The Allure of Pond Fishing

Finding the right lure can make for big fun on small ponds

By Mike Zlotnicki

The Allure of Pond Fishing

(Above, left to right) Texas-rigged plastic worm, Zoom floating worm, Rooster Tail, Rebel Pop-R, spinnerbait, Rapala Original Floating Minnow and wacky-rigged Senko

North Carolina is blessed with some fine freshwater fishing. Thousands of miles of mountain trout streams combined with thousands of reservoirs and rivers give Tar Heel anglers myriad opportunities to chase dozens of species of game and non-game fish alike.

That being said, there’s something about small pond fishing that has a grand appeal.

Ponds are pretty ubiquitous across the Carolina landscape. From municipal ponds to golf course ponds to country farm ponds, there’s usually one close by. The first step in pond fishing is securing permission to fish it, if on private property. Written permission is best. 

If pan fish are your target, a tub of red wigglers, earthworms or a tube of crickets are good baits. Tie on a No. 8 fine-wire hook. I prefer a weighted oval-shaped bobber, as it is easier to cast. I usually put a small split-shot sinker above the hook to get the bait down quickly. For catfish and bullheads, a simple Carolina rig and cut bait is fine. A hook-caught bluegill or crappie can be cut up and used for bait.

Largemouth bass (which are actually in the sunfish family) are the most popular gamefish in the state, and I’ll share a few of my tactics for targeting them in ponds. First, when fishing an unfamiliar pond, I use a lure to “prospect” for them. In a pond with no visible cover or structure, I’ll fan cast an in-line spinner like a Rooster Tail. In a pond with weeds and blowdowns, I’ll use a small one-eighth ounce or one-sixteenth ounce “safety pin” spinnerbait with one or two willow leaf blades. I like to use smaller lures and light spinning rods when fishing ponds. A big fish will eat a small lure, and light tackle makes small fish feel big and big fish feel bigger. 

I love to throw a top-water lure early and late in the day. Usually it’s a “chugger” type like a Rebel Pop-R. I use a loop knot to allow for more wiggle on the “bloop, bloop, pause” retrieve. When there’s a lot of surface vegetation (including mats of duck weed) a frog bait with a pointed nose like a Booyah Pad Crasher is a good choice.

Soft plastic worms and stick baits are versatile baits. I love fishing a Texas-rigged worm, but again, in ponds I’ll downsize a tad. My go-to favorite is a Zoom 4¾-inch Finesse Worm in June bug color rigged on a 1/0 offset-shank worm hook and an eighth-ounce bullet weight. If they’re not biting on the bottom I can re-rig without the weight and fish it at various depths as a “floating worm.” I’ll also use the conventional 6-inch Zoom worm in the same manner. Soft stick baits like the Yamamoto Senko can be fished in the same manner, as well as rigged “wacky” style, which is through the middle of the bait and twitched back on the retrieve. This is an excellent rig for newcomers to use.

My last little nugget is the old tried-and-true Rapala Original Floating Minnow (model FO5). It’s 2-inches long and is made of balsa wood, so it floats at rest. Cast it out, twitch it, and it dives down and returns to the service. If nothing hits it as a top‑water lure, a slow retrieve back turns it into a shallow running (2- to 3-feet deep) crankbait. Both pan fish and bass like this bait. In deeper ponds, a split shot clamped on the line helps it run a little deeper.

Good luck and tight lines this summer. 

About the Author

Mike Zlotnicki is associate editor at Wildlife in North Carolina magazine. He lives in Garner with his wife, three daughters and two German shorthaired pointers.

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