Stealth along the Shore: Covert Tactics for Pressured Pond Bass
By Ben Team
If you’re after wary pond bass, you had better be sneakier than they are. One of the most frustrating phenomena anglers face is the dreaded “high-pressure pond.”
Usually located in readily accessible areas near cities or suburbs, these small waters often hold plenty of bass – pond bass that are simply not interested in biting. You would never suspect the fish are hard to catch by looking at the pond, as rod-wielding people seem to dot the shoreline every time you drive by; but few of these anglers ever catch very many fish. Their constant presence all but ruins the bite.
Don’t Be Dissuaded
The locations of these ponds drive their popularity, not the quality of the fishing. This is unfortunate, as beginning bass anglers often start out fishing in these types of waters. Baffled by wary pond bass a half-dozen times, the new hobbyists toss their rods in the garage, hang up their hooks and begin looking for a new pastime.
Don’t let yourself suffer the same fate. You can have success fishing these high-pressure ponds. You just need to understand why these bass aren’t biting, and learn how to address those issues.
The Nature of the Pond Bass Challenge
Bass must be careful to survive, which makes them keen to avoid scary critters lurking near the water’s edge (like you and your fishing buddies) and obnoxious lures that cut through the water. The small size of a pond exacerbates this issue, as the ratio of anglers to shoreline rises sharply.
To have success in such ponds, you must reduce your impact to avoid spooking your quarry. Instead of stomping down to the water, rummaging through your tackle box and chucking the biggest plug you have into the water, you want to fish like a covert operative would. Stealth is the name of the game.
Downsizing your lures and using finesse-oriented tackle will certainly help you avoid spooking the fish, but the most important part of the puzzle is creating as little disturbance as possible. You want to sneak up to the water, blend in with the background and – as much as is possible – fish when few others are on the water.
While hunters, birdwatchers and others who pursue critters through the wild eagerly don camouflage clothing, anglers routinely hit the water looking gaudier than a chartreuse and red spinnerbait. Dressing like this is sure to reduce your chances of bagging a bucket mouth. Bass have good vision, and they are likely to spook if they spot you near the shore.
Instead, take a hint from the critters that hunt bass and cloak yourself in clothing that blends in with the backdrop. If you are fishing in a small pond surrounded by forest, wear earth tones or traditional camouflage patterns. If you are fishing on a golf course, with nothing but blue sky at your back, throw on a light blue or gray shirt. You can even keep a lightweight windbreaker or poncho with you in a different color than your shirt. This will allow you to have two different colors in your arsenal, in case the pond has different types of backdrops.
Ever since you were a child, you have been told to be quiet around the water so that you do not scare the fishes. While it’s true that loud noises are likely to spook bass, most people concentrate on the wrong types of sounds.
Contrary to popular perception, bass are essentially deaf, thanks to the poor connection between their swim bladders and inner ears. Experiments have shown that bass do not respond to most vibrations humans would characterize as “sound.” However, they can perceive low frequency sounds, primarily through their lateral lines. This means that while your voice is unlikely to spook bass, strong, low frequency vibrations may.
For example, heavy footsteps, which send powerful, low-frequency waves through the water, almost always spook fish. Accordingly, it is important to place your feet lightly as you approach the shoreline. Take your time and move deliberately while making your way down that washout or negotiating a tangle of branches. You also want to avoid slamming your tackle box on the ground or dropping your multi-tool at your feet.
Tweak Your Timing
Bass prefer to forage in the early morning and late afternoon, but they will adjust their behavior to cope with angling pressure. If the pond gets crowded in the afternoons, the pond bass will often cease feeding during these times. So, for the best results, you need to fish when nobody else is.
Most anglers visit the water after work or on weekend afternoons, so avoid these times. Instead, concentrate your efforts during after dark (when and where it is legal to do so) or near dawn. It’s often possible to be the only one on the water if you set your alarm sufficiently early. If you’re fortunate enough to have free time during the workweek, get out on the pond while everyone else is at work.
Provided that it’s safe to do so, you can also consider fishing in inclement weather. Few recreational anglers are willing to battle the elements, but if you’re willing to put up with a little rain or wind, you will often find the fish are less wary during these times.
So remember, the next time you head to your local high-pressure pond, dress for success, step softly and get out there while everyone else is still snoozing. Combine these techniques with some light tackle and a subtle presentation and you are sure to improve your chances of landing fish, no matter how much pressure the pond gets.