Mastering the techniques to bass fish can take time and experience. The difficulty can be enhanced by factors besides the type of fish, such as location and season.
Fishing for bass in a lake can be a particular skill set. In order to maximize your time on the water, take a look at our lake bass fishing tips for a head start.
All About Lakes
To understand lake bass fishing, we first need to understand lakes. A lake is a large body of freshwater, typically still compared to something like a river or stream. A lake lies on top of land. But how do you know if a lake is good for bass fishing?
Ponds vs. Lakes
By definition, a pond is also a large and still body of freshwater, and some people do not make the effort to distinguish them from one another.
Even most regulations that govern bodies of water do not make a distinction between the two. However, ponds and lakes have some slight differences that can be impactful for bass fishing.
Scientists who study freshwater actually define a pond as a body of water that is shallow enough to allow rooted plants to grow through it.
This necessitates sunlight being able to hit the bottom of the water, and most lakes are much too deep for this to occur. Lakes tend to be larger as well as deeper, giving them a less uniform temperature than ponds.
Because of the confusion over lakes and ponds, many bodies of water are named incorrectly. It can be important to make sure the body of water you choose to fish in is what you are looking for. Ponds may offer a large amount of small fish, while lakes are more likely to have larger fish like bass.
Types of Lakes
There are several types of lakes, classifying them by a number of factors such as depth and location. One major classification has to do with the origin of the lake itself.
A manmade lake is the result of an artificial reservoir or impoundment, as opposed to a natural lake which occurs without human intervention.
Manmade Lakes vs. Natural Lakes
A manmade lake is typically created when a dam is placed across a stream or river, leaving the typical reservoir with one main input flow from the original water source.
This means that the water level can be highly dependent on the inflow from this source and many lakes behind dams have their water levels controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers. On a manmade lake, focusing on drop-offs, edges, and ledges can be important as these areas offer food, cover, and depth of water.
Natural lakes tend to vary more in shape, size, and number of adjoining bodies of water. Because there is more water flowing, they have less sediment than a constructed lake. They will also likely have a larger variety of plant and animal species. The shoreline of a natural lake can be rife with vegetation that signals a good spot for bank fishing. Even if vegetation is low, things like logs and rock piles can offer cover in a natural lake.
Stocked vs. Natural
In addition to the origin of a lake, a natural lake can also be contrasted with a stocked lake. A stocked lake has a population that has been supplemented by fish raised in a hatchery.
This is sometimes done to make a lake more appealing to fish in and to mimic the biodiversity of a natural lake. It can also be done to restore populations of endangered fish, rather than to entice more commercial or recreational fishing.
The behavior of stocked fish may be different than a fish born in the lake, and they tend to associate food with particular colors and shapes that may guide your choice of bait.
Lakes serve as a habitat for a wide variety of fish and plants, particularly ones that need permanent water. They offer a habitat that is calm and quiet, due to them being primarily still water, and their nutrient-rich nature can be important for breeding.
Many lakes are polluted badly and have diminished the population that uses them as a habitat. Plants such as aspen and willow trees help the water stay clean by using their root systems as filters.
In a clean lake, not only will fish find a habitat, but snails, worms, frogs, alligators, beavers, and many types of insects may live there as well.
While they are deeper than ponds, the depth of a lake can vary greatly and is not a defining feature of the body of water. The average lake depth has been found to be about 137 feet. However, the deepest lake is Lake Baikal in Russia, which is just over a mile deep.
When lake fishing, knowing what depth your targeted fish are likely to be at is critical. Some fish prefer shallow depths and will be found near weed beds and brush, while other fish tend to dwell below the surface in drop-offs and sunken reefs.
Bank Fishing vs. Boat Fishing
Where you fish from is a matter of preference for most anglers, and there are a number of reasons someone may choose either. Many people, especially novices, do not want to invest the resources in a boat for their fishing.
Instead, they fish from the shore or bank. It is ultimately up to you what you want your fishing experience to be.
Bank fishing is often perceived as “lesser,” but actually has a distinct set of benefits.
- Amount of Gear: From a boat, you often need to employ gear such as a net to actually pull your catch into the boat. This is more work and requires more equipment. By contrast, on the bank, you simply have to reel the catch in without the additional step of a net.
- Focus on Fishing: Owning a boat is like owning a car or a house- it requires a lot of maintenance. When you go fishing on your own boat, you have to think about things like fuel, the boat’s condition, docking, etc.
If you want to spend your time truly focusing on the fishing experience, bank fishing may be more peaceful for you. Boats take up a lot of time, energy, and resources that may not be worth losing if you are satisfied fishing from the banks.
- Stealth: Fish can be easily scared away by noise and movement- both of which are inevitable with a boat. Boats also cast shadows in water that can alert a fish to your presence. If you are fishing from the bank, you are less likely to make noise or sudden movement that scares the fish away.
- Location: While you will cover more ground with a boat, being onshore will allow you to reach crevices you would not be able to access with one. The upper end of an arm creek is too shallow for a boat, but you can walk up to it easily.
Fishing from a boat has its own benefits as well:
- Coverage: On the shore, you can only access to many parts of the lake, even with a long cast. You tend to stay in one spot for hours, even further limiting your range. On a boat, you can move quickly and often to re-cast in a more populated area.
- Diversity of Fish: Certain types of fish tend to stay near shore, meaning that fishing from the bank will likely result in similar catches each time. The increased movement on a boat means that an angler is likely to catch a wider variety of fish.
How to Find Local Lakes to Fish
There are a number of resources to identify the lakes near you that are best for fishing. A quick view of a map, such as Ordnance Survey Maps or Google Maps may direct you to bodies of water, allowing you to explore the surrounding area.
However, it may be hard to ascertain size or fishability from these views.
Resources like takemefishing.org allow you to search for lakes by logged catches, fish species, and fishing forecasts. You can leverage these tools to tailor your search based on what your goals are.
Public vs. Private
When searching, keep in mind that not all lakes are open to the public. If you identify a lake that you would like to fish, look for signage or websites that indicate it is a public lake. If you have access to a private lake, then that can be a great place to fish as well.
Gear for Lakes
Fishing on a lake differs from fishing in other bodies of waters in a handful of ways, meaning that your equipment should account for these differences.
Lakes being still and freshwater means that there are specific things to look out for when shopping for fishing gear. Below are some tips for buying lake appropriate items.
Rods can be designed specifically for saltwater or freshwater use. A typical freshwater rod is stiff enough to not break when you catch a fish, but has some flexibility that allows it to absorb tension.
Freshwater rods can be spinning, bait-casting, closed-spin casting, or another type. Spinning rods and baitcasting rods are most commonly used for bass fishing.
A freshwater reel is designed to hold and spool fishing line, and are fairly uniform in their construction, though they vary in size, casting distance, and more. A bait-casting reel is harder to master but a popular choice for lake fishing.
There are three main categories of line that can be used for lake bass fishing, each with their own benefits. The classic braid lines are very strong, but can also be seen more easily by an astute bass.
Fluorocarbon is a newer material for lines, boasting near invisibility and a lack of stretch.
However, fluorocarbon is not as abrasion-resistant as other options.
Finally, monofilament lines are castable, not very visible, and float well. It does have a bit more stretch than braid or fluorocarbon, but this can be helpful in cold weather and certain scenarios.
There are five types of lures that seem to be most suited to lake bass fishing, each with their own benefits.
- Crankbaits can allow you to cover a lot of water in a short time frame, and are best used when looking at 10-20 feet of depth.
- Jigs are preferable for heavy cover, whether the water is shallow or deep.
- Soft plastic lures work well under most any water condition.
- Spinnerbaits are useful to find fish in a large area of water, as you can move them freely to see what works best.
- Topwater lures work across the surface of a lake, which can be useful for bank fishing.
When searching for gear to fish a lake with, make sure that everything is meant for freshwater usage. Beyond that, your preferences will become important in making decisions on what to purchase. Consider the type of fish you want to catch, where you will be fishing, your level of expertise, and your goals.
Tips & Techniques
A lot goes into fishing for bass on a lake. While much is up to preference and your personal goals, there is some general advice that can help you make the best of the lake you are fishing. Below are some tips for your lake bass fishing.
- Understand your lake. Every lake is different, and the more you understand the shape and size, the better you will be able to find fish. Look at factors like water color and clarity, cover, the banks around the lake, shaded areas, and signs of activity. Before you cast, make sure you have a game plan of what areas might be best to start with and where you would like to move later.
- Take Cover. Bass like to be under cover, in quiet and dark areas of lakes. Cover may mean rock or wood, docks, lily pads, or even boats. If you are looking for bass, you are best suited to start by looking for dark or still areas of the lake. A common refrain is that 90% of bass are in 10% of the water- and some think it may be a smaller area. Knowing where to go to find the bass can be key.
- Replicate. Bass often follow patterns, and if you can identify what patterns make them more likely to be caught, you can help yourself. Take note of your speed, depth, structure, and cover when you fish and when something works, do it again and again. Don’t be afraid to try new things to find what works, but once you do, keep using that technique.
- Look up. Weather has a huge effect on bass and their behavior day to day. Weather fronts of any kind often make bass alert and likely to move around, while a front passing means they may take cover even deeper and try to bunker down. Understanding weather on the day of fishing is helpful, but looking at the predicted weather in the recent past and near future can help you predict where bass may be on a given day.
- “Match the Hatch.” Fish in any given lake will be eating what’s available to them in that lake. If you notice a lot of frogs near the shore, it’s likely those fish eat frogs and they would make a good lure. Take note of what you see in the lake and let it guide your choice of bait.
- Mix it up. Bass will eat a large variety of lure, so don’t tie yourself to only one lure and technique. Try switching out your technique often to understand what works best for you or a particular lake’s population of bass.
- Think seasonally. During different seasons, bass move to different parts of the water. This doesn’t mean one season is better for fishing, just that they require different planning. In the hotter months, bass feed only a few times per day, usually the early morning or late evening to avoid the sun. But in colder months, their meals are during the warmer part of the day
- Adapt. Fish are reacting to what you do on the lake- they may move based on your positioning, or begin avoiding a certain type of bait. You also should react to how the fish change their behavior. Switching to a new type of bait may improve your catches quickly. While you should go in with a plan, being able to change course based on the way the bass behave can save your fishing trip.
- Revisit. Just because you have fished an area once, doesn’t mean you’ve exhausted it. After moving throughout the water, return to areas that you have had prior success in and try new lures or techniques. Being more methodical may produce different results than your first pass in that area.
- Take the temperature. Feeding patterns and activity are also heavily affected by water temperature. In cold water, it’s better to use slow-moving bait, while aggressive lures tend to work better in warmer water. The temperature can vary even throughout the day so periodically assess the levels to determine the next steps.