Raising Trophy Bass: 6 Steps to Big Bass Pond Management

By Pond King

The goal of catching a 10 lb bass has long been the dream of many anglers. Having a pond on your own property with this capability would be even more amazing. It can be done, but it is going to take some work on your part—and a little patience.

The following are 6 steps to help you turn your private lake into a trophy Bass fishery:

1. Genetics

A native largemouth bass has the ability to reach sizes of 6-8 lbs., and occasionally larger. That is a fine size bass, but if you’re looking for a trophy, stocking bass with ideal genetics that are more likely to grow to a larger size may be the right option for management plan. Stocking Florida-strain largemouth bass increases your potential for growing that monster of a lifetime.

These bass have become increasingly popular over the years, especially in the southern portion of North America, where warmer water temperatures extend the growth season. Pond King carries F1 bass and pure-strain Florida bass. F1 bass are the first generation offspring of a cross between northern largemouth bass and pure strain Florida bass. The F1 bass are more tolerant of colder temperatures than a pure Florida bass, but still maintain the characteristic body profile of the chunky Florida bass.

This makes the F1 strain an ideal species to be stocked if your pond or lake gets a few days of ice cover each winter.

2. Habitat

Habitat is an often overlooked management aspect intrinsic to growing trophy bass. The thought of not wanting to get your lure hung-up on that downed tree can’t be your reasoning for eliminating this key component. For example, a typical bass lake should have 10-15% of total surface acreage with some form of habitat.

Bass hold tight to cover, as they prefer to ambush their prey. This prevents them from having to chase prey as far, which conserves energy and allows them to keep weight and apply energy towards growth. Habitat also provides cover for smaller forage fish, like bluegill, which helps the population to grow and develop, which, in turn, increases prey density—a must have management result for any serious trophy bass manager.

The more diverse the habitat, the better off you will be during seasonal changes. Habitat can be both natural and artificial. Natural habitat includes hardwoods, cedars, and rock piles. Our recommended artificial habitat is the Honey Hole product line from Pond King. There are various styles and sizes to fit your needs. These will not deteriorate over time and the chance of getting hung-up is greatly reduced due to the rounded limbs. For more information on our Honey Hole line of products, view our artificial fish habitats.

3. Feeding Program

Bluegill are the primary forage fish for bass. Keep in mind that it takes approximately 10 lbs of forage to add 1 lb on a Bass—give or take some environmental factors. Having large enough broodstock of Bluegill that spawn to replenish forage stocks is vital to the long-term success of the lake and your trophy bass fishery.

Floating Fish Feeder

Broodstock are fish that are too large for most predatory fish to consume, thus allowing an increased number of individuals to successfully spawn seasonally. The result is more prey per surface acre. Beginning a feeding program will help supplement the diet of Bluegill to produce a more robust class of broodstock.

Bass will not typically utilize pelleted feed directly, but they will reap the benefits of a larger population of bluegill. You can also consider stocking feed-trained bass, but that is entirely different can of worms. 

4. Supplemental Stockings

Variety is the spice of life. Bluegill are the primary food source for bass in most ponds and small lakes, but they cannot be the only food source if you are looking to grow 10 pounders’. Supplemental stocking of forage fish is necessary to increase prey diversity and density—remember: the goal is fat, lazy bass that don’t have to chase after prey. Stocking supplemental forage increases the amount of prey available for consumption within the system.

Different types of supplemental stocking species are golden shiners, threadfin shad, crawfish, gizzard shad, Mozambique Tilapia, and rainbow trout—just to name a few. Tilapia have added benefit to your fishery in that they will also help control any filamentous algae problems your lake may have. Rainbow trout are high in protein content and represent substantial meals for hungry bass looking to put on weight.

Tilapia Fish Stocking

Supplemental fish stocking typically occurs seasonally, so contact a Pond King representative about pricing and availability to find out which fish stocking plan would work best in your environment and at what time of the year.

5. Selective Harvest

Complete catch and release fishing is a common and disastrous mentality that has somehow managed to proliferate among pond owners. The basic premise is that releasing a bass will result in a larger fish, at a later date. There is some truth to this, but it fails to take into account reproduction.

Each season more and more mouths are added to the predatory population. There is only so much space and so many forage opportunities to go around. So, harvest bass to keep your intra-species (among bass) competition to a minimum. Harvesting out the mid-range bass reduces competition and helps keep forage species abundant. You can learn more about selective harvest in this blog post

Fresh caught fish from a lake

An electroshocking survey conducted by Pond King biologists will give you a representation of the overall fish population and allow you to make informed decisions regarding setting harvest limits, instead of playing the guessing game.

6. Water Quality/Fertilization

Regular water sampling and reporting can help avoid potential harm to your fishery. Assessing both pH and alkalinity may help you to be able to determine any environmental deficits that could constrain growth. Water clarity is another important component to consider for optimization of feeding activity among bass. The murkier the water, the harder it is for bass to feed. On the flip side, if the water is extremely clear, prey can see the bass coming from a greater distance, which results in greater energy expenditure for successful capture of prey. Ideal water clarity is between two to three feet. Have turbidity issues? Gypsum is a popular option to help clear a pond with suspended particles.

Fertilization is another key component to use with a clear pond. Fertilization will allow your lake to produce up to four times as many pounds of fish per acre by increasing the amount of zooplankton and other primary consumers that form the base of the food chain within a lake ecosystem. Of all of the management practices, lake fertilization has the most direct and indirect benefits to your fishery.

Trophy Bass Water Quality

Producing a trophy bass fishery won’t happen by simply stocking a few fish and then coming back in a year looking to catch some monsters. You need to create the right environment for the fish to thrive and monitor the progress from season to season, adjusting as needed along the way.

Pond King biologists can help develop a lake maintenance plan that is right for you and manage the process to ensure that the correct steps are taken to allow you more time on the water fishing for that trophy bass you’ve always dreamt of catching.

If you live outside our regular service area, but you're trying to raise trophy-class bass, consider checking out our DIY Pond Management App

Until next time, we'll see y’all down at the pond. 

Tags: Fish and Fishing

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