Often playing second fiddle to the saltwater fishing available off Cape Cod, the Cape’s many freshwater ponds offer dependable action with largemouth and smallmouth bass all season long. Plus, they serve as a good option when conditions make ocean fishing difficult.
The Cape features over 360 kettle ponds, many containing bass, trout, pickerel, perch, crappie, sunfish, bluegill, and other species. Some ponds can be fished on foot, while others require a kayak, canoe, or small boat. Formed some 10,000 years ago by massive chunks of ice left behind by the retreating glacier, the kettle ponds can be up to 80 feet deep, although most are 30 to 50 feet deep and feature steeply sloping, sandy bottoms with scattered boulders—good holding spots for bass and other predators.
Aquatic vegetation in the ponds provide shelter for baitfish, and some ponds also serve as spawning and nursery areas for river herring. For obvious reasons, the bass in these ponds can grow very large!
A good, basic setup for targeting kettle pond bass includes a 7-foot, medium-fast spinning rod, a Shimano Stradic 2500 spin reel (or equivalent), 8-pound braided line, and 2 to 3 feet of 10-pound-test fluorocarbon leader.
Spring action typically begins around the end of April or early May. The pre-spawn bass are on the move, searching for bedding spots along the sandy shores in one to six feet of water. Since the fish move quite a bit, you may need to do so as well to find them. Be sure to fish both shallow and deep, and watch closely for fish cruising over light-colored bottom.
Productive lures for covering a lot of territory include six-inch wacky-rigged Senko worms, shallow crankbaits, and small jerkbaits. Fish the worms on a slow retrieve, occasionally letting them settle toward the bottom. Be ready for the slight tap of a bass inhaling the lure.
During the spawning period, you’ll see the telltale beds formed by the bass in sandy areas near shore. A good technique at this time is to cast your lures directly over or along the edges of the beds with unweighted soft-plastic worms and lizards, as well as jerkbaits.
The post-spawn period (mid-June) sees the bass move to slightly deeper water. The fish aren’t as aggressive or hungry, but can be taken on jigs and deeper crankbaits. Similar to the pre-spawn phase, you may have to do some searching to find the payoff zone.
In midsummer, night fishing can be awesome, especially on topwater lures. The bass cruise the shallows, drop-offs, and the edges of lily pads, and will often wallop a frog imitation.
As summer gives way to autumn and the water begins to cool, the action can be sporadic. Water temperature dictates the fish’s movements and behavior, and a cold snap can shut down the fishing for several days. In the cooling water, jerkbaits and other slow-moving subsurface lures can draw strikes. If the pond hosts a herring run, pay special attention to the outlet of the river where the young-of-the-year herring will exit in the fall. Big bass often hang out in these spots, waiting to ambush a big meal.