Joe Campbell not only fishes Pennsylvania’s Pinchot Lake but he also catches on this lake as well. His fishing pics from Pinchot are truly impressive. For example, the cover photo for this post is a 7.5 pound huge largemouth bass Joe caught from Pinchot. We don’t see bass like that too often here in Pennsylvania. Joe gives us a great perspective on how to be successful fishing Pinchot Lake
First and most importantly, how is your health?
Chris, thank you for asking. My health has greatly improved. My back and arm issues are ongoing, of course, but manageable.
How much does going through stuff like that make you appreciate fishing even more?
It’s definitely given me a new perspective on life in general. Being so passionate about fishing, it has always been something I can do to get away from any issues I may be having. I definitely appreciate everything in my life much more now, having gone through some hardships. I realize life is short and you must appreciate everyone and everything in your life, good and bad; it all makes us who we are and stronger for the experience.
In Pennsylvania, Pinchot State Park has an interesting reputation. Some call it an amazing fishery while others consider it the dead sea. How do you rate Pinchot Lake on a scale of 0 to 10?
Pinchot can definitely be a finicky place to fish. At times, it can be amazing and other times you’re struggling to get a bite. Having grown up fishing there, I have definitely seen Pinchot’s ups and downs. Having said that, I would give it rating of 7.
As PA fisheries go, I would consider it a great place to catch big fish. 2 and 3 pounders are abundant; 4 and 5 lbers are not uncommon and 6 pounders aren’t out of the question. My personal best being 7.5 pounds. I’ve heard rumors of 8 and 9 pounders being caught.
What do you consider a good 5 fish limit on Pinchot?
Pinchot gets a lot of tournament and recreational pressure. A good limit of fish would be 14 to 16 lbs with 18 lb plus bags being caught. With all the pressure Pinchot gets, you can still catch 10 to 12 lbs in the dead of summer, but you may have to work for them. I know of a 30 lb plus bag of 6 fish being caught a number of years ago.
I personally have had 20 lb plus days with one day being a 28 lb day in the spring season. That was an awesome day!! I had 3 fish over 6 lbs on a square bill in the grass. Grass is the number one key on this lake.
How does bass fishing change on Pinchot over the course of the fishing season, spring, summer and fall?
Early on, late winter into early spring with water temps in the 30s-40s, Pinchot is tough. You can still catch fish this time of year, at times, some really big ones. The key for me, this time of year, is rocks, points, and the creek channel. Bait-wise, fishing jigs and jerkbaits, mostly- as the fish zone in on dying bait.
As the water temps rise through the 50s you can start catching them on moving baits- chatterbaits, spinner baits, square bills, traps, swimbaits, etc.
Any emergent grass, or leftover grass, as well as rocks, are great locations to concentrate on. Jigs are a big player for me during the spring season.
As the temps start getting into the 60s fish start moving up on the flats and shallow areas. Big fish seem to be abundant this time of year, with rocks and grass being key.
As the spring progresses, water temps are in the 60s and rising and fish are very active at this time. This is a good time to catch numbers of fish and big ones. Same baits apply during this time period, as well as senkos, soft plastics, and some topwater baits. During this time it seems there’s fish on every piece of cover.
As the spawn progresses you can still have some awesome days. Other days, it can be tough, but you can still do it if you’re persistent enough. Sometimes, finesse is what it takes.
Summer can be a tough time to catch bass. By now, they have seen it all. Fishing slowly is a great way to catch them. If you can’t get any to bite moving baits, then jigs and plastics in the grass are great ways to catch them. It can be a little tough sometimes…pinpointing where they are in the grass, as there is a TON of grass there.
Another great way, for me, is a frog. I fish them a lot on Pinchot. Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE to flip and frog-fish. Some other key baits are crankbaits, where you can fish them, big worms, and stick worms.
Getting into late summer, early fall, as the water temps start to drop, there’s usually about a 2 to 3 week window of some great topwater action. A buzzbait and frog are two of my favorite baits this time of year. Also spinnerbaits, chatter-style baits, crankbaits, and swimbaits, as well. I find it hard not to fish topwater baits. Who Doesn’t love that? This time of year fish will be very active in the grass chasing bluegill and baitfish.
As water temps drop into low 50s things will start to slow, but they will still be plenty active to catch them. You may just have to slow down a bit. The fish will tell you their mood.
In one of your pictures, there looked to be a buzzbait with a plastic bait attached rather than a skirt. What is that bait?
I quite often experiment with different trailers on moving baits. I do have my favorites for each and for particular situations. If memory serves me right I believe the one your asking about was either gambler swimbait or a keitech.
It’s all situational, but baitfish style trailers in spring and fall are key. As fish are feeding mostly on baitfish.
I know you also use some of Nates Custom Baits for Pinchot. Which of his lineup of baits do you like to use on Pinchot?
Nates Custom Baits makes some awesome and proven baits. The chatter style bait, Hybrid Vibe, is one of the best I’ve ever thrown. It has an awesome hunting, erratic action.
It comes through grass really well, skips under docks, overhangs very well. It also doesn’t get hung in hard cover easily as some others. His structure and swim jigs have also produced some big fish for me here, as well as everywhere I’ve thrown them. With all the grass in Pinchot, these baits excel. All of Nates baits are fish catchers.
What are your other favorite baits on Pinchot?
I use a multitude of baits here depending on time of year. The hybrid vibe and jig are always tied on. T-rig plastics and last, but not least a frog. The key for any baits here is persistence. These fish have seen it all and can be pretty finicky at times. If changing things to try to get bit doesn’t produce, pick a confidence bait and be persistent.
Most importantly though, is have fun, even when not catching fish. It’s a good time to experiment. I’ve stumbled onto things over the year just by experimenting.
Overall, what advice do you have for anyone coming to Pinchot for the first time or who has struggled in the past on the lake?
If someone is coming here for the first time, or if you have been here before, I would suggest stopping in at Hawgheads Tackle. They are located across from the park office and main launch. They are very knowledgeable about Pinchot and will have updated info on patterns, baits etc. They are also a fully stocked tackle shop for all fishing needs.
You can also check my Facebook and Instagram pages, as I will sometimes post updates on various places including Pinchot. You can also pm me with any questions, I’ll do my best to answer and help, if I can.
If you are coming and just want to catch fish and relax, get some live bait and have fun. I fished live bait there growing up, and I think it helped me better understand how the fish use the cover in Pinchot.
As I said before, Pinchot can be tough at times, but when you start to figure them out it becomes easier to fish. I personally like tough conditions as it forces us to work harder to figure them out. That makes us better anglers. In fishing we never stop learning.
The most important thing is to HAVE FUN AND BE SAFE!!
Who are your sponsors and how do each of them help you be a better angler?
I have some wonderful people that have helped me over the years. First and foremost is my family. My lovley wife, Melissa, has helped me in every way imaginable. She is also very understanding of a person with a serious fishing addiction. My mom and late father have also helped me greatly over the years.
Also, things like boat maintanence are expensive. I’ve had some wonderful people help with that. For me, I look at sponsors like Nates Custom Baits and MK Boat Works as partners that I can help. What I mean is what I can do for them, help promote them and their business, not what they can do for me.
Thank you Joe! Great information and thanks for your willingness to help other anglers be successful. That is what fishing is all about!