouths.
As bass complete spawning and spread out into deeper zones of the lake, be sure to work the points and drop-offs present along many of Clear Fork’s numerous islands.
Boat access is by way of the public launch and marina on the south side of the lake just east of Bowers Road. There is no horsepower limitation, though there is an 8-mph speed limit on the entire lake; boats with motors greater than 10 horsepower must operate at a no-wake speed.
Shoreline fishing is permitted, though only along the south and west shorelines from the Orewiler Road bridge to a point 1000 feet upstream of the dam.
Based on lake assessments conducted during the past few years, Galia County’s Tycoon Lake is considered the best bass lake in the state. The DOW rates it as excellent in terms of both numbers of bass as well as size. The most recent survey on this 183-acre body of water collected largemouth bass up to 22.2 inches in length. Angler surveys show angler catch rates for largemouths as being excellent, with only average fishing pressure directed toward that species.
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A relatively shallow lake with a maximum depth of 18 feet, Tycoon is located between state routes 325 and 554, about five miles northeast of Rio Grande. Two earthen dams impounding Raccoon Creek form the lake. As the centerpiece of 684-acre Tycoon Lake Wildlife Area, the lake is surrounded by public land, and shore fishing is permitted. The best shoreline access is along the lake’s eastern shoreline off Tycoon Road; along the northern shore from Eagle Road; and the southwestern tip from Vaughn Road.
There are no horsepower restrictions on Tycoon Lake, though a no-wake speed limit is in place lake-wide. One boat ramp is provided, off Tycoon Road, at about the mid-point of the lake.
Bass anglers will find abundant shallow areas to target on Tycoon Lake. Some stumps remain, as well as old fence posts from the former farmland prior the flooding of the lake.
Given its modest size and robust largemouth bass population, anglers should have little trouble connecting with springtime largemouths on Tycoon.
ROCKY FORK LAKE
Located within the state park of the same name, Rocky Fork Lake’s nearly 2,000 acres provide one the better venues for bass anglers in the southwestern part of the state.
Largemouth are one of the premier species in Rocky Fork (it also has an excellent channel catfish population), though smallmouths are present as well. The ODOW rates it as good for both numbers of bass and size. The agency’s most recent survey revealed largemouths up to 20.8 inches in length. Angler catch rates are considered good, and about 35 percent of angler attention is directed at bass.
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The lake’s upper end still features submerged stumps, though this portion of the lake has silted in somewhat over the years. Anglers can expect to find more smallmouth in the lower end of the lake, which features rockier areas and somewhat steeper drop-offs.
Rocky Fork has no horsepower restrictions. Six boat ramps are scattered around the lake. It’s located about 5 miles east of Hillsboro, and can be accessed from state routes 124, 506, 753; and U.S. Route 50.
Ohio Division of Wildlife Fisheries biologists considers LaDue Reservoir as one of the better inland bass fisheries in northeastern Ohio, particularly for larger bass.
LaDue is a fairly shallow impoundment, which means it will warm quickly, which is a good thing for the early season bass angler. The primary creek channel is in the center of the lake throughout much of its length. Several shallow bays pierce the lake’s eastern shoreline, places worth checking out early in the season. Two shallow arms in the lake’s headwaters are also present. The Route 422 bridge adds structure and funnels current. While weed growth is sparse, some milfoil and curly pondweed is present.
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LaDue covers 1,500 acres in Geauga County. Boats are limited to electric motors only. Three boat launches are provided, including the Route 44 Launch Ramp, the Auburn Ramp and the LaDue Reservoir Boat House.
When the lake was last surveyed, state fisheries biologists considered the largemouth fishery fair in terms of numbers and good in terms of size. Largemouths up to 21.5 inches were collected. Smallmouth numbers were considered good, with the chances of catching a big smallie being excellent. Bronzebacks up to 19.5 inches turned up in the survey. Survey results showed 39 percent of the anglers on the lake were seeking bass, with fishing pressure directed toward the largemouths and smallmouths being high.
Other good bets for bass in the northeastern portion of the state include the Portage Lakes and Lake Nimislia.
Belmont County’s Piedmont Lake has a tradition of providing a high-quality warmwater fishery, and that tradition continues. Black bass prospects for this lake are considered excellent for smallmouth and good for largemouth bass.
Covering over 2,200 acres and creating 37 miles of shoreline, Piedmont provides some diversity in habitat, which likely allows it to support strong populations of both smallmouth and largemouth.
From an angler’s perspective, one should concentrate on largemouths from mid-lake to the upper part of the impoundment. Conversely, smallmouths are more numerous from mid-lake to the lower end.
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Data suggests that about 25 percent of those surveyed were targeting bass. Fishing pressure is regarded as high, with catch rates being good. Lake survey results show current largemouth numbers fair, with size being good. Smallmouth numbers are considered excellent and size structure as good. Largemouths up to 21 inches were collected; smallmouth up to 19.4.
Piedmont reaches a maximum depth of 30 feet near the dam. Gizzard shad are the primary forage in Piedmont, and submergent vegetation is present.
This lake is limited to 10 horsepower outboards, and is found in Guernsey, Harrison and Belmont counties. Two boat launches are provided, one in Guernsey County (Piedmont Marina) and one in Belmont (Reynolds Road Launch Ramp).
Anglers should also note that Piedmont is one of the better saugeye lakes in the state, rating excellent in both numbers and size. Biologists collected saugeyes up to 26 inches. So, you might want to consider targeting saugeye as well as bass, especially since April is a peak time for saugeye fishing.