Small Water, Big Largemouth

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Growing Trophy Fish In A One-Acre Pond


By Dave Beasley, Fisheries Biologist and Director of Fisheries Management

Several years ago, a landowner in Virginia reached out with the desire to transform their one-acre pond into a high catch rate trophy Largemouth Bass fishery. At first thought, it seemed unlikely to succeed. Typically, a productive acre of water fosters a fast-growing population of 15-20 bass. At least five times more bass would be needed to achieve this goal.

After some data collection, consideration, and alignment, coupled with a little out-of-the-box thinking, a management strategy was drafted to make the dream a reality. To succeed, it would look like a normal backyard pond from above, but under the surface, would be akin to a Bass Pro Shop aquarium.

Thanks to SOLitude!

My stocked pond looks better than it has looked in 45 years, thanks to SOLitude!

Donnie Manry

Private Landowner, Bryan, TX

SOLitude Helped Us Achieve Our Community Goals

As the manager of wetlands and open water for my community, I work with SOLitude Lake Management closely. They have helped us define our vision and achieve our goals. Every wetland area and body of water has different uses and different needs. SOLitude understands that and ensures those needs are met all the while keeping the budget in mind. We have annual fishing tournaments and they come out and talk with the anglers, explaining what we’ve done during the past year and what our future steps will be. Management of wildlife and waters is an ongoing and long-term commitment, SOLitude understands this. They have a dedicated staff that not only manages these areas but also helps educate their clients.

Robert Payne

HOA Chairman, Warrenton, VA

December 8, 2014

Our Fishery Is In It’s Best Condition Ever

Thank you to SOLitude for all your help at our Fishing Club. Our hydrilla problem is practically non-existent now. The fish survey you completed for us, the recommendations on slot sizes, and the stocking and feeding program you developed are producing outstanding results. Our club’s fishery is in the best condition it has ever been! Your presentation to our stockholders at our annual meeting was extremely well received. We are getting ready to enhance our fish attractors as suggested. We appreciate that a management program was developed that fits within our budget and that you are available to talk with us when we have questions. We look forward to continuing our association with SOLitude.

John McCracken

Fishing Club President, West Point, VA

February 23, 2015

A Huge Improvement with SOLitude

I wanted to let you know how pleased we are with the results of the algae treatment. We noticed a huge improvement very quickly, and at this point, the pond looks really, really great. Also, the fish are thriving – some of the bass are over a foot, and the Bluegills have also gotten big. We are just thrilled. Thank you so much for your responsiveness.

Gwen Goodkin

Private Landowner, Charlottesville, VA

June 16, 2015

From an Eyesore to Thriving Ecosystem

In one season, SOLitude Lake Management turned the two lakes on my Virginia property from dead, weed-infested, eyesores into thriving, fish-filled, ecosystems – and they have maintained them as such ever since!

Angus Yates

Private Landowner, Middleburg, VA

September 17, 2015

Excellent Pond and Fisheries Management Experts!

After I had to drain my pond in 2010 to fix the dam, I took the opportunity to start from scratch. I contacted SOLitude to help guide my long-term management. Two years after my original stocking, we electroshocked for the first time. Based on the electroshock survey and Dave Beasley’s advice, I restocked 10,000 larger bluegills. My friends call me when they have “Daddy day” because they know they can come to my pond and their kids will catch bluegill bigger than my hand until they get tired of it. After 4 years, the bass are reaching 6 pounds, and in an hour, enough heavy bass can be caught that would beat a full day’s fishing on any lake in the region. Without SOLitude and Dave Beasley, despite all my research, my pond would be in an ever-worsening downward spiral. Now SOLitude and annual electrofishing surveys to keep me on track are a permanent part of my pond management plan.

Marc Daymude

Private Landowner, Cameron, NC

October 7, 2015

What A Great Company!

When looking online for a new fish feeder, we had unpleasant experiences with two local fisheries. I decided to call a feeder manufacturer in San Antonio, who recommended SOLitude Lake Management. They were terrific! Paul Dorsett called me directly and was so kind and helpful. He arranged for a feeder to be delivered and set up for us. Although Paul was out of town, he sent his “ace” out, Ryan Young. Ryan and Alex Harrison were efficient, answered all questions, and were very nice young men. Paul even followed up to make certain that everything went smoothly. What a great company! Customer service is what it’s all about these days and SOLitude Lake Management knows exactly that.

Cindy & Jim Bandy

Private Landowners, Centerville, TX

August 22, 2016

Proof Is In The Pudding

Paul Dorsett and the rest of the team at SOLitude have done an absolutely wonderful job in helping us to create Lake Willis! In just a few short years we have gone from having just a few baitfish and perch, to catching a nearly 9-pound bass (our new record). Now if we could just have more time to fish as recommended, we could take out the 300 fish that need to come out. As far as we are concerned, we followed SOLitude’s recommendations and our fish have averaged growing of 2 pounds per year…proof is in the pudding!

Weston Willis and Family

Private Landowner, Abilene, TX

June 9, 2017

A Truly Valuable Investment

We began with two small lakes that were never managed 10 years ago. With SOLitude’s help and expertise we expanded both lakes from 2 acres to 6 acres and began a monthly management program. We went from a spotty fish population to trophy bass with some over 10 pounds! SOLitude is efficient and really cares about the lake ecosystem. Seeing my three-year-old granddaughter catch her first bass makes the investment truly valuable. Thanks, SOLitude.

Ric Campo

Private Landowner, Houston, TX

October 12, 2017

From Frustrating to 100% Fishable

When we hired SOLitude, our 12-acre lake was about 1/3 full of lily pads and hydrilla which were frustrating to the fish. Within 4-6 months, the lake became 100% fishable and the coloring and bloom were much more attractive. The recent addition of 8 or so built brush piles has added much-needed structure for bait fish and is now a great target that is producing bass on every other cast! A very common afternoon will produce 100 fish a day.

Darrell Hernandez

Private Landowner, Athens, TX

April 5, 2018

Creating A Plan of Action to Grow Largemouth Bass

First and foremost, great water quality would be essential to pull this off. Fortunately, the water testing results indicated there was a solid foundation. Alkalinity was naturally 84 parts per million (ppm) and both phosphorus and nitrogen levels were naturally low. The spring-fed pond has an incredible 30-40 gallon per minute well that can run 24 hours a day, even during times of drought. That’s nearly 60,000 gallons of extra water available daily to flush through the system, allowing for a full water change monthly if needed. The water remains relatively clear year-round, with 48 inches of visibility. We were going to implement an aggressive fish growth strategy that would push the good water quality to its limits. 

Starting with no fish in the system, the pond was stocked with 1,100 pounds of forage fish, including Golden Shiners, Bluegill, Redear Sunfish, and Specklebelly Sunfish. One hundred female Largemouth Bass were also stocked, consisting of both F1 and Northern strain. Unfortunately, the latitude and elevation do not allow for Florida strain largemouth to live through the occasional cold winter. Each bass was PIT tagged, allowing growth to be tracked, and poor performers to be harvested, if necessary. The benefit to an all-female bass population is that they can reach double the size of males, and without males to reproduce with, they do not overpopulate.

As fish biomass increases, water quality can deteriorate and put stress on the fish, resulting in weakened immune systems, slower growth, less aggression, and as a result, bass that are harder to catch. For the average productive fishery in the south, 1,000 pounds of fish per acre at any given time during the growing season is a relatively robust biomass of fish. To accomplish this landowner’s goals, the biomass of fish would need to range between 1,000 and 2,000 pounds throughout the year, but this can elevate the risk of water quality deterioration.

Creating A Healthy Habitat for Fish Growth

To help stay ahead of poor water quality, a volcano aerator was installed to keep surface dissolved oxygen (DO) levels near saturation. A bottom-diffused aerator was also installed to sufficiently mix the water column, transferring the oxygen-rich surface water throughout the entire waterbody. This dual combination allows the pond to safely support a much larger biomass of fish than it could naturally. 

When getting started, the pond’s fish cover was poor – void of wood, rock, and vegetation, as well as lacking notable contour changes or substrate types. The waterbody was shallow with a typical clay bottom and had little character, providing a blank canvas to make improvements.

The cover we selected consisted of large oak logs ranging from 12-36 inches in diameter, as well as pea gravel and 8-12 inch gabion stone. The logs and rock were added to the waterbody using an excavator and work barge. The goal was to congregate bass, allowing them to feed efficiently and improve angler catch rates. 

Dense cover for forage fish refuge was left out of the management strategy by design. All water available for fish biomass is maxed out between the adult bass, and the adult forage those bass require. Growing small forage into large forage is not feasible given the limited water. Thus, two-year-old forage needed to be stocked. Eliminating dense cover from the plan allowed for more large cover, providing the bass with additional areas to spread out and make full use of the entire waterbody.

This large, relatively snag-free cover teamed with 48 inches of clarity provides a sound foundation for good angler catch rates. Coupled with a trophy predator population 4-6 times higher than normal, this fishery has the ability to provide a truly exceptional fishing experience. This is especially true during those spring and fall days when catch rates are naturally elevated. Although the number of bass present is higher than normal, it is still vulnerable to being overfished, and special attention needs to be paid to avoid this.

In the spring of 2023, the bass ranged between 17 and 22 inches long, averaging 6.7 pounds with top performers thus far weighing 9.25 pounds. Their relative weights (Wr) averaged 145, and maxed out at 165. These bass are incredibly thick with muscle along their backs. The best performers are easily five inches wide and eight inches tall, sporting a stout appearance that looks similar to a bus as they try to evade the electrofishing boat.

The bass are trending well and should start surpassing the ten-pound mark in the spring of 2024. In addition to the bass, the Specklebelly Sunfish are doing great. The top performer thus far has tipped the scales at 2.25 pounds, and many that exceed 1.8 pounds are caught when electrofishing. These sunfish add a fun dimension to the fishery. Even when not targeting these guys, you may randomly catch one when bass fishing. It’s always great to see them getting in on the action. 

Over time, the species of stocked forage has varied, but a steady diet of Golden Shiners is common. Other forage species include Bluegill, Rainbow Trout, and Goldfish. As the bass reach larger sizes, bigger bait is stocked. A fish feeder is used to help support the forage fish living in the pond. Although the feeder does not grow a great deal of forage, it does help them maintain weight as they do their best to avoid predation.  

We have learned a great deal about growing bass thanks to managing systems like this one. One lesson this system helped us confirm is that the industry standard “10 pounds of bait grows one pound of bass” is not applicable to larger bass. When looking into this data point further, we found it to be true for small bass. Our young bass had conversion rates better than 10:1, but as these bass grew beyond a couple of pounds, we found that more forage was needed to gain weight. Although our sample size is small, our forage conversion rates shifted above 15:1 and, in some cases, above 20:1 as the bass grew larger. As a result of our findings, the original projections and models in relation to the amount of necessary forage were inaccurate. Over time, we made adjustments to our annual forage stocking regiment, starting with 2,200 pounds, then, 2,600, and now, 3,000. To summarize, for every mature bass present, I prefer at least 40 pounds of forage available annually. This provides an opportunity for bass to grow well while also accounting for the loss of some forage to other wildlife.

Lessons Learned with Trophy Fisheries

Another lesson learned over the years was that bass Wr does not tell the entire story, meaning that lower Wr does not necessarily indicate the bass are less likely to reach trophy sizes. For example, when stocking young bass into this pond, they quickly grew to 16-18 inches. When electrofishing, we would find some bass with great Wr’s (130-140) while finding others that are good, but not great (110-120). Although the bass with lower Wrs did not look bad, they appeared notably inferior to the other bass in the livewell. Upon further examination, tag data confirmed that some of these mid-sized bass with higher Wrs were older bass that were simply failing to grow longer. If you want ten-pounders, stunted length is a bad characteristic for bass. Big bass require a big frame. Bass that fail to develop one need to be removed from this waterbody and replaced with young female bass that have great genetic potential relative to the limitations of the local cool climate.

Management adjustments are made as necessary to ensure the fishery has the best odds of reaching its goals. Hard work and foresight are paying off, and what once seemed unlikely is now within reach. Current momentum alone should provide another five years of great results and incredible fishing. As young generations of genetically superior bass are introduced to this waterbody moving forward, fishing is likely to improve each year over the next decade, providing anglers with a truly unique, high-energy fishing experience.

Contact Us for Fisheries Management Services

SOLitude Lake Management is a nationwide environmental firm committed to providing sustainable solutions that improve water quality, enhance beauty and preserve natural resources.

SOLitude’s team of aquatic scientists specializes in the development and execution of customized lake, stormwater pond, wetland and fisheries management programs. Services include water quality testing and restoration, algae and aquatic weed control, installation and maintenance of fountains and aeration systems, shoreline erosion control, muck and sediment removal and invasive species management. SOLitude partners with homeowners associations, golf courses, private landowners, businesses and municipalities. SOLitude Lake Management is part of Rentokil, a leading business services company, operating across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

For more information, visit SOLitude Lake Management at, and connect on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter.

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