February 21, 2012
Some of Indiana's best bass fisheries are well-known, heavily fished reservoirs that just keep producing nice bass consistently, year after year. The other good fishing opportunities are diamonds in the rough and occur on more obscure rivers and tucked away lakes that might not have the same notoriety. Lakes and reservoirs, big and small, famous and anonymous, are capable of great bass fishing in the Hoosier State. It's no surprise that Indiana anglers love their bass, and some of the fisheries mentioned here will undoubtedly make a few Hoosiers smile this upcoming season.
Any list of Indiana bass fishing would typically place Monroe Lake right at the top, whether the criterion is trophy largemouth, numbers of bass or just popularity points. The largest lake in Indiana at more than 10,750 acres, Monroe typically hosts several prestigious bass tournaments each season, for good reason. If your goal is to catch a true trophy largemouth bass in the state of Indiana, from 8 to 10 pounds, Monroe would be one of your best bets, year in and year out. Located just south of Bloomington, this reservoir receives its share of fishing pressure but, despite the notoriety, this lake is generally consistent for great bass fishing.
The trend over the past few years has been big soft plastics. Ten- to 11-inch, Texas-rigged worms are flipped into shallow shoreline weed growth or timber. Big brushhogs, beavertails and craws are also used with great success as well. Anglers start out the summer fishing shallow, but fish typically reposition along deeper structure, timber and channel edges as summer wears on. As the fish move deeper, the general presentation is often similar, with anglers sticking to the large worms and craws. Bass grow numerous and big on an abundance of gizzard shad, so many deeper structure patterns exist through the summer.
Top weights in bass tournaments on Monroe are typically impressive. Steve Sendleweck recently won the Indiana Bass Federation Open Individual this past September 11 with five-fish weighing 17.54 pounds. More information on fishing Monroe Lake along with accommodations, lake maps, fishing data and travel information, can be found online at www.lake-monroe.com
Patoka Lake is Indiana's second-largest lake and also hosts several bass tournaments each season. This lake has a 15-inch size limit and annually produces bass up to 8 pounds. At over 8,880 acres, this lake is filled with abundant flooded timber.
During the springtime, several big bass typically get caught by anglers running up the Patoka River where timber and lay-downs are targeted in shallow water. When bass are concentrated in the river section of this reservoir, water temperature is often the deciding factor as this shallow upstream portion of the reservoir is often several degrees warmer than the primary lake. As spring progresses into summer and fish begin to pull off shallow timber and weed growth, bass often locate just above the thermocline, which is often around 20 to 25 feet of water. Top locations at this time include river and creek channels that concentrate schools of bass.
Primary forage is gizzard shad. When bass are shallow, traditional bass baits like jig-and-pigs or spinnerbaits work well, depending on the cover and mood of the fish. Later in the summer when bass set up on the deeper ledges and breaks, anglers often catch bass with drop-shot rigs and football jigs rigged with 10- to 11-inch worms or large creature baits.
Like Lake Monroe, several major bass fishing tournaments are held on Patoka each season and the weights required to win these tournaments tell the story. A recent USA Bassin National Tournament Trail Regional Tournament was held on Patoka on September 18 and five fish weighing 19.29 pounds caught by Scott Cox and Dan George won the tournament. The largest bass weighed during this particular tournament was a slob 6.76-pound bass caught by George Webb and Jarrod Kerber. Those weights would make a tournament bass angler a paycheck just about anywhere.
The Dubois County Vonvention & Vistors Bureau (CVB) has a Web site at www.patokalakeindiana.com, which is a great resource for anglers interested in fishing this water. On this site, access to accommodation listings, lake maps, business directories and other fishing information is available.
While both Monroe and Patoka are big-time bass fisheries, some excellent bass fishing also takes place on some of the smaller and quieter fisheries scattered throughout the state.
Dogwood Lake is a 1,400-acre body of water located in the Glenwood Fish and Wildlife Area. This lake is often overlooked by many bass heads, partially because of the 10-horsepower motor size limit, but this lake is full of bass and is a tremendous numbers lake where anglers can experience catching numerous fish. The lake does have a 15-inch size limit and most of the bass are going to be less than 16 inches, but trophies up to 8 pounds are present and get caught by anglers.
Dogwood Lake has tremendous weed growth and can really weed up through the course of the summer, which can be discouraging to some anglers. Weedless scum frogs and unweighted worms are often worked through this heavy weed growth and anglers can experience spectacularly high catch rates from this lake at times.
WEST BOGG LAKE
Another smaller lake that has some tremendous potential is West Bogg Lake. This shallow, 622-acre lake is known for high growth rates of bass. The fishery has been plagued with an overpopulation of gizzard shad but, despite the undesirably high numbers of shad, the bass have continued to hold their own.
Because of the widespread distribution of largemouth bass along with the popularity of some of the larger reservoirs like Monroe and Patoka, many anglers realize that there is some great largemouth bass fishing in Indiana. What continues to floor many anglers, however, is the quality of smallmouth bass available to anglers in a handful of fisheries scattered throughout the state.
For an honest crack at a true trophy smallmouth bass, Clear Lake, located in the northeastern corner of the state, immediately comes to mind. While this lake is home to both largemouth and smallmouth bass, the lake often produces enormous smallmouth bass that can weigh over 5 pounds.
The lake is full of classic smallmouth bass structure along the shorelines where rock, gravel and sand form a feeding shelf before dropping off into deeper water. On these shallow, hard-bottom lips close to shore, anglers often find smallmouth bass in less than 8 feet of water for most of the season. As in many smallmouth bass fisheries, a wide variety of tactics and methods work well, including Texas or Carolina rigging, tube jigs, crankbaits, topwater lures, spinnerbaits and swimbaits.
Another fishery that can compete with Clear Lake as one of Indiana's top smallmouth bass fisheries is the White River. This river is home to largemouth bass, spotted bass and smallmouth bass, but the bronzebacks, in particular, make this river noteworthy. The White River has everything a smallmouth bass loves, with flooded timber, shallow sand bars, rock eddies and deep holes. Access to some regions of this river can be difficult unless an angler uses a kayak, canoe or jet boat. The inaccessibility for anglers with big boats in parts of the river might be part of the allure of this particular fishery.
The Tippecanoe River is another spectacular bass fishery in its own right, with patterns that are similar to the White River. Both of these systems are a great way to enjoy wildlife, avoid people and experience some top-notch smallmouth bass fishing. Guide and professional bass angler Chris Walker is an excellent source of information on fishing these river systems for bass. Walker can be reached at www.indianafishingadventure.com or by calling (317) 727-8432.
Besides some inland lakes and river systems that are home to smallmouth bass, Indiana also claims about 123 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. Popular harbors include Hammond Marina and Michigan City. One of the busiest captains on this part of Lake Michigan who devotes considerable time pursuing smallmouth bass is Captain Ralph Steiger.
Steiger often starts out the season focusing on steel break walls and warm-water discharges. Smallmouth bass are often attracted to the slightly warmer water. Before the water temperature touches 50 degrees, bass are often keying on shad and alewives that have moved inshore. As the water warms up, these pelagic baitfish move out and gobies become the primary forage. Forage often greatly dictates Steiger's presentation. Early in the season, smallmouths often locate in 16 to 28 feet of water and white is one of the best colors. Steiger makes some subtle bottom contact with jigs and grub tails as he casts and swims them slowly back to the boat.
When the water warms up, fish typically move shallow and can be found in 4 to 10 feet of water later in May. As the water warms up, gobies become the main course on the menu. Steiger strongly believes in mimicking the size, colors and actions of these bottom-dwelling baitfish, switching to brown and black color patterns and fishing tightly to the bottom with short hops and twitches, with numerous pauses and stops. One of Steiger's top smallmouth bass lures is a 4-inch Northland Tackle Mimic Minnow in the orange and brown color pattern.
The smallmouth bass in this region of Lake Michigan keep opening the eyes of bass anglers with both numbers and size. Anglers often target bass on rock walls, marina entrances and other types of shallow structure. In this particular area, many anglers focus on salmon and trout, so big bass are often overlooked. Captain Ralph Steiger can be found on the Web at www.captsteiger.com.
Indiana offers a rich variety of bass fishing opportunities that span from giant Great Lakes smallmouth bass to mid-southern reservoir impoundments that support traditional stump and flooded timber patterns for big, shad-fed largemouth bass. What is also noteworthy is that there is typically a bass fishery for everybody. There are some nationally recognized lakes that can support a lot of pressure and host numerous bass tournaments, for example, and there are also quiet rivers and under-the-radar lakes that can offer more solitude.
Regardless of what kind of bass fishing you hope to partake in this season, there are a quite a few lakes worthy of focusing on this upcoming season in Hoosier land.