Ponds are a fun place to practice ultralight fishing. They’re easy for kids to fish, they produce small but frequent bites, and require more finesse presentations. Smaller size fish like bluegill, crappie, and small bass often inhabit these waters, so having the right pond fishing set-up, bait, and techniques is important. Once you’ve found a good location, try the following ultralight strategies for success. You won’t be disappointed!
1.) Target Grass
Believe it or not, grass fishing can produce a ton of bites. Ponds tend to hold large amounts of moss, hydrilla, milfoil, and algae. Often, this vegetation will top out, meaning it will grow over the surface. But, this provides excellent cover for small fish. Moreover, vegetation like this is a sign of a healthy ecosystem. Look for areas where submerged grass breaks apart, or simply looks different from the rest.
Or, try locating the thickest, greenest vegetation that grows up to the surface. These canopies produce shade and oxygen and hold the most fish. Grassy areas that appear to break away to clear patches are often growing around hard bottoms like gravel or rock; prime areas to target.
2.) Match The Hatch
Before you fish a pond, research what species inhabit the water. This will give you a basic idea of what lures or bait to go with. Is there a tackle shop nearby? Ask what the fish are biting on. Otherwise, do a little research on your own. Additionally, you can scan the shoreline for small worms, insects, and larva. Watch the water for boils. Are they chasing other fish? Or are they lazily pulling insects down from the surface? Once you have a general idea or an educated guess, you can make the first grab into your tackle box. For this reason, I like to have a wide range of ultralight lures in my tackle bag year-round. Some examples are live crickets or imitation, spinners, and minnow lures.
3.) Use Multispecies Lures
I’ve always found that multispecies lures are effective when targeting smaller fish. For example, trout lures like small Panther Martin spinners and Rooster Tails that imitate fleeing baitfish can produce bites from bluegill, small bass, and crappie, all in one day. Some good cross-over lures include:
- Mepps Spinners
- Rebel Teeny-Wee Craw
- Rapala Original Floating Minnow Lures
After you’ve found what the fish are feeding on, it will likely be something that catches all of them. It’s wise to have lures across the board like small jigs, minnow lures, insect imitators, etc.
4.) Fish The Water Nearest You
Many anglers are tempted to make long casts with a moving bait. But many of your targeted species are hanging close to shore. If it’s deep enough, especially when covered by vegetation, then there could be a fish. Identify good structures like submerged stumps and logs, slopes and dropoffs, brush piles, docks, etc. Many species, bass, in particular, are structure-oriented and will seek these locations and set up an ambush point.
Smaller fish will seek the same structure for protection. Here, you can fish a slip bobber with a small jig, crawl a tiny grub across the bottom, or burn a minnow lure like the Rebel Trackdown Minnow making small, intermittent pauses along the shoreline. But, keep your fishing close, very close. You’d be surprised what swims mere feet from the shoreline.
Nightcrawlers are a go-to for many anglers. As a natural food source for many species, the body shape and movement are hard to resist, even when only a small chunk of night crawler is used. There are many ways to hook a worm, but some of the most effective methods in ponds are;
- Carolina rig
- A Worm Blower
- Slip Bobber
All four work well depending on the depth you’re fishing. For example, A slip bobber will allow you to cover most of the upper and middle water column, a Carolina rig covers the bottom, and a weightless presentation drifts slowly down, covering everything. The technique you use depends on what the fish are reactive to.
Pond Fishing: Carolina Rig Set-Up
Using a Carolina rig (or split shot rig) you can crawl the bottom in what is probably the most realistic worm presentation. Fashion 3-4 split shot weights to a 6-8lb fluorocarbon leader. Below, tie on a baitholder hook and thread a small chunk of night crawler with enough body length to wrap it once back over the shank of the hook. Slowly drag the worm along and give it some small twitches.
Pond Fishing: Worm Blower
A worm blower can be used to inflate part of your nightcrawler, which allows it to float. This, then, allows you to fish using a slip sinker and leader, placing your nightcrawler into the lower water column. This technique can be used to reach fish that are suspended at this depth and it keeps your bait off the bottom where heavy moss may be present.
Pond Fishing: Slip Bobber
A slip bobber can be a great way to hang a worm in the strike zone. My ultimate go-to slip bobber is a Thill Center Slider. A bobber presentation with a slip bobber will allow you to place your lure in the mid-water column when fish are holding there.
Additionally, a center slider allows you to jig the worm as your line passes through the center of the bobber. This is a great way to play with different jig lures like crappie jigs and grub tails – it also helps avoid snags.
Pond Fishing: Weightless
Ultralight fishing with a weightless presentation can be effective when fish are keyed in on a specific movement. Often, during cold fronts, fish will become lethargic and motionless, and usually toward the bottom. Having a weightless worm that drifts down and rests motionless on the bottom can be an effective way to entice a slower fish. Keep your eyes on your line for movement ( line jumps). This technique is perfect right after storms when fish are still disoriented.
Ponds are fantastic locations to fish. They’ll allow you to practice your skills and sharpen your finesse game. And doing it correctly, using good techniques, and having knowledge of where you’re going, will set you up for a successful experience. The above techniques are only a few in the vast world of ultralight methods and tackle. So, try these techniques out, learn some additional pointers, and find a combination that works for you; a set of go-to skills you can rely on every time!