The Most Popular Fish Species To Catch At Rend Lake

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Rend Lake Has A Lot Of Popular Fish Species You Can Catch!


Sitting just shy of 19,000 acres at full pool, Rend Lake is a top destination in Southern Illinois.  Each year thousands of people visit the impoundment to partake in recreational activities.  On any given weekend you will see the ramps backed up early in the mornings as there’s always a bass tournament waiting to take flight.  Once noon rolls around then typically your ski boats, jet skis, and party barges begin to launch so they can take advantage of the wide-open areas of the lake.  But it’s fishing that takes the top spot in recreational activities and for great reasons.  Rend Lake is stocked yearly with several species of delicious fish, and they tend to thrive due to the large stocking of threadfin shad.  We will take a look at the most popular fish species to catch at Rend Lake that anglers can target and expect great results, along with the best times to target them.


How I chose To Rank The Most Popular Fish Species To Catch At Rend Lake.


Rend Lake has been my home lake for over 30 years.  There isn’t a stretch of bank I haven’t fished.  I feel confident enough that if I had to become a guide to support my family I’d take to it like a duck to water.  While it may sound like boasting it’s a double-edged sword.  There is no lake in the country like Rend, what goes here usually doesn’t fly at other lakes.  Bass behave differently, catfish bite in winter, bluegill move by the hour, and so on.  

After visiting Rend Lake don’t be discouraged if you came here to fish on a Saturday and didn’t do any good.  Likewise, if you filled your livewell last trip what worked then may not work this time.  You just have to leave your ego at the boat ramp, otherwise Rend will hand you a whooping.

Read on to see what I consider to be the most popular fish species to catch at Rend Lake and the best time to catch them…


5.) Bluegill

Red Ear Pictured
Rend Lake provides great panfishing!


Best time to target:  April through November.

Rend Lake was once a bluegill haven.  Anglers knew when the fish began to bed up that they would be coming home with several 8 inch and above of the favorite panfish.  As with most lakes, Rend experienced a deep decline in the average size of Bluegill though the numbers still remain.  Each trip we make regardless of season, we are able to catch enough for a small fish fry and rarely do we not catch some larger Gills. 

Early in April the fish start moving into pockets to spawn.  At this time, you can catch them on pretty much anything that mimics a live bug.  Work quickly until you catch an aggressive male.  Once you do, back off as far as possible as not to disturb the bed.  Typically, you can catch around a dozen or so per bed and then it’s time to move on to the next.

After they move off of their beds, they form tight schools which can be located on deeper rock banks and anywhere that a deep transition hugs the bank.  My personal favorite is along the rocks along 154.  We simply use Phyllis Bluegill Bugs hanging inches under a bobber and go to work.

Any of your standard live baits will work on Rend Lake very well.  If artificial is your go to, try popping flies in calm backwaters, small dry flies, or of course our favorite…The Phyllis Bluegill Bug.


4.) White Bass


Best time to target: June through November


There’s no other way to describe White Bass as anything but Fun!  These medium sized silver bass provide fast action, thrilling fights, and when filleted correctly an absolutely delicious meal.  Fish are often found off of flats and humps, as well as under bridges.  Find the Birds, you’ll find the shad, find the shad and the White Bass won’t be far behind.  We typically throw Mepps, Rooster Tails, Road Runners, and of course the Shelton’s Curly tail to get our limits.


3.) Largemouth Bass

Bass Fishing Rend Lake
Bass Fishing on Rend Lake


Best time to target:  Late May through November

Rend Lake made the top 100 Bass lakes courtesy of Bassmaster several years ago which came as a huge shock to most people.  I for one have been fishing this lake for bass for at least 20 years and during the summer months rarely go without catching a limit.  The numbers are there in the lake no doubt, but the size has really fallen off with each passing decade.  It’s true that you can catch a 20lbs bag up here, but it only happens a handful of times each year.  

In the spring, high waters tend to move the fish in unreachable positions which causes anglers to get fed up but once the spawn is over the fish become hyper aggressive and move out on the edges of the brush making them easy targets for anglers.  Visible cover tends to produce best until October through November when the fish begin chasing shad in large schools.  If you are fortunate enough to locate them when they get active, you will see why Rend Lake received the praise that it did.

A wide variety of baits work here, but typically a Jig, or any bottom bouncer, crankbait, and spinnerbait are the three main rods you should have rigged up if visiting.  


2.) Channel Catfish

Catching Catfish on Rend Lake
Catching Catfish on Rend Lake


Best time to target: April through September.


When it comes to plate sized Channel Catfish (1-3lbs) I would put Rend Lake up against any lake in Illinois.  Countless pictures on social media are shared every year of coolers filled to the top of Channels and yet there is never any discussion of putting a limit on them.  Bass fishermen get frustrated with them when cranking rocks, Crappie fishermen cringe when they hook on in the middle of buck brush.  They hit plastics, or any popular catfish bait day or night.  I have even caught them on Buzz Baits trying to catch bass late in the evening.  The one trip that stands out most is when my fishing partner and I were chasing slab crappie in 6ft of water on Valentine’s Day with a water temperature in the low 40s.  We caught over a dozen channel cats in between brush piles while picking off crappie on our jigs.

In late May through June is the best time of year.  I concentrate on riprap with leeches hanging below a bobber in about 1-4 ft of water.  Don’t be afraid if you don’t have a boat as stinkbait, shrimp, or any other popular catfish bait will work from basically anywhere on the lake.


1.) Crappie

Crappie caught on Rend Lake
Crappie caught on Rend Lake


Best time to target: 365 days a year


It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 degrees out, or you’re drilling holes in the ice, Crappie are biting somewhere on the lake.  In the past 15 years many careers have been made in guiding, cabins have been built and kept full in the off-season months, and freezers stay jam packed awaiting summer fish frys.  In the springtime anglers drop jigs and minnows down into buck brush to watch that bobber descend rapidly.  Summertime puts huge schools together in thousands of brush piles set out by guides, weekend anglers, and the IDNR.  Once fall approaches fish begin to chase threadfin shad to stock up for the winter and can be found along drop offs from 4 to 8’ of water, and then in wintertime angler’s make it a mission to get on the lake, catch a limit and get off of the lake within two hours.  At the time of this writing the limit stands that you can have ten Crappie over ten inches and fifteen under though it’s almost always more difficult to get the fifteen due to such a healthy population!

I have never fished with live minnows on Rend Lake though they are very popular with the guides.  For my money I will always use the Shelton’s Curly Tail in two colors, with the bottom one being Lime Glitter on an eighth ounce Painted Jig Head, and the top typically being a thirty second ounce on top in a shad pattern.  I space them out only a few inches in cooler months, and over a foot apart in the summer.  

To Conclude My List Of The Most Popular Fish Species To Catch At Rend Lake

If you’re visiting Rend Lake you should definitely bring a couple of poles and an open mind.  Realize that the fish here are constantly moving with the over abundant shad schools.  Rip Rap is the best place to start regardless of the species around the 154 area.  There are plenty of beautiful cabins to stay at and something for the entire family.  If you’re interested in using any of the baits we use found on my website, please visit bait shops in close proximity that carry them.  Rend Lake Sporting Goods and Hood’s Guns carry a large line of Shelton’s Lures.

I hope to see you out there on the water!

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