September 30, 2010
Want some inside information about where the best bass fishing can be found in Nebraska this spring? Then read on -- you've found it!
I love public-land fishing. And this year, in Nebraska, I feel right at home. Nebraska's best opportunities for bass are at the same types of lakes that I love to fish: midsized reservoirs that people often pass over in search of larger, more difficult locations.
Before I go any further, let me break this down into three reasons why these are the best:
- The average-sized fish at these lakes are among the best in the state.
- These lakes are small enough to find fish quickly in, yet they still have a "big lake" feel to them.
- Each of these lakes is on the verge of having one of its best seasons ever.
When I moved to Nebraska, I was forced to emerge from my world of private fishing lakes and venture into the world of the public fishing hole. The collection of notes I've compiled on these Cornhusker lakes indicates that I've found that the same type of lake -- which would include the four lakes I'll mention later -- was always producing my best fishing trips.
Let me be honest. Grove Lake is not a 100-bass-a-day place, and big fish don't always run rampant there. But it's one of the most intriguing places to fish in the state, simply because the bass hit on a different level of "hard" at Grove.
Grove, first off, does have one of the highest rates of 15-inch-plus fish in the state, and it features the depth and structure to invite a variety of anglers. Its western side will reach depths of over 24 feet, and shallow water is available in multiple coves. However, in the past I've caught most of my fish on the eastern side of the lake. In addition, Grove is a great summertime lake, owing to the amount of shade that the surrounding trees afford. Even throughout the day in August, anglers can find cover that isn't being bombarded by the sun.
Larry Kurrus, the author's father, caught this chunk on Grove Lake. Grove has one of the highest rates for 15-inch-or-larger bass in the state.
Photo by Jeff Kurrus.
Walnut Creek, although different from Grove, climbs to the top of my list of lakes notable for excellent bass quantity. I've caught as many as 85 bass on Walnut Creek in a day by myself, and all it took was for me to find the right pattern at the right time. Plus, Walnut Creek's number of fish above 15 inches increases every year, with this year showing the largest number of bass in that category ever. The lake hides countless treetops throughout, holds several rock-lined points in water from shallow to deep, and always has aquatic vegetation in it somewhere. I've found fish by throwing shallow-water crankbaits (namely, chartreuse and crawfish) on the spillway, dancing Zara Puppies through every cove, slow-rolling spinnerbaits next to the treetops, hopping scum frogs through the spinach, and bouncing crankbaits off every tree I could find. Every one of those tactics has yielded fish at one time or another.
As deep as 30 feet when not as shallow as a puddle, this lake offers everything any angler would want in a bass-fishing lake. It's best early in the year, though. I'd fish it in April, May, and June when the bass fishing there is most active.
Thanks to consistency, Burchard is another great option in Nebraska. No huge dropoffs greet anglers; no difficult casting or structural conditions hinder the fishing: Burchard is easy. Helpfully, the fish usually huddle up in two places: in the reeds that surround the entire lake, and on points' windward sides, toward which baitfish are continually pushed toward ambushing bass. And with this amount of vegetation surrounding the lake -- mostly water that a crankbait can be fished through, even in its shallow water -- Burchard offers the possibility of both big bass and a lot of bass. In the first 15 minutes of my first time fishing it we had caught one Master Angler bass over 5 pounds on a shallow-running crawfish crankbait. We continued to fish the lake quickly, not spending too much time in any one place, and were able to find fish throughout the entire lake. The fish were there on its points, coming back to the boat and buried against the surrounding greenery.
Yet don't expect too much variety with the visible cover you fish, as the amount of visible structure awaiting you isn't huge. Fallen trees are minimally present, as is riprap, yet taller lake reeds flourish, giving bass enough foliage to use in ambushing unsuspecting baitfish and lures. A depthfinder is a must, however: If you settle for fishing good-looking water without any underwater knowledge, it might be a long day. Find the specific depth that fish are located at and search for that depth over the entire lake.
Aggressive bass can be found in these waters,where competition for food is intense and the next strike may be a Master Angler fish.
But let me tell you the best feature of Burchard -- one that might not seem that important until we really start talking about lake pressure. Burchard has a dark-goose season that starts at the end of October and runs through most of January. That limits anglers to shoreline fishing. Keep this in mind. If the area receives any sort of warm weather during the winter months and the fish continue to feed, the fish will enter this spring without seeing a lure for nearly five months. I've landed on more than one place that hasn't been fished for a while, and my number of strikes was considerably higher than might have been expected.
Zorinsky Lake, in Omaha, offers some of the best big-bass fishing in the state. Maybe the diversity of water types to fish there is such that the bass have to be on something. A couple of years ago we found our fish against shallow riprap next to deep water and caught them with scum frogs and shallow-running crankbaits. On the lake's western end, a shallower area much more dense with cover (including exposed timber and an ever-increasing number of fallen limbs) is the site of some excellent bass fishing.
At Zorinsky, keep three lures close to you, the first of which would be a scum frog. I have my favorites, but I find that a weedless version will allow you to throw it wherever and whenever you want. The thicker the cover, the better. Work this lure with your wrists, starting small at first and working to larger actions. Second, carry a 1/4-ounce silver and gold willow-leaf white spinnerbait on your trips. Fish through flooded timber, and don't be shy about bouncing the lure off whatever structure you can find. Slow-roll 'em off of the deep points, especially on the lake's eastern end. Third, a shallow-running green or crawfish-colored crankbait is a must. You can cripple them not only on top of the water, but also in areas that aren't too grassy; the fish are just waiting for something to eat. Remember: Zorinsky is the one lake on this list that has e
very type of structure you could want. Shallow, medium, and deep-water coves, rocks, trees, grass -- you choose.
With one of the highest numbers of fish surveyed by the state just two years ago and an ever-growing number of the critical 8- to 12-inch fish, Zorinsky looks to be one of the year's hotspots. But I know, folks: It's not a sleeper. A lot of you out there already fish Zorinsky. Well, fish it more. Many a big fish swims its waters, and every type of structure you could want will greet you when you get there. All you have to do is choose one to fish.
Last year the focus in Nebraska was on larger reservoirs. However, this year I'm in total agreement with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission that the midsized reservoirs offer the best opportunities for big-bass fishing in the state. They give anglers a big-boat lake with small-lake character. Aggressive bass can be found in these waters, where competition for food is intense and the next strike may be a Master Angler fish.
When you fish these reservoirs, you can feel confident that you're going to be able to find fish quickly. Don't spend too much time fishing slow until you have to. Start on top, change to ripping crankbaits, and then slow down. The biggest problem I see with anglers nowadays is their ineptitude when fishing lures outside of soft plastics. Use them, yes, but don't spend your time flipping and pitching and Carolina- and Texas- and no-weight-rigging all of your lures. Each of these lakes has excellent topwater and crankbait possibilities -- use them. And definitely use these midsized reservoirs on your weekend or weekday adventures.