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3 Lessons I Learned Targeting Big Bass on a Heavily Pressured Lake

Alex Burton

Fishing for big bass on high-pressured lakes has helped step up my bass fishing across the board. 

As anglers, we are always looking to be able to put more fish in the boat. Whether you go after panfish, walleye, trout, catfish,or bass we all have that same end goal in mind.

This summer, I learned a few valuable lessons while fishing a small but heavily pressured lake—lessons that have proved invaluable when fishing other, similar lakes.

There is a park near my house in Kentucky that is home to McNeely Lake. It is a small 46-acre L-shaped lake that is managed by my local fish and wildlife. The lake has tons of bank access and is boat accessible leaving the small place pummeled 24/7 by fishermen.

I have fished it numerous times over the years with little to no success on anything bigger than two-pound bass. It just seemed like the fishing pressure didn’t allow them to reach any real size. That was, until last year, when I hooked into a nearly four-pound smallmouth right off the bank.

All of my fishing buddies wrote it off as a fluke, as big fish just weren’t caught from that lake. I almost believed them, as the rest of the year it was back to the same old thing.


This year, I decided I was going to do my best to prove the lake held more than we were seeing. Right as the spawn hit, I began hitting the lake at least once a week for a few hours.

I started with the normal areas we all look for, such as visible lay downs, rocky areas, and other cover. I would cast each area a few times and then move. The spring came and went with no lunkers to be found.

Frustration began to set in as the heat of summer approached, closing my highest chances of success. It was at this point I realized I was looking at the situation the wrong way. What did I really know about this lake? Honestly just what others had told me.

Lesson 1: Break down the waters you are fishing.

The lake was man made and the common consensus was it was only 15 feet deep at its lowest point. After using my Deeper sonar I found out that is correct for about 60% of the lake. Once you hit a certain point going towards the back of the lake it gradually slopes to nearly 30 feet deep.

That small piece of knowledge changes things on choosing where to target larger bass. They prefer being close to that deeper water, especially during the heat of summer.

Secondly I discovered there was a lot of submerged cover near this deeper area. Most of which was about 15 yards away from the bank in 12 feet of water or more. Which brings me to my next lesson.


Lesson 2: Do not target the same places as everyone else.

I began noticing after I really started hitting Mcneely more often that most people only focused fishing close to the banks. Boat and bank fishermen alike would burn shallow diving crankbaits and jigs as they rolled along. Most never ventured from the shallows of the bank line and they all fished the same cover person after person.

Big bass aren’t dumb. They wouldn’t stay in those spots to be pummeled by lures all day. Even if they did, odds would be slim to none they would actually bite one.

I decided to forego fishing the burnt out shallows and focus on the deeper submerged cover I had found. That is when things started to turn my way.

A particular stretch held good numbers of bass. Most were still small, but I began catching more in the 2 pound range. I took that as a sign that I was getting closer to my goal.

Lesson 3: Timing is everything.

Most of the days I fished Mcneely were in the mornings into the early afternoon. I also usually fished on Sunday through Tuesday when my schedule was more clear.

Around the beginning of August, I began working a lot more. I no longer had time to fish like I had been. Late evenings in the middle of the week became the only time I had to go.

I quickly noticed that at these times I pretty much had the whole place to myself. The fish seemed to be a lot more active as well.

It dawned at me at that point. This time of the week, during the evenings, was probably the lowest-pressured time for the bass. Most people were home relaxing after work and having dinner. This was my missing puzzle piece.


After tweaking my bait selection and adding some Fish Allure scent tabs it finally happened. The first four-pound bass I caught on a medium diving crawlfish-colored crankbait from the bank. Shortly after, I caught another 3.5-pound and another four-pound bass near the same area from my boat on the same setup.

My buddies are still in disbelief that these came out of McNeely Lake. It took some serious determination, but I proved to them that big fish are everywhere.

This just shows that we need to slow down and really pick apart the areas we fish, especially these highly pressured lakes that some of us are forced to fish. Doing so will really improve your odds of landing bigger fish.

All photos via Alex Burton and Google Maps. 

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3 Lessons I Learned Targeting Big Bass on a Heavily Pressured Lake