How to fish for bass in urban ponds during the summer
During my last year of college, three of my buddies and I decided to host a month-long bass fishing tournament. The rules were simple: two on two, and the team with the biggest bag of five fish after 30 days wins. But there was a kicker: Fishermen were not allowed to venture further than a 50 mile radius from our apartment.
The goal was to push our fishing skills to the brink and think outside the box. This meant that Google Earth and the pond jump would play a major role in the success. My friend Jeff and I hit the obvious spots first, but it wasn’t until we lost three pounds that we checked out a muddy, clogged canal in a city park. When my frog decoy hit the weed mat, a large 3-pound 8-ounce mouth exploded from below. We had found our honey hole.
Read more: 10 best bass lures for the summer
To this day, this disgusting looking canal is one of my favorite fishing spots. It’s hiding in plain sight in a central New York suburb and I wouldn’t give up this place for the world. That’s the beauty of pond jumping. You don’t need a bass boat, a world-class lake, or 15 fishing rods to catch a trophy fish. A few rods, a backpack with gear, access to Google Earth, and a willingness to think outside the box will put you on the right track to catching more bass. Here are five tips to help you find more bass ponds to fish this summer.
1. Use Google Earth to search for ponds with Big Bass
These days, almost all types of fishing or hunting adventures begin on the Google earth. Pond hopping for bass is no different, and you might be surprised at how much you can do with this tool. Locate a starting point, which will likely be your home, and start zooming out. As your field of vision widens, you should start to notice ponds and different bodies of water. Of course, this is all relative to your region or state.
“I grew up hopping ponds in western New York, and it’s still one of my favorite ways to fish for bass,” says former college bass angler Jimmy Zaccagnino . “Google Earth has become my best tool for identifying ponds to target.”
Start filtering through these spots and choose a pond to focus on. Zoom in and start looking for key features. Do you notice a structure? Are weeds visible on the map? Are there other water bodies that connect? These questions should start to generate ideas. I often like to focus on ponds that have adjacent water bodies. This offers options and gives you more work to do when fishing.
Then use the Google Earth feature which allows you to filter the map by year. This is something that is often overlooked by fishermen and can provide important information. Click on the “Show historical images” tab at the top of Google Earth and you can filter by year. Below is a Google Earth 2018 image of one of Zaccagnino’s favorite places with notes marked next to the pin.
Below is a 1995 aerial photo of the same two ponds. This information lets Zaccagnino know that if there are fish here, there is a good chance that they will spawn naturally with mature bass.
“I’ve found that the older the pond, the better it will fish,” says Zaccagnino. “The chances of an older pond having more mature fish are greater than a newly dug pond. This is not always true, but older ponds produced big bass for me.
2. Don’t ignore the nasty looking water
Fishermen are developing ideas of what “good water” should look like, and some places just don’t seem as “dodgy” as others. But when it comes to ponds, streams, little bodies of water, and bass, don’t hit it until you’ve tried it. You will be surprised where the bass can live.
Prior to fishing what we now call the Frog Spot my group of fishing buddies called it all sewage due to the terrible clarity and the fact that it was completely choked with weeds. But it turned out we were wrong. Catching three and four pounds has systematically put us in our shoes and everything we thought we knew about “bad water”.
Don’t give up a spot just because it looks bad. Cast a few plasters and work different areas of the pond before continuing all the way. It only takes one big bite for a place to go from awful to amazing.
3. Use onX Hunt to… fish
If you hunt, you know the onX Hunt GPS mapping tool. Although onX is marketed heavily to hunters, I have found it extremely useful for my fishing adventures, especially pond hopping. The main downside to Google Earth is that it doesn’t show whether a pond is public or private, doesn’t show you property lines, or give you the names of the owners. But onX gives you all of this information, which is essential as some of the best ponds are often private and knowing who to ask is crucial to getting a permit.
In addition to property lines and landowner information, onX offers many other useful features for pond anglers. One of which is the color coded pins. If you are a serious pond fisherman and have a number of places nearby, it can be difficult to remember which fish were caught from which place. I color code my big catches to know exactly where I caught my fish. I will mark the 3 books with red pins and the 4 books with yellow pins.
You can also measure distances and track yourself as you work in a pond so you know how long it took and where you found the most bites. Using onX has become an essential screening tool for me. The mobile-friendly app is a game-changer when I’m fishing or sitting in my car trying to figure out which ponds are public.
4. Fish Golf Course Ponds (After Ask permission)
It wouldn’t be a true ponds article if I didn’t cover golf course ponds. They are magnets for big bass. The only problem, of course, is that these ponds are private. I’m not here to suggest that you sneak up on the course and get in there. Instead, visit the clubhouse and politely ask who you should talk to to get permission to fish the course. Here are some tips you can try to increase your chances of accessing it:
- Don’t walk into a fancy clubhouse with your lucky fisherman hat, dirty backpack, and three fishing rods. You will be kicked out before you can say your name. Dress a little better and be presentable.
- I find that I have a better chance of going to the office later in the day when there are fewer golfers and the clubhouse is not as busy.
- Ask if you can speak to the fishing manager on the course and if so, what time of day he would prefer you to be there. You will be surprised at how many courses you enjoy requesting and giving access.
The same goes for accessing any private pond, whether it’s a golf course, apartment building, or a private business. Be friendly and if someone gives you access, it’s never a bad idea to leave bagels or a gift as a thank you, especially if the pond has big bass in it.
5. The best bass gear for jumping ponds
I have a special pond jumping arsenal that is always ready to go. I like to carry three canes. I usually have a frog rod that is always rigged, another bait caster for the majority of my fishing, and a casting rod for finesse situations.
When it comes to lures and bait, the most important thing when pond jumping is versatility. You need to make sure that you are prepared for any situation. I carry a backpack with three or four boxes full of everything from soft plastics and chatter to frogs and crankbaits. You may need to lower a 10ft bait and then cast a frog an hour later in another pond. Have at least two of each lure in your box.
Versatility and mobility are the key words when jumping into the pond. Don’t rush, but don’t spend hours in a dead pond either. Get in the car and check for the next pin on your map. If you’re not looking for new places, your fishing buddies might beat you up there and you’ll hear about a 5-pound frog caught in mean-looking water for years to come.