Most of our local reservoirs have been labeled as “poor fishing”, or “tough bite”, and “not worth the time”. They are usually labeled by people who are not expert bass fishermen and are fishing with a bobber and earthworm. They use simple bluegill and crappie techniques and wonder why they aren’t catching bass. The bluegill around shorelines are heavily pressured and they are a tough bite. But not the bass.
Fishing from shore at most of our reservoirs will be tougher. The fish are heavily pressured from shore, and you should really try to get a small boat or kayak and do your fishing from on the water. There is much less fishing pressure and the fish are less weary. Bass in upground reservoirs usually swim around and chase shad, you need to get to those areas. Unfortunately, most of those areas may not be close to shore. But, we have caught a ton of bass from shore. We only fish from shore. Keep moving and trying different locations until you find the bass.
You should also use actual bass fishing techniques. No bobbers, no tiny hooks with small grubs. Bass want larger baits. Things that move, things that make sounds, things that wiggle, rattle, and roll. Use actual bass fishing techniques.
Fish at the right time. Start at 8Am and fish till 11Am. Or start at 5Pm and fish till 8Pm. Fishing from 11Am to 4Pm doesn’t usually yield fish. You’ll be disappointed.
Fish when the weather is right. Fish on cloudy days, or rainy days. Fish when it’s windy and the water is choppy. Bass can see better than baitfish in low light conditions. All of these conditions are low light conditions and bass will be at an advantage.
We’ve had success fishing using almost all bass fishing techniques if you go at the right time, and right weather conditions.
You can catch bass in Ohio May through November. Anytime water temperatures are above 50 degrees.
If you are fishing from shore, start with slow presentations of slow moving soft plastics close to shoreline. That way you won’t spoke the fish closest to you when you are reeling in a big one from far away. Slowly expand your casting range and use faster and faster baits. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and bass will be cruising close to shore, but not usually.
Switch to faster moving baits. Spinnerbaits are great at searching for a bite. You could also use a small floating Rapala minnow. Cast it out, twitch it, reel it, jerk it. Create all sorts of commotion. Start with smaller sized lures and go up as necessary. If you are getting bluegill and crappie, up your size. Bluegill like to side swipe large baits that they feel are encroaching on their territory. You’ll get a lot of foul hooked bluegill with your treble hooks in their sides.
You can try other topwater baits like Whopper Poppers, Zara Spooks, Grass Burner, and other popping or frog type lures. Try slow jerking, trying burning them fast back to shore, try reel and pause techniques. Even a squarebill crankbait can be used. Throw it out and let it sit on top of the water for a while and just twitch it occasionally.
Next you should switch to larger, silent crankbaits in the 1.5 to 2.5 size category. Burn them back to you fast. Then try slowing down. Then stop and twitch. Jerk them. Figure out which cadence works. If they aren’t biting on the silent cranks, louder rattling ones may work. Squarebill crankbaits are very versatile because they can float and be used as a topwater lure as well. To fish, they look like a frog or any other floating lure. You can pop them, jerk them, reel them to get them to dive underwater. Pause your retrieve, and they will slowly float up. Deeper diving crankbaits can bounce off the bottom and bounce off rocks on the bottom and elicit strikes.
Switch to medium sized worms about 4-6 inches in length. Try slow sinking worms like Senkos whacky rigged. Throw them out and let them sink slowly. Raise your pole and let them sink. You can also Texas rig them or Carolina rig them and drag them slowly across the bottom. You can then switch to larger and monster size worms in the 8-10 inch category. You will find that throwing a dark green 10 inch worm out to the middle and just letting it sit there on the bottom and ignoring it will produce a lot of fish. Cast it out as far as you can and just ignore it. Use a different pole to do other things while it sits there.
You can try a Ned rig with very light mushroom jigheads and small twitchy worms that float upright. This rig was designed to catch a lot of bass quickly, but not huge trophy sized bass. These are made by Z Man lures and are excellent for midwest bass fishing. You will catch a limit quickly, but getting them out to the middle of a reservoir will be tricky. Cast out as far as you can and see what happens.
You can also use lipless crankbaits that can scour the bottom and rip through vegetation quickly. This will get those harder to catch larger and more aggressive bass. One technique is to move it quickly, then let it sit. Then jerk it a few times. You will get nice reaction bites. These are nice because you can cast them out very far. They are very heavy and very aerodynamic and can be cast the farther than anything else.
Another great lure is the slow sinking jerkbait, also called rip baits. You cast them out, let them start sinking, then leave your line slack. Jerk your rod tip really hard. They will jump erratically from side to side without coming closer to you. If you line is tight, they will slowly come back to you. The line being slack gives them better action. Cast them out deep and give them time to sink.
Spoons can be cast a mile and will catch a lot of bass. Especially, gold colored spoons. Use 1/2 ounce to 3/4 ounce spoons and you can cast them a mile. You will see a lot of bass follow your spoon back to shore. This is instinctive behavior. If you are getting a lot of followers, pause your retrieve a few times. That’s when they’ll strike it.
Bass fishing in reservoirs is difficult from shore, but the mental challenge can be fun. A small little jon boat changes everything and allows you to access deeper water.
A lot of the reservoirs have artificial sunken structure that was placed specifically for fish. Grab the maps from our website or the local ranger station to see where the structure is. If you fish the structure, you will catch more fish.
One of our local anglers that has been fishing reservoirs from shore for over 40 years gave us the following advice:
Use 6 pound mono. He said he tried everything else and this line works best. Tie on the following:
For perch, use spreaders on the bottom with a minnow on one side and a small worm on the other. He said he can catch 30 perch a day doing this and he goes out during the day, not at night.
For largemouth, bass use worms on the bottom.
For saugeye, use leeches on a hook with a weight tied further up the line and fish on the bottom.
For walleye little spinner tail grubs fished off the bottom. A small weight can help or jig head.
He also said that Vibrax spinners work will for walleye, saugeye, bass, and pike.