Our local fish hound has done the legwork for you concerning where lunker largemouths (and smallmouths) are found in Indiana. Here's where to look! (March 2009)
There are good bass lakes and then there are great bass lakes. The difference between the two is the potential to hook into an average size bass or a trophy bass. Lakes like Monroe, Summit, Robinson, Eagle Creek, Brookville and Patoka don't need much of an introduction. They're among the state's big-bass powerhouses. The bass may not jump into your boat, but if you spend a little time on the water, there's a good chance of connecting with the fish of a lifetime.
The recent flooding throughout Indiana has caused some concern about this year's big-bass opportunities. But not to worry, said fisheries biologist Rhett Wisener.
According to Wisener, bass aren't likely to abandon ship and leave a lake when the water is overflowing a dam or running out onto fields. Some fish may go with the flow, but Wisener hasn't heard of any cases where flooding has seriously hurt a bass fishery. In some instances, higher water can help the bass fishing in the long run. Panfish have highly successful spawns and flood the lake with hordes of bite-sized fish to provide great forage. When the water is up but doesn't stay that way for too long of a time, bass will also spawn successfully because of the influx of new cover.
Here's a look at lakes in Hoosierland that will be your best bets for big bass this year.
There are a handful of lakes in the state that qualify as big-bass lakes and Monroe is one of them.
"Monroe Reservoir near Bloomington is one of the best, if not the best, water bodies for largemouth bass in Indiana," said assistant fisheries biologist Joel Stiras. "For several years now, anglers have had trouble locating the bass, since the relatively stable water levels have allowed vegetation to develop in the shallows. But if you can find them, some of these bass are big."
According to Stiras, anglers used to find the bucketmouths off points and in deeper water. Over the last several years, the bass have begun to relate more to the weedbeds. A decade ago, there was very little submerged vegetation and that's all changed.
Dedra Hawkins manages The Fishin' Shedd in Bloomington and she knows just about every nook and cranny on Monroe. After all, she's fished the lake for over 40 years.
"The bass fishing wasn't that good last year, but I know that some 6-pounders were taken by a couple of local anglers who know the lake," Hawkins said.
The Pine Grove area is a great place to fish the channel edges for lunker-sized bass. When water levels are down, you'll need a lake map and a depthfinder to follow the old channel. (Continued)
Another good spot is the Boy Scout Camp area on the south side of the lake. The vegetation is variable, depending on water levels, but there are plenty of rocks, ledges and wood to fish over and around.
Tie on a Zoom Bait Company Worm or Lizard to work submerged cover, or a Stanley Ribbit Frog to fish the lily pads.
The smallmouth bass are beginning to make a comeback in the lake, Hawkins said. Last year, she caught her first one, a 3-pounder! Try fishing for smallmouths at the rock walls along the openings of bays.
The recent flooding throughout Indiana has caused some concern about this year's big-bass opportunities. But not to worry, fisheries biologist Rhett Wisener said.
Monroe Reservoir covers 10,750 acres 10 miles southeast of Bloomington in Brown, Jackson and Monroe counties. The lake is accessible on secondary routes from state routes 37, 46, 50 and 446.
For more information, contact District 6 in Avoca at (812) 279-1215, the Monroe Reservoir office at (812) 837-9546 or The Fishin' Shedd at (812) 837-9474.
Tourism information is available from the Bloomington/Monroe County CVB at (866) 333-0088, or visit online at www.visitbloomington.com.
Summit Lake is always Rhett Wisener's top choice for best bass lake in his management area. As the region's fisheries biologist, Wisener monitors many fisheries.
"I know I say it a lot, but Summit Lake has to be one of the top bass lakes in my area," Wisener said.
Spring bass fishing centers on the northeastern end of the lake. The water is shallow, and there are two small inlets that warm up first when the winter temperatures begin yielding to more sun and warmer days.
Assistant manager Dan Robinson of the Summit Lake State Park enjoys fishing the lake, and he also considers it a good one. There are many bass in the 14- to 20-inch range.
Retrieving plastic worms, jig-and-pigs, Bill Lewis Rat-L-Traps and Rapala minnow-type baits slower than usual often will fool lunker bass into thinking they're onto an easy meal. The water is still cold and so are the bass. Once the water temperatures warm up, try the same baits with a quicker retrieve.
Yellow perch are a big part of the forage base and perch-imitating baits in green and black stripes will definitely attract some attention. There are also plenty of bluegills and anything that looks like one is a good bait choice.
Three boat ramps and a trail on the northeast section of the lake provide good access points.
Summit Lake covers 835 acres and is located eight miles northeast of New Castle on county Road 600N and Messick Road in Henry County.
For additional information, call District 5 at (765) 342-5527 or the Summit Lake State Park at (765) 766-5873. Miller's Great Outdoors is located just outside of the park and can be reached at (765) 766-6300.
Contact the Henry County CVB at (888) 676-4302 or online at www.henry countyin.org for tourism information.
Robinson Lake is another quality bass water. The 18-inch minimum size limit has created an excellent population of big bass in a lake that only covers 59 acres.
"Robinson is one of the two top bass lakes in District 4," fisheries biologist Ed Braun said.
According to Braun, one survey showed th
at over 70 percent of the bass measured more than 14 inches. Eight percent of the largemouth bass topped the 18-inch mark. That's a huge percentage of quality bass by anyone's standards.
In the early 1990s, the DNR officially designated the area encompassing Robinson Lake as the Deniston Resource Area. A fisheries survey was completed that was a real eye-opener. Largemouth bass density was among the highest of any of the Hoosier State's natural lakes with 30 bass per acre. More studies indicated that fish as long as 21 inches had been caught.
Extensive submerged vegetation develops as the summer progresses. The shoreline is difficult to penetrate because of the bumper crops of weeds that line the shoreline. A boat is needed to access most of the lake.
Indianapolis anglers have a straight shot at some of the Hoosier State's best spring bass fishing at nearby Eagle Creek Reservoir.
The deepest section is in the large bay on the southwest side of Robinson with depths reaching 50 feet or more. The weeds will ring the edge of the lake with moderate depths making up the main lake basin.
Panfish make up the bulk of the forage base, so try crankbaits in silver and black colors. Dark-colored plastic worms fished slowly off the deeper weed edges through the dense vegetation during the daylight hours or near the shoreline cover in low-light conditions produce well.
Fishing pressure can be fairly heavy on this lake and the fish have become educated. It wouldn't hurt to experiment a bit with lure colors and presentations to find out what the bass are wanting at any given time. It's a good lake to check out what everyone else is doing and then do something a little different.
A gravel ramp in the recreation area provides small-boat access to the lake.
There is an 18-inch minimum length and two-fish daily bag limit.
Robinson Lake is located in the northwestern part of Whitley County and the eastern part of Kosciusko County east of Warsaw.
For more information, contact District 4 at (260) 244-6805, or call the Tri-County FWA at (574) 834-4461.
Contact the Kosciusko CVB at (800) 800-6090, or visit online at www. koscvb.org for tourism information.
EAGLE CREEK RESERVOIR
Indianapolis anglers have a straight shot at some of the Hoosier State's best spring bass fishing at nearby Eagle Creek Reservoir. After all, Eagle Creek is located on the northwest side of Indianapolis and is just a 10-minute drive from downtown Indy.
Eagle Creek has been a very good bass lake for years. According to fisheries biologist Rhett Wisener, the most recent DNR survey shows what a great bass fishery should look like. There was a very impressive largemouth bass population in the reservoir and nearly all of the bass were at or more than the minimum size limit of 14 inches. Twenty-two percent were at least 16 inches, and 8 percent of the sampled bass measured 18 inches or better. The largest bass was over 21 inches long. Things haven't changed a lot, said Wisener. He gives it a thumbs up as a big-bass lake.
Chuck Beard, the Eagle Creek Park manager, has the inside track on the water's hotspots. Target bass at the north end of the lake, north of the 56th Street causeway, in the coves and on the dropoffs with points on the western shoreline.
Look for the bigger bass on the structure that most anglers haven't found, said tournament angler Barry Davis. If you're willing to do a little homework when the water level is down, you can find excellent bass cover in the form of old wood, humps and shoreline configurations that will be submerged during high water. Bring a GPS to mark the spots and take a photo of each one. That way you can plot the most effective approach for the prevailing conditions when you return.
And largemouth bass aren't the only draw.
"Anglers have caught some pretty nice wipers," Beard said. "The largest wiper I know of weighed 11 pounds. Wipers can reach about 7 or 8 pounds on Eagle Creek."
Rat-L-Traps, jigs tipped with soft plastics and, surprisingly, chicken livers on a hook fished on the bottom are all effective for wipers.
Take I-465 and exit onto westbound 38th Street to reach the public boat ramp. Follow it west and turn right onto Dandy Trail. The boat ramp is off Dandy Trail just north of Rick's Café Boatyard. A 10-horsepower limit is in effect.
A bait shop is located in the park. A vehicle pass and launching fee are charged.
Eagle Creek Reservoir covers 1,350 acres in Marion County and is part of Eagle Creek Park, owned by the city of Indianapolis park system.
For more information, contact Eagle Creek Park at (317) 327-7110 or District 6 at (812) 988-9761.
Contact the Indianapolis CVB at (800) 323-4639.
Anglers looking for a mixed bag of big bass will find it at Brookville. The lake yields good numbers of largemouth and smallmouth bass, along with respectable numbers of wipers.
Largemouth bass are targeted by many anglers and many go home disappointed. There isn't a big population of bass, but there are lunkers to make up for it. Bass up to nearly 20 inches are taken and just how many of these big bruisers are cruising the depths is anyone's guess.
According to Wisener, the 2007 tournament results show that the average big bass weighed in at just over 4 1/2 pounds with the largest being over 6 pounds. Results reflect the mixed bag.
"I've seen smallmouth bass in the 4- to 5-pound range and 7-pound-plus largemouth bass," Wisener said. "With the amount of forage we have in the lake, I'm confident there are other fish like that out there."
The lake's largemouth bass are found in stickups, in coves and along rocky shoreline structure. To provide additional cover, hundreds of Christmas trees have been placed as fish attractors. Some of the trees were sunk in the main boat-launching area and in other locations where the water is shallow -- and out of the way of boat traffic. Anglers who are not familiar with the lake should start their bucketmouth search in the Big Elly, Wolf and Templeton creeks areas.
Brookville's deeper water has allows anglers to enjoy one of the few smallmouth fisheries in the area. The smallies and largemouths are probably about equally represented as far as numbers go. The Fairfield causeway has plenty of rocky bottom structure and is a consistent producer of smallmouth bass.
Brookville also has a growing wiper fish
ery. Several wipers over 36 inches have been landed and the fishing is superb.
Brookville covers 5,260 acres. The lake is a mile north of the town of Brookville on state Route 101 in Franklin and Union counties.
Biologists recommend that anglers decontaminate their boats because of the zebra mussels before moving them to other waters.
Call District 5 at (765) 342-5527, or the Brookville Reservoir office at (765) 647-2657 for more information.
Tourism information is available from the Franklin CVB at (866) 647-6555, or at www.franklincountyin.com.
Eventually, just about any conversation about bass fishing comes around to Patoka Lake. The bass fishing is among the best that Indiana has to offer.
According to fisheries biologist Dan Carnahan, bass anglers are now hooking big bucketmouths instead of the hordes of smaller bass that once overpopulated the lake. Regulations throughout the years have been adjusted to manipulate the size structure of the largemouth bass. The results have been outstanding.
Bass in Patoka are topping the 20-inch mark. Tournament results last year included several bass measuring from 19 to 20 inches. During the spring of 2007, even bass topping the 22-inch mark were taken that weighed in at 6 and 7 pounds.
Jeff Bailey of Uebelhor Bait and Guns in Jasper has fished the lake and been riding high on the wave of success.
"The best bass I've caught was over 9 pounds," Bailey said. "I've also landed two bass that were 8-pounders."
Early spring is the best time to target true trophies on Patoka, Bailey said. Lily pads and grassbeds draw in the big spawners to soak up the sun while lying in the weeds looking for an easy meal.
Standing trees in the creek inlets and the shallower bays are bass magnets as well. The cover can be so dense in these areas that getting back into fishable waters can be a tough assignment. The Walls Ramp and Southwick Fork areas are great places to start.
There is a 15-inch minimum length limit in effect on Patoka for bass.
Patoka covers 8,800 acres in Crawford, Dubois and Orange counties. Access is from state routes 545, 145 and 164 about 13 miles east of Jasper. A dozen ramps serve the lake. The Newton-Stewart Recreation Area charges an additional entrance fee to get through the gate. Bank-fishermen have plenty of access anywhere a road borders the water.
For additional information, contact District 7 at (812) 789-2724, the Patoka Lake office at (812) 685-2464 or the Uebelhor Bait and Guns shop at (812) 482-6672.
Call the Crawford County Tourism Office at (888) 846-5397 for tourism information, or visit online at www. crawfordcountyindiana.com.
Find more about Indiana fishing and hunting at: IndianaGameandFish.com