Managing Bass in Small Ponds

Many anglers in today’s fishing industry do the majority of their fishing on small waterways such as farm ponds.  In fact, anybody can turn their neighborhood pond into a phenomenal fishery without spending too much money.  If these gems are treated with the proper structure, food supply and management, as well as stocking, they can produce some fabulous fishing opportunities for numbers of bass, with many very respectable bass mixed into the picture as well.

Having the proper structure in a waterway is a key element to the puzzle of having a great fishery. Largemouth bass primarily feed by ambushing their prey. In order to keep a bass in its natural feeding habits, it is imperative to have several different types of structure where bass can ambush baitfish. Without this structure, bass are forced to expend a tremendous amount of energy in order to chase down just one meal. To put in human terms, say you want an apple. You are not very hungry but need something to tide you over until dinner. Now, how much good is that apple going to do you if you are required to run a mile to get it? At this point, you are going to want an apple, as well as, maybe a juicy hamburger. It is the same with bass. Make sure they do not have to move much to get their food. In order to do this, you should have three key types of structures in your body of water: wood, weeds and lily pads, and rocks. This variety allows the bass to decide which feeding mode it desires. It simply gives the bass many options to fulfill their requirement of protein to ensure a nice, fat belly. Everybody knows that it takes good reproduction of bass in order to keep the year classes in healthy condition. In order to accommodate this to bass, it may be wise to add a sandy bottom to a protected part of the pond. This should provide the bass with an exceptional spawning grounds and keep the chain of bass growing.

In order for the bass to ambush prey, there has to be something to eat in the pond. Bluegills are a given in ponds and bass will rely heavily on them during many times of the year. In my opinion, however, I believe the bass needs to have three or four options feed on. Fathead minnows are a must due to their fast reproduction and perfect size. They are the main forage for smaller bass. My personal favorite forage for bass in ponds are shad for several reasons. First, shad will reproduce every three to four weeks in the warmer months with proper aeration and food supply. This gives the bass a constant food source. The shad do compete with bluegills and sunfish but personally I don’t mind this. Golden shiners can also be a very logical choice. These are another large baitfish for the bass to eat.  In order to keep all baitfish in your pond fat and making babies, I like to set up feeders around the pond that automatically shoots baitfish protein food out of them at a set time every day.  These can really pack some protein in bass and give them, yet another option to obtain the proper nutrients.

Now, a pond owner can finally proceed to the final step of stocking.  Some people make the mistake of stocking bass before they give the baitfish a chance to establish themselves.  Typically, it is very advantageous to stock the baitfish first, and give them a month or two to establish themselves and reproduce once.  This way, when the game fish are stocked the fish have baitfish everywhere and can immediately begin gorging themselves and grow several inches in that first year.  It is very important to not stock too many bass into a waterway at the initial stocking.  I also prefer to buy the bass small because I believe it creates a more natural bass which are more likely to reproduce when they reach the acceptable age.

This is enough to at least get you started in your quest to create a respectable bass fishery.  I could not get very specific as far as stocking etc because this depends on the size of the pond and your location in the country; however, I would happy to answer any questions you, personally, have.  I will leave my email address on the bottom of this article.  Aeration is another important factor in pond management, but I will save that for another time.

Brian Dolne

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