Get used to fish meal patterns this time of year

  • Ponds like this one in Hoffman Estates dot the area and can be home to many hungry fish this time of year.

    Ponds like this one in Hoffman Estates dot the area and can be home to many hungry fish this time of year. Courtesy of Evan Gregor

By Evan Gregor
Daily Herald fishing writer
Updated 10/13/2020 4:35 PM

With winter closing in, it's an unfortunate reality that pond fishing will soon be put on pause until spring. Given their smaller size and volumes of water compared to larger rivers and lakes, ponds generally feel the effects of cold autumn weather well before their larger counterparts.

As ponds cool down and fish become more lethargic, it can be more difficult to draw strikes. However, by switching up your methods and presentations, you stand to tie into a few more good fish before the frost shows up.


From a mindset standpoint, an angler needs to understand the two key factors affecting fish behavior in late fall. As water temperatures drop, a fish's metabolism slows down and laziness often follows. Simply put, fish do not have the energy to feed aggressively and will instead feed sparingly throughout the day.

The other issue is comfort. In the same way humans seek out warmth during the colder months, fish do the same by seeking out the warmest water available. In a pond setting, this is almost always in the deepest part of the pond.

Keeping these two factors in mind, it is important to consider baits, lures and presentations that can be worked slowly through deep water. Whether you prefer using hard baits, soft baits or live baits, there is a tactic that can help change your luck on the ponds.

Fishing with hard baits is a great strategy in late fall. As the surface and upper levels of the water column start to lose weeds, the chances of getting snagged up and tangled greatly decrease. Deep running crankbaits are the go-to for myself and many anglers right now. Slowly worked large, lipless rattling crankbaits like a Rat-L-Trap or Red Eye Shad are personal favorites.

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Jigs are also great weapons in your fall pond fishing arsenal. If you like to imitate crayfish, flipping or football-head jigs fished on the bottom are hard to beat, especially when tipped with a larger than normal trailer. If you are looking to imitate baitfish, a swim jig or chatterbait with a swimbait or curly-tail trailer can draw strikes when fished slowly off the bottom.

Soft plastic baits are staples of pond fishing, and rightfully so. The Drop Shot rig is a great plastic option at this time of the year. For this rig, tie a small worm hook into your main line, leaving a tag end between 10 to 15 inches. Tie a drop weight to the end of the tag end, hook up your favorite plastic worm or minnow bait and patiently work along the bottom.

Though many anglers might be averse to fishing with live bait, it is undeniable that the true effectiveness of the presentation really shows in colder water. A large, stationary meal is difficult for a cold and hungry fish to pass up. When fishing with live bait in deeper water, look no further than the classic slip bobber rig to help you out.

As opposed to the traditional fixed bobber that many anglers grow up using, the slip bobber rig allows the bobber itself to slide free on the line. Affix a bobber stop above the bobber at your desired depth, tie on a barrel swivel below the bobber with a good length of leader and a hook and you have yourself a set up. As for the actual live bait, going big with a shiner, golden roach or small sucker can be your ticket to a monster.

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