Trophy Bass in Wisconsin

When people think of a trophy Largemouth Bass, they pretty much assume that it should be in the magic “10 pound and above club”. When you hear of someone catching that 10 pound trophy, you have a vision of what lake that fish may have come from. Southern state lakes always seem to jump in your mind first. Lake Castaic, Okeechobee, Pickwick, Lanier, Table Rock, Dale Hollow, and the hundreds of others that I don’t have space to mention here, but you get the idea are the ones people think of first.
Well, “up” here in the Midwestern states, we also have a vision of what lakes a trophy bass may have come from, when that someone you know catches a 6 pound trophy. In Wisconsin, you have many prime waters that have great potential for trophy bass. In southern Wisconsin, some of the best ones are, Lake Geneva, Delavan, Lauderdale Chain, Whitewater, Eagle, Beulah, Okauchee, Pewaukee, Pine, Phantom, Big Cedar, and Big Muskego just to name a few. In Central and Western Wisconsin you have Lake Mendota, Monona, Kegonsa, Rock, Castle Rock, Petenwell, Wisconsin, Montello, Buffalo, Puckaway, Winnebago chain, Long, Arbutus, Onalaska, DuBay, and the list goes on and on. In northern Wisconsin there are a ton of lakes that can be listed, but a special few deserve mentioning. Manitowish Chain, Big St. Germain, Buckatabon, Caldron Falls Flowage, Little Arbor Vitae, Rice, Big McKenzie,
Bone, Day, and Deer lakes to name a handful of the best ones. We also can’t forget Lake Ripley where the state record 11 lb.3oz. Largemouth was caught in 1940, and guess what? The record is still standing today! Will that 60 year record ever be broken? I am sure it will, but time will tell. Lake Michigan, where this years 2000 Bassmasters Classic was held, out of Chicago Illinois, is another prime huge body of water. Who would have guessed that the Bassmasters Classic would be held on Lake Michigan? I never thought I would see that happen. And what a mess of great bass the pro’s brought in. Wow! Sturgeon and Chequamegon Bay’s are two other big named hotspots for trophy bass. Wisconsin’s Rivers also boast some of the best quality
bass fishing around. The Menomonee, Peshtigo, Wisconsin, Fox, Wolf, Black, and the Mighty Mississippi are a few of the best rivers to bag a trophy 6 pound bass.

Now that you have a list of lakes that have the potential for a trophy bass, here are some of the key structure areas to look for when fishing those lakes. Keep in mind that bass have specific travel routes that they use throughout the day. Bass also tend to feed at specific times of the day, but that can change with changing weather patterns, cold fronts, water clarity, fishing pressure, food availability, and so on. So keep that in mind when pursuing them.
Submergent Weedbeds

Submergent weedbeds go without saying. They hold more bass than any other type of structure. Hands down! Bass will either be cruising along, through, or sitting tight to submergent weedbeds. Weeds offer shade, food, and safety for the bass. They feel safe and secure when they are in the weeds. Up here in Wisconsin, unlike in the South, the number one predators of bass are Northern Pike and Musky. So a bass has to have that “cushion” of┬ásecurity feeling all of the time. Northern Pike and Musky are opportunistic feeders, which means they feed at any given moment, at any time of the day, and will try to eat fish that are as big as themselves. Bass have to always be on the lookout for predators.
The key types of submergent weeds and weedbeds to look for in Wisconsin’s lakes are those containing Coontail, Cabbage, Eurasian Milfoil, Lily pads, and Wild Rice. The most active Bass will hold on the edges of these weedbeds and are the most easy to entice into striking. A good “search” technique for the weededges, is to run a spinnerbait or a crankbait parallel with the weedbed. If there are any active bass on that particular weededge, they should smack your lure without thinking twice about it.

For bass that are tucked into the weeds, a few of these good local Wisconsin techniques should produce those bass for you. “Jiggy-Worming” is one of my favorite ways to fool bass into hitting. The way to rig a Jiggy-Worm, is to take a basic walleye jig usually starting with a 1/8oz. or a 1/4oz. of lead, and preferably with a wide gap hook. Then I take a 6 inch Berkley Power Worm (any color), cut off the first 2 inches of the head, and then thread it all the way up to the head of the jig. That’s it! You are now ready to fish with it. The way the Jiggy-Worm is fished
is pretty simple. You cast out the jig and let it settle down into the weeds, close your bail on your reel. Next reel in all of the slack so your line is tight, and then you “pop” up or “snap up” your rod tip which “jumps” the jig out of the weeds. Reel in any slack and let it settle back down in the weeds on a tight line. Repeat the process until you get a fish on, or it comes next to the boat ready for a new cast. Bass can hardly resist this technique and many times will strike the jig on the first “pop” that you make.
Another hot technique in Wisconsin is to use a modified Carolina rig. Instead of using an egg sinker which slides on the line in a Carolina Rig, just pinch on a large split shot or two, 12-20 inches above your hook and fish it faster than a Carolina Rig. The choice of baits stays the same. The way you fish this rig is to cast it out and close the bail. Start reeling before you think it will get into the weeds. Just reel it in slow and give it a “pop” or “snap” every few reel turns. Don’t let the sinker settle into the weeds or you will get hung up. This is a great way to catch bass that are schooled up tight to the weeds. Try these new techniques next time you are out and I am sure you will boat more bass.
Rock Piles

Another type of structure for bass are rock piles. Rocks attract bass because they feel secure when around them. Rock piles also hold various forms of food for the bass. Crayfish, worms, minnows, and baby panfish all use rock piles for cover and for feeding. The whole food chain can be found on rock piles. Active bass tend to slide up on top of the rock piles to feed. Less active bass will hang on the deeper edges of the rock pile. Active bass on rocks, can be caught using every technique that is available out there. Crankbaits, spinnerbaits, Carolina Rigs, Spoons, Jig and pigs, and Jiggy-Worms, are some of the few techniques that will catch bass on rocks. Burning a crankbait over the top of the rock pile is a very
productive way to find the more aggressive bass. While slow rolling a 1/2 oz. spinnerbait will entice the less aggressive bass on the deeper edges. Let’s take a look at another type of structure that bass use commonly. Docks and Piers.
Docks and Piers

A lot of people don’t think of docks and piers as structure, but they are. Docks and piers hold bass for the same reasons weeds and rocks do. For safety. And also to get out of the sun. It’s cooler under docks and piers. Bass prefer cooler water especially when the water temps climb into the high 80 degree marks. Bass will sit tight to docks and piers and wait for prey to swim by. The bass will ambush them and get an easy meal.
A fun way to fish for bass under docks and piers, is to use a pre-rigged worm. Pre-rigged worms come in an assortment of colors, scents, and sizes. A pre-rigged worm is a rubber worm that has 3 small, snell tied hooks imbedded in it’s body. The line comes out of it’s head and is tied into a loop. You then attach a snap swivel to the loop which allows the worm to spin freely in the water like a corkscrew. The way they are made is that they are poured into a mold, which has a slight bend in it. This is what makes the slight bend in the worm, which then makes the worm corkscrew in the water like it does. It’s very deadly! Bass can’t resist the corkscrewing action of a pre-rigged worm. On windy days, attach a split shot 12 inches above the worm. This helps in casting and also in detecting the hits. The
best way to fish these pre-rigs is to skip them under the docks and piers. The farther back you can skip them, the better. Let it settle to the bottom, and then start reeling it in slowly. That’s all there is to it. The actual hard part is learning how to skip them under the docks and piers. The best way is to have the worm almost touch your rod tip, and then crouch down low on your boat to make it easier to side cast it under there. Practice makes perfect.
Emergent vegetation

Vegetation is another key area to keep in mind when looking for bass. Lily pads, cattails, moss, and even Algae blooms are types of emergent vegetation. These topwater weeds provide cover and shade for the bass. Lily pads are a good example of providing shade and cover for bass. Lily pads are fun to fish, in that any time you have an opportunity to have a bass crash a surface bait is really exciting, and gets your heart pumping. Plastic rats, plastic frogs, Moss Boss’s, Mister Twister’s Prop Top, and other topwater lures work very well in emergent vegetation. Big bass will sometimes be in the middle of the weed piles or just on the edges of them.
Hopping a rubber frog from lily pad to lily pad is a great way to entice bass into striking. Algae blooms can be very difficult to fish because the algae clings to your line and lure, which can make the lure run untrue. After every cast it is a good idea to clean off the lure. But don’t let that stop you from fishing during an algae bloom, some of my biggest bass have been caught during an algae bloom.

Whether it’s a brush pile, submerged logs, stumps, or trees wood is a excellent key structure for bass, especially in the hot summer months. Wood also offers good cover and shade for bass. The most active fish will be found on the outer edges of the branches and tangles. Pitching jig and pigs, slow rolling small spinnerbaits, Jiggy-Worming, or tossing small weedless worms will work in the wood. Wood that has large branches and tangles tend to hold more fish than the ones that do not. Granted these are a lot more difficult to fish, but can be very well worth the extra
effort. Use heavier line and try to get the fish out of there as quick as you can, so that they don’t have a lot of time to tangle you up in there.

In Wisconsin, and in the entire Midwest region, the growing season is limited to 7 months a year for bass. Unlike in the Southern states where bass have almost 12 months to grow. The other 5 months in the Midwest, bass are under the ice in cold water, which stops all growing processes. Their bodies switch from the growing process, to just surviving the cold winter months. They become lethargic and only feed once every so often, unlike in the summer months where they will feed twice as much and grow twice as fast. That is why a 6 pound bass in Wisconsin is considered a true trophy. Trophy Bass are found all over the state of Wisconsin. Ten
pound bass are out there, but are a very exclusive limited resource. A 6 pound trophy bass, in Wisconsin, is a more attainable goal, and is looked upon by fisherman as a true Midwest trophy. Try some of these techniques, and I’m sure the odds will increase in your favor of catching a 6 pound trophy bass.
See you on the water!

Bill Lodi
Rippn-Lip Guide Service
Bill Lodi has over 20 years experience as a Bass, Walleye, and
Musky Fisherman. He hails from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, writes for several
E-Zines and other fine publications. He can be reached for questions and
comments by emailing him at

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