“Ker-splash!” The quiet surface of the little forest pond exploded with the savage strike of a dandy largemouth. The spray literally shot a few feet into the air. After a tense battle that required considerable effort on my part to keep the fish out of the crisscrossed deadfalls sticking out from the bank, I slipped my fingers under the gill plate of an 18- to 19-inch, dark-colored bass, and unhooked the little floating Rapala.
It was still early in the new bass season and I had retreated from all the frenzied activity of my bass-fishing buddies. Especially on weekends, so many bass boat rigs had been speeding back and forth on the area roads, NASCAR could have organized a major event.
The number of boats on my favorite lakes looked like a yacht club’s regatta. I kid you not; I couldn’t slip along a choice shoreline without my little 14-footer constantly bobbing like a cork in the wakes. So, I retreated to some of my “secret spots” — little backcountry lakes and farm ponds, sometimes without even boat landings.
Not long after catching that decent fish, I left and tried another one of the hidden gems. There, I caught a genuine trophy — a solid five-pounder. In such out-of-the-way, relatively unknown ponds with only a few acres of water and limited forage, it was frankly the bass fishing equivalent of a ten-pounder or better in one of my usual lakes. In fact, when a fishing friend and author heard me tell about the fish afterwards — and knowing where I had caught it — he contended that I should have decided to keep and mount it. “You’ll rarely catch one like that in that pond,” he argued.
If you tire of the crowds — or if you just reach a point in your bass fishing season when you feel like a break from hauling the big rig and all of that equipment around — or if, perhaps, you’d like some peace and quiet in the forest or ranchlands — here’s what I recommend for what can be some real bass fishing bonanzas.
WHERE TO GO
I’m not telling you all my favorite little ponds. If I did, I wouldn’t have any of my secret spots. But I’ll tell you how to find the dozens just like them in the Rocky Mountain states. Get a good state atlas, good U.S. Forest Service maps, good county/township maps — the best resources you can locate — and look for those little blue blotches with no landings and unimproved tote roads or lanes going to them or passing close by. You’ll want to have a very backcountry-worthy vehicle, preferably four-wheel drive.
You can especially save some exploring time if you can locate a U.S. or state forest ranger who can confirm a fishable population of decent-sized — not stunted — bass in the ponds you want to try. They usually have an idea of what the water holds.
And you have to enjoy “alone time,” because only occasionally will you run into anglers who are willing to go to all the effort of getting to the kind of spots I have in mind. Once I parked a quarter of a mile or more away from the pond I was headed for because I knew the little lane just got tighter and rougher as it neared “the spot.” As soon as I got out of my vehicle, I was surprised to hear colorful language up ahead in the woods. As I hiked there with my travel rod and basic tackle, I came upon a boat trailer, bass boat, and two frustrated, would-be bass fishermen.
They had also picked out the back-in-the-woods pond to try, but without considering the possibility of no landing to launch from, or knowing how tight the quarters would become. And now they were stuck. “Gee (not an exact quote),” one of them explained as we talked, “we figured if there was a ‘road’ into it, there’d be a landing.”
I never saw them in that spot again — or anyone else, for that matter.
Most of my experience and knowledge is in the central Rocky Mountain states. When I told my friend Jeff with the Wyoming Game & Fish (307-777-4532) that I wanted to write this story, his first response was, “Well, David, you know that bass habitat is pretty ‘marginal’ here in Wyoming.”
“All the more reason to write it,” I replied. “There’s some good fishing available, but a lot of people don’t know where to find it!” Try these spots:
• In northeastern Wyoming: the Black Hills Power & Light Pond near Osage, a nice little body of water of about 25 acres. Not very far away, the Centennial Pond, only about 6 acres, near Upton.
• In southeastern Wyoming: Find your way to Festo Lake and Rock Lake. Each are less than 80 acres, but hold some decent bass.
• Working our way west, in west-central Wyoming, near Riverton — within the Wind River Indian Reservation — head northeast to Cameahwait Pond.
• Continuing our counter-clockwise circle, in the far north-central part of the state, I like the Kleenburn Ponds, which are located near Sheridan. They’re each only about 5 acres, but they are connected by a channel.
Information on Colorado’s options can be found on page two