Two Hot Picks for Indiana Bass Fishing

There are plenty of places for bass anglers to wet a line this spring, and with all the craziness that we have been seeing recently with the COVID-19 health issues, getting away from it all and spending some “alone time” with a few bragging-sized bass is just what the doctor ordered!

Some bass fishermen prefer to spend their time at some of our largest reservoirs. Oftentimes, big water means big bass. One of our picks for this spring is Monroe Lake near Bloomington, and this sprawling impoundment is certainly home to a healthy population of big bass. Give it a try and chances are you will be happy you did

But many anglers would rather fish smaller waters that are very quiet and undisturbed. After all, this spring we should be looking for spots where we can “get away from it all”. Our other hot pick is 245-acre Bruce Lake in the northern part of the state near Winamac. Bruce Lake may not be home to the huge numbers of bass that can be found at Monroe, but it does produce more than its fair share of lunkers.

Springtime is a great time for bass anglers to get outside and pursue their favorite fish, and these two waters are an excellent choice. So pack up the boat or kayak and head for the lake!

 

Lake Monroe largemouth bass

Hoosier bass anglers know when it comes to bass fishing, southern Indiana’s Lake Monroe is hard to beat. This 10,000 acre reservoir is Indiana’s largest lake, and it is home to a tremendous largemouth bass population. In fact, Monroe has been described by many diehard bass fishermen as the best place in the state to catch a bass in the 8+ pound-class.

Although Lake Monroe is home to big largemouth bass, District 5 Fisheries Biologist Dave Kittaka reports the large impoundment is home to more than just the occasional trophy-sized bass. “During the past few years, while doing walleye electrofishing work, we have been seeing a lot of bass of all sizes,” said Kittaka.

Recent creel surveys support that idea. “Some of our recent creel data showed 23,457 bass were caught and released in 2015, with 27% measuring 14 inches or greater,” he continued. “Also, according to our 2016 bass tournament report, the average weight of largemouth bass weighed-in was 2.8 pounds.”

“In 2018, the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife initiated a fish habitat enhancement plan on Lake Monroe,” explained Kittaka. “Over 240 artificial fish habitat structures were constructed and installed in the lake, creating about 17 acres of enhanced fish habitat. The structures are in 8-10 feet of water, in clusters of 5-10 structures. They should be a great place to target bass any time of year.”

These fish attracting structures were created with a variety of materials, including wooden pallets, 2” x 2” lumber, PVC pipe and plastic corrugated drain pipe. They were weighted-down with cinderblocks. The structures were placed in the idle zone, east of the State Highway 446 causeway. Anglers can view the locations of the structures at: in.gov/dnr/fishwild/7665.htm.

Artificial lures are used by the vast majority of the bass fishermen these days on Monroe. One thing many of these lures have in common is they are made to look like the primary forage fish here: gizzard shad. Shad-imitating plugs and crankbaits with a silver/black or gold/black finish are very productive. Spinnerbaits with large blades are also effective, as are soft plastic curly-tailed jigs. Nearly any bait that looks like an injured or disoriented shad has a good chance of fooling a bass at Monroe.

 

Bruce Lake

North-central Indiana’s Bruce Lake is a small 245-acre natural lake located about nine miles east of Winamac, straddling the borders of Pulaski and Fulton counties. The lake is relatively shallow, with an average depth of seven feet and most areas measuring less than 15 feet deep. There are a few deeper holes where the depth drops off to 20 feet and one spot with a maximum depth of 34 feet.

The lake’s primary forage species are bluegills and gizzard shad, and the resident predators (largemouth bass and muskies) take full advantage of them. According to Tom Bacula, the District 1 fisheries biologist for the DNR, Bruce Lake’s bass population can be characterized by quality-sized fish. “The overall bass population is fairly low,” he said, “but the numbers of big fish were way up compared to historical numbers.”

Bacula and his staff performed a lake survey on Bruce Lake in the spring of 2017 and were somewhat surprised by the size of the bass they sampled. “We collected 30 bass larger than 18 inches in four hours of electrofishing,” he stated. “That is quite impressive for a natural lake. The largest bass measured 21.4 inches long.”

Largemouth bass ranged in size from 3.6 to more than 21 inches during the survey, representing fish from 1-13 years old. Compared to surveys from previous years, the numbers of legal-sized bass (14 inches or greater) has tripled. Electrofishing catch rates for large bass (18 inches or more) were more than six times higher in 2017 than they were during the previous survey in 2012.

Anglers can launch their boats at the public access ramp in the northwest corner of the lake and look for weedlines and emerging lily pads to find active bass. There are also some shallow humps near the middle of the main basin, which are worth checking.

Be ready if a big bass takes the bait; big ones are definitely present here. But be sure to practice catch and release on these large bass. It takes many years to grow trophy-sized bass, and populations like this can be fragile. Release that fish so it can be caught again and again in the future!