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Small Waters - By Steven Vonbrandt


Bass fishing on large bodies of water with a high speed bass boat is real thrill, and some of the larger bodies of water such as Lake Champlain in New York and the Potomac River in Maryland are some of the top bass fishing locations in the northeast, but some of the smaller bodies of water located throughout the country that are 100 acres or less, are some of the top producers of trophy largemouth bass. Not only do these smaller bodies of water produce trophy class fish, but many times offer the solitude and scenery that can be found nowhere else.

We are going to discuss some of the best tactics and techniques for you to employ to not only have a memorable day, but possibly catch that once in a lifetime trophy bass. 


In all the smaller lakes and ponds there are always going to be certain locations that hold the biggest fish. These locations are not always the most obvious ones. Most anglers that fish these small bodies of water tend to target the obvious structure such as laydowns, lily pads, and rip rap areas near the dams. While these locations will always hold some good fish, true trophy bass are usually loners.  

The open flats that may appear devoid of cover are sometimes the best locations for really big bass. You need to find these open water areas that are near or adjacent to the creek channel where two or more different types of grasses come together. Within this same area if you find smaller depressions or humps you can locate these bass. 

You will always catch numbers of bass in these areas in the three to five pound range, but the true trophy bass will almost always be by themselves. 

Not only do these anglers almost all target the same types of cover, but they tend to throw the most common baits. The key to catching the larger bass is to avoid using the same baits as they have seen for the past few years.  

The best example of this is what happened to me many years ago in Delaware at two private lakes I belonged to. 

The State of Delaware had electroshocked both of these lakes for us several times in a five year period. Each time they targeted what "They" believed to be several of the best locations in the lake for the shocking the most bass.  

In each case, every time, in both lakes, they never shocked more than 3 bass over five pounds, and never one over six pounds.  

These lakes were 50 acres and 78 acres, and were fished on a regular basis by the members. At times, there were more boats on these so called "Private" lakes at one time, than there were on most "Public" ponds. The members ranged from inexperienced to highly skilled, and none of them ever landed a bass in the trophy class, and rarely landed one in the 5 pound plus range. 


I targeted the areas I mentioned to you above using a buzzbait which at the time nobody was throwing in this area. The real buzzbait craze was not even talked about much at the time and nobody in these lakes threw this bait. I caught 11 bass the first day with four other boats around me within fifty yards, that were all between five and 7 pounds, in the broad daylight!

The bass had never seen this bait and were completely fooled by it even though they were pressured with other anglers all around me.

I switched to several baits that had not been used for years by most anglers in both of these lakes over the next few weeks after the first incident, such as a "Devils Horse", a "Crazy Crawler" and a "Jitterbug", with the same results. I moved to several public ponds and produced similar results. 

Now, this was great, but I was looking for a true "trophy" bass, so I adjusted to using the next tactic I will discuss in the same areas.                                                                        

Go At Night: 

I know you heard this before, but this is the time for trophy bass!  

Now, when I say go at night, I mean that you should arrive at the lake about two hours after sunset, and you should be leaving when the first boats start to arrive in the morning. When I first started doing this there was never another boat fishing for bass on either of these lakes, nor was there anyone on any of the public ponds either. After the word got out in a years time there would be three to five boats on all these waters every time I arrived afterwards. 

You should keep all the noise to an absolute minimum, as these bass are really used to hearing trolling motors, oars, objects banging on the bottom of boats, and even loud conversation and radios. Remember, this is their "Front Room". If somebody came into your house you would know they were there! Even once the other anglers started to come they didn't do what I am going to tell you now. They made a lot of noise and had lights on all the time. They smoked and used a lot of bug spray and touched gasoline, etc. which was on their hands. I believe this deters the bass even if it is to a small degree. Remember, we are talking about a trophy bass, not just three to five pounders. I believe there is a difference when fishing for these bass. 

I don't use lights at all! I only turn on a light when it is absolutely necessary and I never shine it on the water. You can debate forever whether this is necessary to do or not, but I believe that the proof is in the pudding as they say. When I see other anglers catching the same or larger bass than I do without following these rules, then I will admit that it doesn't matter, but until that happens I will continue to employ these tactics for trophy bass. 

One last thing I will tell you about baits is that I generally use the largest bait available when trophy hunting to avoid the smaller fish.

I make the profile of the buzzbait larger by adding a long trailer like a worm or swimbait to the body, and  I use a big saltwater type topwater at times, or even 10 inch worms and big jigs.

 It is not just the type of baits either but how they are worked. One example is the buzzbait. I not only vary the retrieves until I see what they want that day or night, but I also make repeated casts to the same area. I don't mean repeated in the manner you think. I will make fifty casts at times from every possible angle to the same piece of cover or same area of water. Many times on cast number thirty or forty a bass has exploded on the bait! 

Using these tactics I have described I managed to catch more than 568 trophy class bass in five years and was inducted into the NAFC Hall Of Fame in 2003. One of these bass was just ounces off the Delaware state record at 10.16 pounds. It was featured in all of Bass Pro Shops master catalogs and in the News Journal paper, as well as Bassmaster magazine Lunker Club and other publications.  

Of the 568 trophy class fish I caught using these methods, over 100 of them were over six pounds, ten were over seven pounds, three were over eight pounds, and two were over nine pounds. These bass all came from public waters in Delaware and Maryland, except for two of them, which were caught in the private lakes I mentioned in Delaware.

If you follow these tactics you may just catch that fish of a lifetime, but even if you don't, I guarantee you will catch more and bigger bass than you ever had before.

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