BASS FISHING


WINTER TIPS IN FLORIDA - BRING YOUR RODS

The Ultimate Guide to Largemouth Bass Fishing in Florida




By Terry Tomalin   Florida’s largemouth bass put the Sunshine State on the international sport fishing map.

Looking out over the flooded farmland in Fellsmere in southeast Florida that anglers call Stick Marsh, I wondered how we would ever find our way through the hundreds of submerged tree stumps.  "You have to proceed slowly," my guide, Lenny Crispino, explains. "But trust me, it will be worth it."

Lenny Crispino lives near Tampa, but doesn't mind getting up in the dark and driving across the state to fish this 16,500-acre man-made impoundment. Though the nearest big city is Vero Beach, most Florida fishing guides are familiar with its waters. "When it comes to big bass, this is as good as it gets," says Crispino. "It is not uncommon to catch 50 fish in a day here. And there are plenty over 10 pounds.”

Florida has more than 7,700 named lakes greater than 10 acres, but only a select few make the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) Top Ten Bass Lakes list. Stick Marsh previously earned that honor year after year, but other lakes are finding their place on the big, pass map.

Florida has an estimated 2 million resident anglers, and another million visitors fish state waters every year. With more than 700 world records to its credit - more than any other state or country - Florida can honestly claim the title of “ ishing Capital of the World."

But while saltwater fishing has played an important role in the state's economy, it is Florida's largemouth bass and its varieties like the butterfly peacock bass that put the Sunshine State on the international sportfishing map.

Anglers know the odds of catching trophy fish - 10 pounds or larger - are as good as it gets in Florida. The term "trophy," however, is a misnomer when it comes to Florida bass, because the vast majority of anglers would rather take a picture than take a fish. Crispino, who makes his living on the water, is no exception. Many lakes are strictly catch and release, which is another reason why the fishing is so good.

Top Spots for Black Bass: Lake George, West Lake Tohopekaliga (Lake Toho), Lake Kissimmee, Rodman Reservoir, Lake Tarpon, Evers Reservoir, Lake Istokpoga, Winter Haven South Chain of Lakes, Lake Talquin, Suwannee River, Lake Okeechobee, Everglades Water Conservation Areas 2 and 3, Lake Monroe, Tenoroc Fish Management Area Lakes and Mosaic Fish Management Area.

LARGEMOUTH BASS

Depending on whom you ask, Florida largemouth bass could be a distinct species, different from its northern cousin, or merely a subspecies. But the debate is academic. No one disputes the fact that the Florida "bucketmouth" grow bigger and fatter than any other species of bass.

"You can credit that to our year-round growing season," says Wes Porak, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "We have warm water and plenty of vegetation. Put those together and you have big bass."

Black bass, Micropterus salmoides floridanus, were once found only on the Florida peninsula but have since been introduced in Texas and California.

A fish 10 pounds or larger is considered a "trophy." Females live longer than males and are more likely to reach "trophy" size. Most conservation-minded anglers release large fish because of their future spawning potential.

The largest (certified) largemouth bass in Florida was caught in 1986 in Polk County (in Central Florida) and weighed 17 pounds, 4 ounces.

TIPS AND TACKLE

The Florida largemouth bass has a reputation as a "tackle buster." Florida's fabled "bucketmouth" will attack just about anything- minnows, frogs, even baby ducks.

If you are planning a trip, spring is the best time to hunt a trophy bass. The season starts earlier in South Florida. February through April are peak months in Central Florida. As summer approaches, the fishing improves in North Florida.

While professional bass anglers use artificial lures on the tournament trail, the bait of choice for most anglers is either the golden shiner or the wild shiner, a thick-bodied baitfish found in most Florida lakes. When it comes to artificial lures, the plastic worm is probably the most widely used bait. The color is a matter of choice, but a general rule is the darker the better. Crank baits and spinner baits are other popular choices, but when it comes to heart-pounding action, nothing beats the sight of a big bass banging a topwater plug.

Fly-fishing for these Bass is slightly different and we will go into it, but they are take-able with technique.