Small lakes, big bass

Looking to do some summer bass fishing in the lower half of the Magnolia State? Try these three small lakes that offer plenty of big bass.

Bass fishermen looking for some summer options in the southern half of Mississippi might be somewhat limited in the number of places they can fish, but not for good fishing.

Several smaller bodies of water are capable of producing as good or even better bags of feisty largemouth bass as some venues farther north, without having to cover all the miles in-between.

The thought behind providing good fishing opportunities closer to home is what drove Mississippi officials to create several state-park and state-owned bodies of water that many Magnolia State anglers have come to enjoy.

As much as fisheries managers may try, not all state lakes are created equal when it comes to numbers and sizes of bass. A closer look at which state lakes in the southern half of Mississippi leaves a list of three lakes that you don’t want to miss.

Flint Creek

Though technically not a state lake, Flint Creek Water Park on Highway 29 in Wiggins is owned and operated by the Pat Harrison Waterway District but is still managed by Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

The author caught this chunky, state-lake bass throwing a shaky head jig around submerged timber.
The author caught this chunky, state-lake bass throwing a shaky head jig around submerged timber.

Flint Creek provides some great fishing for freshwater anglers inland from the Gulf Coast. The park features a 650-acre lake stocked with bass, with 13 miles of shoreline, the unofficial home of the Petal Bass Club.

Rocky Rowell, a former club president, said the key to consistent success at Flint Creek is to concentrate on main-lake points. During the spring, bass tend to move shallow and are susceptible to topwater and subsurface baits, but after the spawn, they will move off the points and can be caught nearly year-round using a Carolina rigs, jigs, and deep-diving crankbaits.

“A lot of bass school in this lake because of all the shad,” Rowell said. “I like to throw a crankbait when they’re schooling, something in either a clown color or natural, like a crawfish or chrome pattern. It’s best to use light line or at least a fluorocarbon leader because the water is so clear.”

“In the summer, you’ll get a lot of recreational boat traffic,” he said. “If you can fight the waves, you can still catch fish. I think all the wave wash pulls the shad to the surface. You can have a boat go by and cast right in the wake and catch a bass. Maybe it aerates the water or something, but it really doesn’t hurt the fishing.”

Rowell also said the topography makes Flint Creek a better-than-average summer fishing spot.

“Out in the middle, it will be 30 to 40 foot (deep) in places, and then it shallows up as you come in,” said Rowell. “There is good depth. If you’ll watch as you’re fishing around the edge, you’ll see points going out in the water. You’ll see little ridges. If you follow those points out and fish at different depths, you’ll find a bass out there.”

Neshoba County Lake

 

No mention of big-bass lakes in Mississippi is complete without discussing Neshoba County’s shining gem.

As schooling is likely to take place at any time during daylight hours, it’s always good to have a medium- or deep-diving crankbait ready to go.
As schooling is likely to take place at any time during daylight hours, it’s always good to have a medium- or deep-diving crankbait ready to go.

According to Chuck Hazelwood, the lake manager, Neshoba County Lake was built in the 1930s using laborers who were paid 35 cents per day to toil with scoops pulled by mules to dig out the impoundment. The original lake covered 226 acres, but it had to be rebuilt in the late 1990s, and the long spillway that was added reduced it to 138 acres.

When Neshoba was re-opened for business after the rebuild, the fishing, particularly for bass, responded. Some huge fish were caught that seemed to outpace regular growth rates for stocked fish. Hazelwood said the lake is very fertile, which helps the fishery tremendously, but it was an old, 35-acre beaver pond that got the newly remodeled lake off to such a good start.

Look for bass to utilize long points, moving shallow early and late and holding on the deep end through the day.
Look for bass to utilize long points, moving shallow early and late and holding on the deep end through the day.

“They restocked the lake after it was rebuilt, but in the back, we had about 35 acres that were behind a beaver dam,” Hazelwood said, “so when we drained the lake, they left the beaver dam alone, and then we blew the dam when the lake came back up. A lot of my big fish were back in that 35 acres, and (they) came back in after the lake was filled.”

Through the summer, daytime temperatures can get more than a little uncomfortable. Hazelwood said many local anglers bring their campers and fish early and late, using the middle of the day to rest up and take it easy until time to get back to fishing.

“Some folks prefer to come stay a few days and camp on the property. It’s kind of like their home base,” Hazelwood said. “They fish early in the morning and late afternoon and even into the night, and they sleep during the day.”

Calling Panther

Calling Panther is a 404-acre impoundment of Finley Branch and Hurricane Creek in Copiah County. The two streams form one channel that winds through the length of the lake. The bottom is littered with stumps, timber and lay down trees. The lake is a mecca for summer bass fishing.

Standing timber at Calling Panther extends into deep water. Finding pathways through the timber at the right depth is one of the keys to catching fish there.
Standing timber at Calling Panther extends into deep water. Finding pathways through the timber at the right depth is one of the keys to catching fish there.

“The lake has a ton of structure,” said  Jake Guess, a former lake warden. “Before it was flooded, the timber was select-cut, but a lot of standing trees were left, so there’s an abundance of structure. There are some shallow spots in the back that stay around 2 foot, a foot-and-a-half, but then fall off into the creek channel; it could be anywhere from 15- to 20-foot deep. Then, along the dam, the channel drops into spots that are 30- to 40-foot deep.”

Guess said the best summer patterns on Calling Panther are finesse fishing with big plastic baits and cranking in the timber with shallow- to medium-diving crankbaits. Largemouth bass will hold in the treetops, and these two patterns represent the best methods for getting them out. He said the lake also sees its share of live-baiters, mostly in the late winter and early spring, but the bigger fish fall to artificials.

“Our anglers do best by finesse fishing using big worms and big lizards on a slow fall,” he said. “Fish tend to hit on the fall.  They are targeting fish in 20 to 25 foot of water, and you need to have patience to allow the bait to get down there to them.”

“We also we have a good base of threadfin shad in the lake,” he said. “We get bass schooling early and late in the day during the summer, but almost any time you can be fishing in the deep water and shad will roll up to the top. You can take a crankbait and throw in among them and pull some nice fish out of there when they pull up on the shad.”

Big fish from small waters

Micah Johnson of Hattiesburg is a diehard bass fisherman who loves to travel and camp for several days at a time when he heads out fishing. Over the years, Johnson has learned a few tricks about fishing state lakes and smaller bodies of water.

Bass in small lakes don’t act the way their brethren in big reservoirs do. Learn the differences, and you’re a step closer to sampling some great fishing in a handful of lakes in south Mississippi.
Bass in small lakes don’t act the way their brethren in big reservoirs do. Learn the differences, and you’re a step closer to sampling some great fishing in a handful of lakes in south Mississippi.

“We have a lot of big largemouth bass in our state lakes,” he said. “We’ve found that because our bass can only travel so far, they behave a lot different than if they were in a big body of water.”

“The smallest piece of cover — a single stump, tree limb or even a bush hanging over the water — is a big deal to a pond bass because they don’t have the same amount of room here,” he said. “Our fish use the shoreline a lot more than a big-lake fish would.”

Being quiet is important anywhere you fish, but especially in a small lake. Your best chance to catch that big bass off a small piece of cover is to make a long, accurate cast that lands in the edge of the grass and then slides into the water.

“Soft plastics are probably your best bet, something with very little weight that is hooked weedless,” Johnson said. “Even a big bass will spook if something slaps the water right over his head. I like to land my cast on the bank and just slide it in. Being weedless helps you pull the bait off the bank, over cover and through shallow weeds where big bass like to hide.”

DESTINATION INFORMATION

HOW TO GET THERE – Flint Creek Water Park is off Highway 29 in Wiggins, 35 miles north of the Gulf. The street address is 1216 Parkway Drive, Wiggins, MS.

Neshoba County Lake is a 138-acre lake in Neshoba County, 7 miles southeast of Philadelphia off Highway 486. The street address is 10360 County Road 1711, Philadelphia, MS 39350

Calling Panther Lake is in Copiah County, 5 miles west of Crystal Springs off New Zion Rd. The nearest street address is 1000 Gaddy Ln, Crystal Springs, MS 39059

BEST TACTICS – At Flint Creek, bass will hold deep on main-lake points in the lake’s main basin. Texas- or Carolina-rigged plastics, jigs or deep-diving crankbaits are a good bet.

Most anglers at Neshoba are throwing frogs and buzzbaits. Avoid anything weighted because of the grass and shallow water. Other favorite baits include swim worms, Senkos and Flukes in watermelon/red, baby bass and Colorado shad.

Look for bass to hold 20 to 25 feet deep along the main-creek channel in Calling Panther’s standing timber. Best bets are big plastic baits fished down in the wood. Early and late and at sporadic intervals during the day, bass will chase bait on the surface. Casting crankbaits to these fish will produce.

ACCOMMODATIONS — Flint Creek offers 152 camping spurs, including 34 vacation cabins that are located adjacent to the lake and 11 camphouses. Neshoba Lake offers 22 RV hookups with power, water, and sewer. Primitive camping is also available. Calling Panther Lake offers 23 camping pads with electrical/water/sewer hookups. Primitive camping is also available.

MORE INFORMATION/MAPS — Lake and Campsite Maps, www.phwd.net/flint/flintc; www.mdwfp.com/fishing-boating/state-fishing-lakes

JOIN THE CLUB, get unlimited access for $2.99/month

Become the most informed Sportsman you know, with a membership to the Mississippi Sportsman Magazine and MS-Sportsman.com.

Phillip Gentry
About Phillip Gentry 374 Articles
Phillip Gentry is a freelance outdoor writer and photographer who says that if it swims, walks, hops, flies or crawls he’s usually not too far behind.