“Winter Tactics For Small Ponds” Across the country we have anglers fishing small bodies of water. It does not matter if it’s a golf course, farm dam, government park pond, or quarry. The sizes may differ, from so small that you can cast across it up to a few hectors – Bennie Wiese
Across the country we have anglers fishing small bodies of water. It does not matter if it’s a golf course, farm dam, government park pond, or quarry. The sizes may differ, from so small that you can cast across it up to a few hectors.
However, many of these waters will have the same diversity of larger bodies for example water grass, weeds, deep drop offs, standing timber and even rock piles. Many of the small ponds are loaded with under sized bass and are the perfect venues to introduce beginner anglers, or to take the kids to have a fun day. But don’t be fooled, some of these ponds will be home to trophy size bass. If I think about it, few bass were caught that could have matched, or even improved the official South African record.
We will always have anglers fishing these ponds in the warmer months up to the end of autumn, but when winter arrives fewer anglers will return.
Here are the views of two Cast-for-Cash / FLW anglers, Richard Dunn from Team Transaxle and Steven Williams from Team Berkley ABU.
Both of them spend a lot of time on the road due to their work commitments but whenever they get an opportunity they stop and fish ponds at golf clubs, guest houses or farm dams. They agree that winter can be a prime time for catching monster bass. Their theory is that if you have a few warm days it will quickly heat up the pond and the bigger bass will get active.
“Think about it; how quickly will the water heat up if the pond is not very deep and you have two or three day’s nice winter sun? Normally on your bigger dames it will take around two weeks for the water to warm up if you have consistent weather.”, said Richard.
He started to laugh and took another sip of his coffee. “I don’t think these small bodies of water can get too cold for bass. If you monitor the daily temperature it will give you a good indication on when to go fishing. Even if you are fishing from a boat you will have to monitor the water temperature. A two degree rise is the magic number for me and it doesn’t matter how cold the lake gets. An increase of two degrees in stable weather is all it takes to get bait fishing moving.”
Richard told me that some of his best fishing days were in winter on bright, sunny days, and often in midday, when the sun was directly overhead. “I’ve seen winter bass bites going from zero to unbelievable within minutes of the sun coming out. Depending on where you are fishing, all dams will not have clear water and many of the smaller ponds will be murky which for me are not favourable fishing conditions. But during a period of mild winter weather, small, murky ponds can produce awesome action. Fish the clear dams when it’s cold and when it warms up a bit then switch to the murky ones.”
Although many ponds have similar characteristics as larger venues it does not mean that the bass will be all over. “Rocks will always attract some type of bait fish in winter and therefore I target rocky areas first because shallow rocks heat up
quickly on sunny days, warming the water around them.
You will find that bass cruise along the dam wall’s rip rap in search of a meal. A light jig with a trailer is a good choice. Just hop or swim it slowly around the rocks”.
If there are any reeds or weeds available it will also attract bass. Richard told me that he doesn’t catch as many big fish around them in winter as he does around rocks. Standing timber is a good choose when fishing cold, murky dams. Because of the low visibility bass tend to hang tight to stumps and logs.
“If you’re ever going to fish a small dam, or pond, winter is definitely the time to do so. Chances are good to catch some better quality bass and even your biggest bass for the year.” said Steven Williams.
As a youngster growing up in KZN he noticed that many anglers stopped fishing the smaller ponds during winter which reduced the fishing pressure. He used the opportunity and caught some very nice bass during winter. “From the end of autumn bass don’t see many lures and the fishing pressure is about none extant on these venues.”
Smaller ponds can be fished more thoroughly and the best time to do so is when the water temperature ranges between 9 and 13ºC. Our winters are not that cold and we will have two or three cold fronts when we have a mild winter. The water may stay in that temperature range for longer periods triggering a really unbelievable big bass bite. Steven has caught many bass around 6lb in water colder than 8ºC, so never let cold water discourage you.
Steven explained that he can easy find bigger bass in
smaller dams even when fishing from the bank. He overlooks all shallow water areas as well as flats and points with a slow, steady slope. “Look for those shorelines with deep water close by, stair-stepping ledges, big bowlers and hard bottoms. These are prime areas to start. If the area you are fishing does not have these key points then look for manmade structures like rip rap, channels or ditches.”
The basics for winter fishing are that bass will normally hold to deep water and will follow structures to the shallow areas when they are going to feed. See what bass can relate to, what type of fodder is available and where the bait fish are most comfortable.
Steven explained. “In most small ponds bass will mainly feed on frogs, crabs and insects but in winter bass will feed on bait fish. Bass are opportunistic and will also feed on birds or mice when the opportunity arises. Therefore don’t be scared to use bigger baits even in winter.
If crabs are still active you can target shallow rocky areas using a black and blue, or Junebug, or brown jig.”
Extra thoughts: “Winter is a great time to fish private farm ponds from the shore because there are no snakes and ticks around and not many insects in your face.”
Conclusion; don’t put your rods away this winter and see how many hidden ponds you can find. Always dress warm and take extra dry clothes and a towel with you. You don’t want to get influenza for when you accidently slip into the water.
Lastly, always remember to practice catch-and-release and respect the land owner’s privacy.
“Look for those shorelines with deep water close by, stair-stepping ledges, big bowlers and hard bottoms.”
Steven Williams landed this beaut at Rhenosterkop