From the 29 July 2005 New York Outdoor News


By Bob Confer

A five-pound largemouth bass is considered the Holy Grail of bass angling to many New York anglers. Such a bass is an uncommon catch in New York and even the most skilled of anglers may catch only a dozen such beasts in a lifetime. Down South the climate is more conducive to producing huge bass and a five-pound fish can actually be considered a common catch.

But, fear not! This climatic situation does not mean that you have to travel far in search of a trophy fish. Chances are, there is a trophy bucketmouth in your neighborhood, perhaps in your own backyard….just find yourself a farm pond. Farm ponds - though small in stature - consistently produce the largest bass in the state. The reasons are three-fold: temperature, food, and pressure.

Largemouths grow large in the South thanks to very high water temperatures which keep their metabolisms at a high level of performance. New York farm ponds produce this same sort of effect due to their small size. The water temperatures of shallow ponds may exceed those of larger bodies of bassy water by some five to ten degrees. This increases the growth rate of bass at a somewhat astounding rate. New York’s big-water bass may take 8 to 10 years to reach trophy size, while the more-hyper farm pond bass may take only 5 years to attain this weight. Therefore, ponds have the potential to produce large numbers of fat, healthy, young (read "less mortal") bass than do lakes and rivers.

Going hand-in-hand with this temperature benefit is the plentitude of biomass found in farm ponds. The shallower, warmer waters allow more plants to take root, in turn causing the whole food chain to take off, from the smallest microscopic organism to the sunfish, the latter being the primary foodstuff of pond bass. The biomass in many farm ponds may achieve even more ridiculous levels of density due to runoff from adjacent fertilized fields. This heightened availability of preyfish allows the warm-water largemouths to satisfy their jacked-up metabolisms, hence their trophy sizes.

Attainment of trophy size would not be possible were it not for the lack of fishing pressure. Nearly all farm ponds are located on private, posted property. It’s generally the case that the landowner and immediate family are the only folks who fish these ponds and quite often these anglers are merely inexperienced children. So, pressure is both minimal and suspect at best. Therefore, these somewhat unmolested bass live quite a while and are willing takers of presentations offered by skilled anglers.

Finding these diamonds in the rough is a treasure hunting experience in itself. A topographic map is necessary as many ponds are off the beaten path, perhaps down a farmer’s lane or near far-off fields that require irrigation. Unfortunately, many topographic maps have not been updated in a good many years; some have not been updated since the early 1980’s. Fortunately, the wonders of modern technology can lead to the bass of a lifetime because the Internet offers a great tool for finding farm ponds. The New York State Geographic Information System can be accessed online at This website allows you to view photographic aerial views of every inch of the state. These maps were updated within the past few years so you will be able to find farm ponds both new and old.

Once you’ve scoped out a potential site getting permission is the next step. Farmers are a good lot and will generally allow you to fish if you kindly ask for permission. When asking, make it known how you discovered the pond so that the landowner does not assume you were snooping around his or her property. Make sure you inquire about general ground rules and the fishing harvest rules, determining if you can take your trophy home with you or if the landowner strictly follows catch-and-release.

Once permission is granted you can concentrate on the task at hand of catching the bass you have always dreamed of. Pond fishing requires heavy equipment because most farm ponds have substantial amounts of thick weeds. Use at least a medium heavy rod and 12 pound test. Tackle needs are quite basic. Plastic worms and slop lures such as Moss Bosses and floating frogs will catch many a bass. Keep a spinnerbait or two on-hand as well.

Among the advantages of fishing farm ponds is the ability to do some surface fishing. Unlike their big water brethren, the untouched bass in farm ponds will willingly take topwater lures. So, keep a few hula poppers, jitterbugs, and Slug-gos in your tackle box and be prepared for the time of your life. As if catching a trophy bass isn’t enough, doing so on topwater adds a certain flair to it, making it a moment you will truly never forget!

Make it a point to fish a local farm pond this summer. These little waters can offer some truly gigantic bass in a serene, relaxing setting. Who said you have to go to Florida for trophy bass? There are many trophies swimming around New York. There may even be a wall hanger in your own neighborhood!