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Summer Tips to Land Iowa's Big Fish

The key to catching big fish is finding places that have big fish. Quickly find the best spots to catch master angler qualifying size fish with the electronic map recently added to DNR Master Angler program website (click on "Map" above the photos) or search for local hotspots by species or location.

Try these simple tips from DNR fisheries biologists to catch large bluegill, bass and crappie during the summer heat at one of these top locations identified through a search on the Master Angler webpage.

Bluegills (10 inches to qualify)

  • Farm Ponds – look for ponds surrounded by grass; fish the face of the dam or steep shorelines where the weed line is close to shore; drift or cast small jigs (1/32nd oz.) tipped with a 1-inch piece of worm 6 to 8 feet down; get permission from the landowner before entering.
  • West Okoboji Lake, Dickinson County – fish the rock reefs or rocky humps in 20-25 feet of water; jig live bait (small crayfish, Belgium worms, piece of night crawler or leech) with a split shot 8-10 inches above the hook.  
  • Big Spirit Lake, Dickinson County – try the outside weed lines and rock piles, drops offs or natural underwater reefs.  
  • Twelve Mile Creek Lake, Union County – fish the rock piles or cedar tree brush piles along the roadbed; try also along the weed line.
  • East Okoboji Lake, Dickinson County – try the outside weed lines and rock piles, drops offs or natural underwater reefs.    

Largemouth Bass (20 inches to qualify)

  • Farm Ponds – use top water lures at the edge of aquatic plants early and late in the day when the air is still; switch to a spinner bait or plastic worm later in the morning or late afternoon next to the weed line or around brush piles; get permission from the landowner before entering.
  • West Okoboji Lake, Dickinson County – cast topwater lures, plastic worms, suspended jerk baits, deep diving crank baits or spinner baits near shore or edges of weed lines.
  • Big Creek Lake, Polk County – cast topwater lures, plastic worms, suspended jerk baits, deep diving crank baits or spinner baits near shore or edges of weed lines.         
  • Lake Anita, Cass County – cast topwater lures, plastic worms, suspended jerk baits, deep diving crank baits or spinner baits near shore or edges of weed lines.
  • Badger Creek Lake, Madison County – fish the cedar tree brush piles near the fishing jetties or along the dam.           

Black Crappie (14 inches to qualify)

  • Farm Ponds – look for ponds with standing timber or brush piles; fish close to the brush with a minnow under a bobber or cast 1/32nd ounce jigs; get permission from the landowner before entering. 
  • Coralville Reservoir, Johnson County –  look for fish suspended on deeper rocks banks  in 8-10 feet of water in the main reservoir; cast larger chartreuse twister tails  and slowly drop down the bank.
  • Red Rock Reservoir, Marion County – focus on the Whitebreast arm of the lake or areas with rock (and rip-rap); keep moving along the shoreline until you find fish. 
  • Crawford Creek Impoundment, Ida County – drift fish 1/16 ounce chartreuse jigs tipped with a small minnow; try also fishing around the brush piles.
  • Lake Macbride, Johnson County – vertical jig a tube jig on the deep side of brush piles right above the thermocline (12 feet); work the outside or deeper end of the brush piles. 

White Crappie (14 inches to qualify)

  • Farm Ponds – look for ponds with standing timber or brush piles; fish close to the brush with a minnow under a bobber or cast 1/32nd ounce jigs; get permission from the landowner before entering.
  • Red Rock Reservoir, Marion County – focus on the Whitebreast arm of the lake or areas with rock (and rip-rap); keep moving along the shoreline until you find fish.  
  • Saylorville Reservoir, Polk County –focus on areas where the shoreline is protected with rip-rap.  
  • Lake Macbride, Johnson County – vertical jig a tube jig on the deep side of brush piles right above the thermocline (12 feet); work the outside or deeper end of the brush piles.
  • Coralville Reservoir, Johnson County  – look for fish suspended on deeper rocks banks  in 8-10 feet of water in the main reservoir; cast chartreuse twister tails and slowly drop down the bank.

For information on how to submit a Master Angler entry including a list of the 41 fish species eligible and minimum lengths, visit the Master Angler website.

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