Bass Pond Fishing: Catch Lunkers at Small Lakes Near You

If you haven't looked at the smaller urban lakes in your area, you are missing out on some great bass pond fishing.

Bass Pond Fishing: Catch Lunkers at Small Lakes Near You
Veteran bass anglers often dismiss urban fishing opportunities as "kid's fishing ponds," but they may be overlooking big-bass potential. (Photo by Ron Sinfelt)

If you drive more than 10 miles from your urban home to catch early season largemouth bass, you're almost surely driving farther than you need to. That's a fact.

At some point in that drive you most likely motor past a small pond in an urban park or industrial area. Those urban waters should be high on your list of local bass-catching opportunities. If they are not, you should make it a point to check them out.

That's because many municipalities now incorporate fishing potential into the design of water retention basins in urban and industrial areas.

"Urban retention basins are modern-day farm ponds," said urban fisheries biologist Tyler Stubbs, "and small ponds can be great spots for big bass. Many cities are realizing that if they make those basins deep enough, design them correctly, and put them in a greenspace with landscaping, or in an urban recreation area like a Little League park or a soccer field, the city not only gets the storm water and runoff retention they need, but it also provides folks with fishing opportunities."

Urban fisheries range from small 1- to 3-acre storm water retention ponds up to renovated 30- or 40-acre sand pits and rock quarries.


As long as the ponds average at least 10 feet deep they can support bluegills, largemouth bass and channel catfish beneath the ice during Northern winters or through the broiling summers in Southern states.

"Bluegills, largemouth bass and channel catfish are the time-proven combination that works best in small bodies of water," said Stubbs. "Some states have programs to temporarily stock trout in urban ponds during the winter months, to provide anglers an opportunity for something different during part of the year, but bass, bluegills and catfish are what you'll normally catch from urban ponds."

SERIOUS BASS FISHING

Veteran bass anglers often dismiss urban fishing opportunities as "kid's fishing ponds." Fisheries Biologist Ben Dodd cautions those anglers against overlooking the big-bass potential of urban waters.

"Some of those urban spots have surprisingly good bass fishing," he said. "The bass have plenty of bluegills to eat, and the bigger bass don't get much pressure. A family fishing for bluegills along the shore with bits of nightcrawlers, with the kids throwing rocks and splashing around the edges, aren't going to have much chance of catching the big bass."


On the other hand "Somebody who knows how to target big bass, knows what to throw and where to throw it, is the guy who's going to catch 4-, 5-, maybe 6-pound bass from those urban ponds. It takes some knowledge and some strategy to connect with the big ones."

Stubbs likes to match his tactics and tackle to the habitat and the structure of each pond.

"I do well throwing frogs into vegetation in the summer," he said. "Those ponds are small enough, often with walking or bicycle paths around them, so it's easy to work the edges, throwing into whatever vegetation I can find. Other spots take a different approach. There's a renovated gravel pit that I drive past on my way home from work that's just a big rectangular basin, not much structure, not much vegetation. I have a tough time pulling bass out of there, but there are other guys who know how and what to throw that catch some really nice bass in that particular pit."


SPRINGTIME URBAN BASS

Early spring is prime time to target urban waters for bass. The smaller waters warm quickly, and bass are active long before their relatives in 1,000-acre lakes.

On sunny days, shallow, south-facing shorelines attract bass seeking warmth. Their appetites and moods are unpredictable. Some days they're lethargic, interested only in slow-moving jigs-and-pigs or plastic worms. Other days they seem mad at the world, and savagely attack crankbaits or spinnerbaits ripped past where they're sunbathing.

Experimentation is part of the challenge and the fun of early bass hunting.

No matter their mood, it's critical to be stealthy when stalking bass in shallow water, and beneficial to play hooky from work to take advantage of minimal activity in urban parks during the school day. By 5 o'clock the local kiddies are running rampant around the edges of the ponds, the water is cooling, and the big bass have grown wary and eased back to deeper water.

That scenario changes quickly as waters warm. Increased recreational activities on walking paths, kids throwing rocks, and the activity at nearby soccer and Little League fields encourages big bass to go nocturnal in summer.

A veteran tournament angler once confided that he consistently caught "huge" bass from an urban pond associated with a Little League baseball complex.

"But it's all after dark," he said. "I don't use any lights I can see well enough to cast from the lights of the ball fields. I work the edges real slow and quiet, use a popper or frog around weeds as soon as they develop. I catch some big bass within sight of those Little League fields."

Industrial parks and "urban campuses" are another opportunity for bass. Industrial parks are now required to control runoff from their acres and acres of concrete parking lots, and many suburban office complexes incorporate ponds and walking trails for employees into their landscaping plans. The challenge for anglers is to identify which private properties allow public fishing.

"Some industrial parks and office parks allow public access, and some don't," said Stubbs. "Locally, we're trying to create an urban fishing atlas to help anglers identify what is publically accessible."

EXPERT URBAN ANGLER

Dave Lochner is an over-the-road truck driver who specializes in fishing in ponds and lakes associated with industrial parks and urban areas. Whenever his schedule forces him to lay over at a terminal or warehouse for more than a couple of hours, he explores nearby fishing opportunities.

"A lot of the newer industrial parks have green spaces, little parks where the employees can eat lunch or take walks, and there often are ponds in those areas," he said. "I start talking to the guys at the loading dock or in the trucker's lounge, and there's usually somebody who likes to fish and can tell me if there's any fishing within walking distance of where I'm parked.

"Fishing beside the interstate with traffic roaring by isn't as relaxing as being on a Canadian lake, but any kind of fishing is better than sitting in the breakroom of a warehouse or in the sleeper of my truck for however long it takes for them to load or unload my truck."

Lochner's roadside fishing strategies emphasize the simplicity of urban fishing opportunities. Anglers who head across the country to fish in a "big lake" feel obligated to take multiple rods and tackle boxes on their journey. Lochner said he has caught hundreds of bass from urban ponds with the single spinning rod and a few "universal" lures he carries in his truck.

"I've got a 6-foot, medium-action rod and spinning reel loaded with 8- to 10-pound-test line," he said. "It fits in my sleeper and will catch anything from crappies to big bass or even huge catfish if the drag is set right.

"For lures I carry a couple of natural-color Rapalas, a few rubber worms and some spinners. My "go-to" lure, the thing that seems to catch fish all over the country, is a white 1 1/2-inch twistertail on a 1/4-ounce leadhead jig, with the leadhead painted red."

Lochner's minimal tackle inventory underlines one of the most attractive aspects of suburban angling opportunities. It takes very little time or effort to have a lot of fun at these small ponds. Stubbs often drops by an urban pond on his way home from work.

"Once I started looking and paying attention, I found there are 12 of those ponds on my way home from work," he said. "That's 12 places where I can stop for maybe a half hour and be confident I'll land some fish. If you overlook those little ponds in urban areas, you're probably overlooking some pretty fair bass fishing."

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Mustad

Mustad's Inkvader Octopus Live Jig

From big fish to small, just about any saltwater game fish out there will love the new Mustad Inkvader Octopus Live Jig that Mustad's Russ Whisler shows to OSG's Lynn Burkhead.

Simms

Simms' Solarflex Ultra Cool Armor Hoody

John Frazier of Simms Fishing Products helps OSG's Lynn Burkhead understand the new features of the new Simms' Solarflex Ultra Cool Armor sun protection hoody.

New Abu Garcia Baitcasting Reels

New Abu Garcia Baitcasting Reels

In the booth of one of fishing's all-time great reel makers, Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead and Andrew Wheeler of Pure Fishing discuss one of the brand new baitcasting reels from Abu Garcia being released at ICAST 2019.

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

As Pure Fishing's Andrew Upshaw explains, reel making giant Abu Garcia has done it again at ICAST 2019 with a new spinning reel geared towards finesse fishermen.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Here are the 10 most common spinning and baitcaster reel performance problems and how to fix them. Fishing How-To

10 Most Common Reel Performance Problems

Anietra Hamper

Here are the 10 most common spinning and baitcaster reel performance problems and how to fix...

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near anything that fits in their mouths. Catfish

5 Ways To Catch Catfish on Lures

Keith Sutton - September 16, 2015

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near...

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range Ammo

10 Best Long-Range Cartridges Ever Made

David Hart - January 14, 2015

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range

While catfish are still catfish, the difference between day and night tactics and strategies can be profound, even when fishing the same lake or river. Fishing How-To

How to Catch Catfish Day and Night

Terry Madewell

While catfish are still catfish, the difference between day and night tactics and strategies...

See More Trending Articles

More Bass

An hour here, 30 minutes there, 10 casts after work; sometimes that's all it takes. Stories

Perspective: Satisfy Fishing Passion When You Can

Adam Heggenstaller - June 24, 2020

An hour here, 30 minutes there, 10 casts after work; sometimes that's all it takes.

There is no shortage of excellent fishing to be had all over the Northeast in the coming months. Here are a handful of top destinations to pursue some of the region's most iconic species. Playbook

The East's Hottest Summer Fishing Destinations

Jeff Knapp

There is no shortage of excellent fishing to be had all over the Northeast in the coming...

Try these basic approaches to catch river-dwelling smallies this summer. Playbook

Top Tactics for River Smallmouth Bass

Jeff Knapp - June 17, 2020

Try these basic approaches to catch river-dwelling smallies this summer.

A handful of private lakes across the South provide serious bass anglers with the chance to catch the fish of a lifetime. Fishing

Fishing Destinations: Bucketmouth Bucket List

Ken Duke - June 09, 2020

A handful of private lakes across the South provide serious bass anglers with the chance to...

See More Bass

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now