You can grow big bass in Ohio

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striped bass

When we think of bass fishing most of our thoughts go to the big bass states — states like Texas, Alabama and Florida, where growing season is basically year-round and forage abundance is high.

Obviously, Ohio is limited to a short growing season but the possibility of a 10-pound bass is still there. The keys to growing bigger bass come down to a few very important details that many lake and pond owners don’t even know about.

Forage

Bass are predators by nature, oftentimes ponds and lakes vary from one to the next but our base forage in Ohio would be bluegill and crawfish. Generally, crawfish are self-sustaining and really the only limiting factor would be pond substrate and water quality.

Bluegill, on the other hand, have a dynamic with the bass population, if there are too many or not enough larger bass to eat them then the population of larger bluegill explodes, which in turn creates a problem. It takes a very large bass to effectively eat a 10- 12-inch bluegill. So how do we combat this?

First, we need to make sure the balance is right; there needs to be enough breeding bluegill to spawn and have fry for young bass to eat, but not so many that they in fact start preying on the fry. Once this happens, the bluegill and bass are competing instead of mutually benefitting from one another. Sometimes a pond needs completely restocked in order to get this balance back in check.

Other forage options can be put into ponds but really should only be done with professional help to manage those populations. Such species could include perch, shiners or shad.

Cover/structure

Aquatic vegetation is a constant struggle between too much and not enough. Often-times landowners want an aquarium for a pond with blue water and no vegetation, but that does not promote a fertile environment for all fish to thrive.

So, what it comes down to again is a balance, there can be areas in a pond that are clean for swimming areas or just simply for looks, but still keep certain areas natural to provide cover for hiding and ambushing prey. Other methods of cover and structure can include rock piles or brush piles. A mix of all three provides different habitat during different times of the year.

Fish management

As a whole growing big bass comes down to management. If management is poor then in-turn fish populations and health will be poor. Fishing pressure is very important to this; if most of the 3- to 5-pound bass in a pond are taken out year to year then those bass never have a chance to really get into that 6- to 10-pound range.

This is where the short growing season comes into play, since it is short in Ohio it takes longer for those bass to get to that truly large size. Keep records of the size of fish. If the pond is over-run with 12- to 14-inch bass, then it may be beneficial to thin that age class, or your bluegill population has gotten to big for the bass to effectively prey on. Once you solve that it lessens the competition and provides a better chance for the bass to get big.

There is so much more that goes into growing big bass, but with these simple steps you can really get started and have an efficient system where everything thrives. If you have any questions or would like us to come take a look at your pond, give us a call and we can provide you with the necessary resources and tools to help.

The process can be exciting and frustrating, but who knows maybe the next state record could come from your pond or lake.

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Billy Wilson is the Forestry/Wildlife Technician for the Harrison Soil and Water Conservation District. He grew up in rural Carroll County and attended Hocking College where he graduated with an Associates of Applied Science in Wildlife Resources Management. During his time at Hocking he worked with Wayne National Forest in their Invasive Species Program as an Intern, with the focus on Non-native invasive plant and tree species that are common to Ohio.

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