If you’re a keen fisherman, you’ll know that it’s almost impossible to cross a river or pass a lake without pausing to take a look. Any body of water represents the chance of untold adventure. You ponder what lies beneath, scour the surface for signs of life, and contemplate where or how you would fish it.
On my family’s recent holiday to Florida there was a tempting pond in the most unlikely of locations that fell into this category.
A short drive from our lodgings was a Walmart supermarket where we’d buy our groceries. At the far end of the parking lot there was a little pond of about an acre. It was bordered on three sides by the carpark, a drive-through diner and the highway, but on the fourth side was a dense forest. Viewed from one angle it was little more than an urban puddle, but if you stood (as I did) on the car park bank and looked across towards the far bank trees it was actually quite a pretty little spot.
I have family in the states and growing up we visited a few times. My aunt and uncle would always take my brother and I to local ponds where we could spend all day swimming and fishing. Such small ponds invariably held a lot of fish – namely panfish – and I was pretty sure it would be the same here. However, after my first day’s bass fishing (read about it here), I wondered if this pond could also hold a few bigger surprises.
On our last night in Kissimmee, I volunteered to drive to Walmart to pick up a few provisions for the road trip we’d take the next day to the Gulf Coast for the second week of our holiday. Of course, I sneaked my rod and few lures in the back of the car before I went. After picking up what we needed from the store, I grabbed my tackle and walked across the parking lot to the pond. As I tackled up, there were plenty of fish rising – most likely panfish taking flies – with the odd bigger swirl amongst them. I didn’t really have the right tackle with me and was a bit over-gunned with my 9 foot spinning rod, heavy braided line and rather large lures, but had to make the most of what I had.
I opted first to try a small frog imitation. If there were any bass in the pond this was the bait to draw them out. A decent cast sent the frog to within inches of the wooded far bank. After allowing the bait to settle on the surface, I slowly twitched it back imitating a frog navigating its way under, over and around the lilies. Just as the bait entered a small clear patch between some weeds it disappeared in a swirl. I paused to allow the fish to turn with the bait and struck. However, although I hooked up, it was only momentarily as the fish got its head down in the vegetation and threw the hook.
It would be dark in another 30 minutes and given the large number of signs we’d seen around reminding us to be wary of alligators I didn’t fancy fishing after nightfall. I decide to rest that swim and try for some of the panfish further round the pond. Replacing the frog with the smallest lure I had with me – a small white marabou jig – it wasn’t long before I had a very solid take along the edge of a weed bed. After a surprisingly strong tussle on my heavy tackle I swung a plump tilapia to hand. It was a new fish to me, and very pretty at that.
After that fish it was quickly dark and, despite a certain trepidation about lurking ‘gators, I decided to have one last bash with the frog. The jig was replaced and with the pond illuminated by the lights of the diner I cast the frog back out towards the far bank. As before, I allowed the bait to settle and the ripples to die before commencing my retrieve. To my surprise the static frog was immediately slurped off the surface by a bass that, with the cover of darkness, was clearly more bullish. This time I made no mistake, quickly bullying the fish out of the lilies and landing it on the grassy verge by the highway. It had truly engulfed my frog, but was unhooked easily and after a couple a snaps safely returned. Mission accomplished – a very enjoyable little session in some quite unusual surroundings.