If you’re looking for something different, give Banks Lake a shot for great numbers of smallmouth bass. Mid- to late-May is a great time to fish Banks for the bass that are in pre-spawn mode. They are typically in five to fifteen feet of water and staging in or around rocky flats where they will eventually spawn.
I’ve done this trip two out of the last three years now and it is a blast. A 6- or 7-weight rod with a full-sinking line is the best setup. I like a 6-foot, 2X fluorocarbon leader and flies in burnt-orange to brown in color. Here are a few of the flies that have been great producers at Banks on the bass.
Crazy Dad - Pumpkin
Meat Whistle – Crawdad
Jaw Breaker - Orange
That orange/brown coloration really seems to be the ticket. Find areas that have a bottom structure of bowling ball to beach ball sized rock and a reasonably flat contour and you will find the smallmouth. The vertical rock walls that are so common on Banks Lake will hold some fish (and usually smaller fish) but generally aren’t as productive as the areas with a flatter, rocky bottom.
Banks Lake is a good place to have a decent sized boat. You can do it in a pontoon boat or float tube but you will be limited to certain areas of the lake that may or may not have the structure you’re looking for. If you are fishing from a smaller craft, I would recommend putting your boat in at Barker Flats or on the east side of Devil’s Punchbowl near the main road. You will find the kind of water I am talking about in those areas. Devil’s Punchbowl will be a little better if the wind is up… which can be pretty severe on this big lake.
The smallmouth on Banks Lake aren’t as large as you will find in some other places but great numbers of 2- to 3.5-pounders will keep you having plenty of fun. A 3-pound smallmouth will have you questioning if a 6-weight is a big enough rod!
Banks is also a good largemouth fishery. To get the largemouth, concentrate less on rocks and more on vegetation and any wood you can find. The Devil’s Punchbowl has great structure for both largemouth and smallmouth. Early mornings fishing an 8-weight with a popper cast into the weeds will get you some explosive takes.
There are also loads of carp in Banks. Find the shallow, wind-protected bays with muddy bottoms and you will usually see plenty of carp roaming around. On this trip, I didn’t target the carp much and didn’t see many feeders. Finding the carp with their nose down and tails up is the key to getting a carp to eat your fly. These are the fish that are feeding and when you’re in a good spot, you will see the divots in soft bottom where the carp have been feeding. Carp that are just roaming around (and you may see a few hundred of them during the day) are usually pretty tough to get to eat the fly.
On this trip, I found the bass really eager to eat. In a day and a half of fishing, I landed 40 to 50 bass, most of which were smallmouth, but some nice largemouth as well.
Great fun! Let me know if I can help you plan a Banks Lake bassin’ trip!