Thursday, August 25, 2011

Morning bass derby at the pond

this one was a hog!

I was going to stop by the pond on my walk home from the train last night, but when I opened my backpack to get my rod, I realized I left it at home. Undeterred, I decided to return in the morning.

Air temp: 63°F
Wind: none
Pressure: 29.85" and rising
Clouds: none 

Another chunky bluegill from the pond
I arrived at 6:55am, and started casting (nightcrawlers with bullet weight). The sun was up, but it was blocked by trees to the east, so the majority of the pond was still dark. I watched the surface of the water- I didn't see any bait fish, but I saw TONS of big wakes... everywhere. On about the third cast, I hooked into one of the chunky bluegill the inhabit the pond.

I wondered if those wakes were all fat bluegill like this one. I'm getting better at reading the water, but I've got a ways to go. I paid more attention, and occasionally saw a wake head into an area, then tons of bubbles on the surface. Big fish eating little fish? Probably!

Before each cast, I stood on the pipe and watched the surface, trying to locate my quarry. I didn't have to wait long, because every 5-10 seconds I would see the wakes and cast. The water is so cloudy I couldn't see the fish even though I think they were right at the surface. Even with my fancy polarized glasses I couldn't tell what they were.

And then I hooked into a fish- bigger than a bluegill - and it gave me a GREAT fight! Jumped out of the water a few times, spun around, went swimming like a torpedo looking for any cover- but my flimsy collapsible rod prevailed, and I landed my first bass of the day!

Nice bass!
A VERY nice looking fish, dark and vibrant coloring (due to the bad water clarity?) When it first broke the surface, I wondered if I had hooked a catfish it was so dark. Out of the water, it was obviously not. A great before-work bass, about 9" long, looked like his belly was on it's way to being full.

I snapped some pics, completely satisfied with my outing, and I was only 10 minutes into it. I carefully placed the beautiful fish back in the water, and after a second it got it's bearings and darted back to the depths.

I thought I would try some artificials- I knew there were bass around, and it would be cool if I didn't have to burn through my supply of worms. Also, in my very limited experience, it seems that bigger bait really does catch bigger fish, and nightcrawlers on a hook can only get so big. In addition, I wasn't after bluegill, which I knew were everywhere- I wanted bass.

Naturally I tied on my magical green tube jig. Maybe this shouldn't have been my first choice, but I'd caught many bass in similar water under similar conditions. Even though the bottom wasn't rocky as far as I could tell (maybe not the best habitat for crawfish) I thought I would give it a shot. These bass seemed hungry, so I'd give them something bigger!

After a few casts, I snagged. I didn't rig the tube weedless, I actually did a pretty shabby texas-rig so the hook kept popping out of the tube. I didn't have any of the weighted jigs with me, otherwise I would have used one of those. When I yanked a little on the line, the tube started to swim away in the opposite direction. Fish on!! Sneaky fish!

This one gave quite a show as well, doing a few jumps and somersaults out of the water, and I brought it in. It was another largemouth, bigger than the other! It was longer - 10-11", and fatter.

This one's been enjoying the bluegill sushi buffet
Awesome! 2 bass in 15 minutes, this was pretty great fishing. I thought back of getting skunked at Busse more times than I could count, after driving, waiting in line, parking, and walking to my spot. This pond was literally on my way to work, 5 minutes from my house and 5 minutes from my train. I would have never guessed this dirty, polluted looking pond filled with runoff and the occasionally oil slick on the surface would hold any fish, let alone healthy-looking good-sized bass.

I continued watching the surface to let me know where to cast, and this technique was working. Another fish on the line! I think anglers call this "dialing in;" finding a pattern or technique that works on a given body of water under certain conditions, and exploiting that knowledge to catch fish. I was definitely dialing in this pond. This bass was definitely the feisty-ist of the lot; he swam faster and jumped twice as much as the previous bass. I got him out the water, and he shook like CRAZY! The fight was not unlike the small steelheads I caught a few weeks back.

this one had some chompers
...And this one had TEETH! I always grab bass by their bottom lip, which tends to subdue them and allow me to snap some pictures without dropping them. Of course all bass have little teeth-type things along their mouth, but I've NEVER actually hurt myself on them. Usually they are small and dull, seemingly more for gripping than biting. Not this one! These teeth were pointy and numerous, and actually cut into my thumb the way little cactus needles would (anybody cook nopales aka cactus paddles?) It didn't hurt, it was just surprising.

I snapped some pics, and brought the fighter over and returned him to the water. I'm fairly positive that I hadn't caught the same bass more than once, and I didn't think any of these were bass I caught earlier in the week. I'd been trying to remember specific marks on each bass, and I think they were all different. That's a lot of bass in a small pond!

At one point I counted at least 10 distinct wakes right in front of me that I was pretty sure were all bass. 10! And that's only fish within casting distance of my spot- who knows how many there are in the rest of the pond.

Now that I was catching bass regularly, I thought I would try another lure. Maybe I should have stuck with what was working, but I was curious if they would hit a buzzbait harder, or not at all.

Turns out, not at all. They weren't interested. I switched back to my lucky tube, and proceeded to catch more bass! By the end of my outing, I had caught a total of 6 largemouth bass all between 9" and 14." Some of them were valiant warriors, others were just dead weight on my line. I looked at my phone, and it was time to go. I packed up my rod, put my gear in my backpack, and hopped on my bike.

While I was waiting for the train, I called the park district to find out about the pond- I wanted to know if they stock it, and what they put in there. I was pretty sure they stocked it with bluegill. Turns out, they stock it with bluegill, crappie, and catfish. Not bass. (It's interesting they stock crappie, because I haven't caught a single crappie mixed in with all that bluegill.)

How did the bass get there!!? This pond is definitely man-made, and I'm pretty sure it was recently drained... So the fish in there haven't been in there for long. I've heard theories about fish eggs getting stuck on birds, who transport them to new waters; or fish moving from water to water during flooding... I really don't know how all these bass got there, but the massive numbers of bluegill seem to be the perfect forage for these pond bass. They seem healthy, and based on what I know about bass, they are definitely more than a year old. That means that either they only recently got into the pond, or they can survive the winter.

Another awesome short and sweet outing on my commute! This is actually a record for number of bass caught; the only other time I've caught this many bass is on a cloudy day at Busse, when I caught 6 largemouths in 2 hours. I was hoping to beat my record with a 7th bass, but the bite dried up and I had to go to work.

But don't worry, pond-bass friends, I'll be back.

One of six bass from this morning


  1. Wow...I'd say that was a very good day on the water. Nice fish!

  2. Well done. Looks like a few healthy bass and a stocky bluegill. Great stuff. Stumbled across your blog and now following.


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