The Lake Y project

We found a lake. It’s unimpressive. I guess we could call it average, if you want to be nice about it. Sure, there are some bass in it. But, there are more gar, crappie and catfish. We are going to call it Lake Y, but it could well represent the majority of small lakes and ponds scattered throughout the country. Left unmanaged, small fisheries, say from 3 to 100 acres, can get out of balance a lot faster than you would imagine. Bass can become scarce from predation of other critters, or worse, overpopulate a lake and stunt. Nondesirable species (at least to hardcore bass anglers) like catfish, gar and carp can create such a biomass in limited space that largemouth simply cannot thrive. Cover and structure can deteriorate; vegetation can choke out open water; and water quality can become unbearable for fish in a matter of a few years. If you fish a small lake that may resemble this description, the Lake Y Project is for you.

Bassmaster has partnered with Lochow Ranch Pond and Lake Management, one of the nation’s foremost experts on improving small fisheries, to develop a series on how anglers can identify opportunities to improve small lakes and steps to take to turn an average lake into a bass fishing paradise. A complete video series will be published on This is the first part of many to appear in Bassmaster as we take this journey together. In the end, we hope to inspire you to not settle for unimpressive or average fishing, because you can do something about it.

Survey the situation

“The first thing you have to do is figure out what you have to work with,” said John Jones, owner of Lochow, which services more than 7,000 private lakes from Texas to Alabama. “Find your lake on Google Earth and use the historical imagery function to get an idea of the bottom topography. You can see how many creeks are running through it, the depth profile and if there was any structure left to be inundated.” Of course, you can also see how the land changes around the lake. Does the bank become manicured, or is there adjacent agriculture that could add chemicals to the lake through runoff? “A really important aspect of looking at satellite imagery is to see if there are lakes above you, especially if there is a free-flowing creek, that will affect your fish population and water quality,” Jones said.