Iowa’s Bass Fishing

By Todd Reed

That thump on the end of the line can be ferocious at times and the jumps in the air so acrobatic. Only one fish in Iowa has those characteristics, the bass.  Bass fishing in Iowa can be had in all corners of the state. Ponds, lakes, rivers and large reservoirs all provide good bass fishing.  Largemouth bass can be found in all ninety-nine counties while the smallmouth bass can be found in rivers and in a few select lakes.  If you are after a spotted Bass then you must head to Lake MacBride, the only lake that offers them in Iowa in large numbers.  Chasing bass all over Iowa can be a lifetime pursuit that many of us share.  The fact that they live all over the state, and can be caught with so many different lures are reasons why it has become so popular in the last few decades.

Top Baits
Bass are notorious for eating a variety of baits.  Live bait works well, however there are thousands of artificial baits on the market that work as well or better.  The most popular bait to catch bass are soft plastics.  These include craws, tubes, sticks, worms, swimbaits, minnow baits and creature type baits.  They come in all different sizes and colors from hundreds of different companies.  The possibilities are endless when it comes to soft plastic baits for bass.  Most anglers have their favorites and tend to stick with them, only trying something new when their favorites are failing them.  Rigging these plastic baits can make or break your day.  Some baits can be rigged weightless, there are Texas-Rigs, Carolina Rigs, Shaky Heads, swingheads, Tokyo rigs, and drop-shots to name a few of the popular bass rigging techniques.  Each serve their purpose and most have prime areas and times to rig them.  If you are looking for a simple, yet high effective rig for all times of the year, then the Texas-Rig is for you.  A bullet sinker and a 3/O extra-wide gap (EWG) hook is all you need to make your favorite plastic bait to come to life.

Another top bait, typically a summer bait are topwater lures.  Buzzbaits, popping baits, walking baits, frogs and the Whopper Plopper are all very productive no matter where you are chasing your next bass bite.  These are best in the first three hours and last three hours of sunlight.  Topwater baits are also fantastic on rainy/cloudy days.

Top Destinations
Iowa is full of great bass fishing opportunities.  Narrowing it down to one part of the state or “the best” place to catch bass is impossible.  I have had the opportunity to travel to all four corners of this state chasing bass, have friends scattered around the state and stay current with bass tournament results.  Bass are everywhere!  I will break this portion down into groups, one for the smallmouth bass and one for the largemouth bass, as they are very different creatures.

Smallmouth Bass
Two very large and distinct areas come to the forefront when thinking about the brown bass, West Lake Okoboji and Pools nine and 10 of the Mississippi River.  These two areas are known for their huge limits of smallmouth bass.  The two river pools will definitely have you catching more smallies if that is what you are in to.  With these two large areas out of the way, next up are the interior rivers scattered over the state.  No matter where you live, within an hour or so you have some great smallmouth fishing in a nearby interior river.  These do not have to be large and most can be waded through to find fishing areas.  Kayaks or small jonboats make great vessels to travel these small rivers in search of a big brown bass too.

Largemouth Bass
The largemouth bass inhabits every public lake/pond/river in the state.  They are not very hard to find, however like any species, finding the big ones is the hard part.  As for the northeast part of the state, the river is king.  Pools 9/10/11/12 of the Mississippi River all have large numbers of largemouth bass, and some real river giants too.  The warmer the water, the more current they will live in.  Typically your biggest fish during a day of summer fishing on the big river will find you reeling it in near heavy current. The northwest part of the state belongs to West Lake Okoboji and Brushy Creek Lake.  Both of these lakes offer an abundance of weeds which helps these green bass grow very large.  Both lakes have massive numbers of bass and trophies too.  The southwest corner of the state belongs to an entire county.  Union County, home of Creston Iowa has three different lakes that have been pumping out bass for many years.  Twelve-Mile Lake, Three-Mile Lake and Green Valley Lake should be on your list if you are looking for a trip that is all about the largemouth Bass.  Southeastern Iowa has many different places to search for largemouth bass, many county parks, statemade lakes and the Mississippi River.  One lake in particular always rises to the top in this part of the state for numbers of bass and some real giants; Lake Sugema.  This lake is about 600 acres but seems much larger than that with all the standing trees. No matter where you live in the state, there are bass near you, largemouth or smallmouth.

New trends in Rods/Reels
If you are like most bass anglers you are always looking for that new rod or reel to help you catch the next big one.  Rods and reels have come a long way in the last twenty years.  Companies still use the same materials for rods and reels but are always tweaking things to have fresh items on the market for consumers.  When purchasing a reel there are three main things to consider; the number of bearings, the gear ratio, and customer service.  Let’s start with the last one first.

There are many manufacturers producing fishing gear.  Quantum rods and reels offer a 5-year warranty on most of their products and parts can be ordered directly if something fails after that. It doesn’t get any better than that.  Next, bearings, to keep things simple. The more bearings, the smoother the reel will be and the bigger the price tag.  Gear ratio correlates to the amount of line you bring in with one turn of the handle.  The smaller the ratio the less line, bigger the ratio the more line you bring in.  A good happy medium gear ratio will be in the 6.0:1 range.  It isn’t ideal for everything, but you can get away with it.  Some general rules for applications such as pitching/flipping, frog fishing and buzzbaits you will want a fast gear ratio.  A slow gear ratio is ideal for crankbaits.  Over the years rods have become more technique specific than ever.  This is a good thing for bass anglers, but a bad thing for our wallets.  The larger companies have dozens of choices when it comes to rod lengths, actions, and power the rod offers.  This can vary a lot from person to person as we all have our own techniques to casting and pitching baits so it is difficult to say what each person needs for each type of bait.  Try different lures on your rods. Some will cast easily, while others may not.  Some will lose more fish because of hook penetration. It is a science that each angler needs to work through.  A good way to try many rods is to use your friend’s rods when out fishing.  Make a few casts, catch a fish with one and you will learn a lot about the different types of rods available.

Iowa bass fishing…it has been a part of my life for over 30 years, and I hope for another 30.  Iowa may not have 10 pounders to chase like California or Texas, but we have some great opportunities, many of them are very close to where we live.  There are a few months of the year left- make it your mission to try a brand new lake. This is something I have done for the past ten years or so and have really enjoyed it.  Seeing different water and figuring out where those bass live will make you a better bass angler, and in the end that is what we are all after.  Please use “Catch Photo Release” CPR on our Iowa bass so the next angler and generation can benefit from your generosity