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Finding and Catching Big Bass In Small Lakes and Ponds

Heath Wood

Jordan Lee Kayak fishing

Over the last ten years, I have increased my fishing time annually. In the spring, I fish for striped, white, and quality largemouth and smallmouth bass with friends on the lakes. In the summer, I enjoy fishing a variety of small rivers or creeks for smallmouth bass. However, my biggest bass catches always occur while fishing small community lakes and local farm ponds.

It is easy for fishermen to forget about fishing small lakes and ponds when they have a bass boat sitting in the garage, ready to travel to larger lakes whenever a chance arises. It is almost as if when an angler gets a little experience under their belt, they have no time for a small hundred-acre lake, and they especially do not have time for some old farmers' pond out in the middle of a field. In my opinion, they are missing out on great opportunities to catch big bass. 

How To Find Areas To Fish

The new saying, “there is an app for that,” is becoming truer as time passes. When seeking out small community lakes open to the public, I typically search the web to find places where anglers have had luck and welcome anyone to fish. Recently, I downloaded a fishing app from the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). On the app, anglers can use the waterbody search engine to find public fishing areas throughout Missouri. Each location provides the species of fish that the body of water holds, what lures anglers often catch fish with, and directions and contact information for travel. 

onx map lake

One of my recent finds was a small community lake not far from my southern Missouri home. The Sims Valley Community Lake is a man-made lake owned and maintained by the MDC. The small community lake is 41 acres and is an electric motorboat-only lake. Anglers can also use kayaks, canoes, or fish from the banks. The Sims Valley Community Lake holds a good number of bluegill, catfish, and quality largemouth bass, making Sims Valley an excellent fishery for anyone who loves to fish.

Many state departments of natural resources or conservation provide excellent apps filled with information on quality places to fish. Check your local state for more information.

Another great app for finding the next place for bass fishing is using hunting apps such as OnX Maps. Yes, they are designed for the hunter; however, I have used my OnX Maps to search for local small farm ponds. When I locate a pond that looks large enough to hold fish, I use the app to identify the landowner. I then seek contact information and make a call or visit the landowner in hopes of gaining permission to fish in their ponds. Landowners can be informative as to which ponds have bass and which ponds would be the best to fish. A hunting app can even give an accurate forecast to suggest when the best time to fish will occur next.


Heath Wood kayak fishing

How To Fish

Finding small community lakes or farm ponds is the first step to catching big bass. The only negative factor about fishing in public areas on small bodies of water is that community lakes get a lot of fishing pressure from other anglers. Farm ponds can sometimes be challenging to fish because of the difficulty of fishing from some banks and the possibility of becoming tangled in common grasses or lily pads that often cover farm ponds. Don’t panic; there is still a way to successfully catch big bass on both bodies of water.

When fishing small community lakes, I use my kayak and paddle away from spots where most fishing pressure occurs. Typically, public fisheries see many fishermen who fish from the banks. Using a kayak, anglers can paddle out to deeper waters or areas near the bank that are harder to get to by foot. Try to use lures that are not commonly used by other anglers. Often, community lake anglers use spinnerbaits, plastic worms, and live bait when fishing. 


Recently, I visited the Sims Valley Community Lake and used my kayak to paddle to the far back edge of the lake, where bank fishing is virtually impossible. When I arrived at my desired area, I used one of my favorite setups that I normally use when fishing on the river. The desired setup was my Favorite Fishing Sick Stick Spinning Rod Combo, and a funky-looking topwater bait called the Shutter Step 4.0 from Bill Lewis. The Sick Stick Spinning combo allows me to cast the lighter weight top water lure farther, typically a challenge when performed while sitting in a kayak. The Shutter Step lure creates a lot of action when coming across the top of the water, which makes even pressured bass give in and go after the bait. Using lures that create attention or are more challenging to fish, often works excellent when fishing pressured areas.

tackle bag on kayak

While fishing farm ponds, I prefer using my kayak to paddle around the pond approaching the fish differently than fishing from the bank. I often come up against dense grassy areas or a top cover such as lily pads. Farms ponds often have thick grass or top cover in the first six to eight feet out from the bank, making it challenging to fish without getting tangled or breaking off a 

To avoid getting snagged yet still fish in the grass and cover, I often paddle out with the kayak and cast towards the bank with a topwater lure such as the Booyah Poppin Pad Crasher. When fishing heavy cover farm ponds, I prefer the Pad Crasher over other topwater lures. The concealed hooks that tuck close to the frog's body allow fishing in the thickest grass or cover without getting tangled or snagged. Most big bass I have caught on farm ponds have been bass that lay close to the bank, hidden in the cover. Catching the bass would be impossible without the help of lures like the Pad Crasher.

Mossy Oak Store fishing gear

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