FRESHWATER BASS



 —  TIPS IN FLORIDA - Bass, BAD Bass — And More BassS

 Guide to Largemouth Bass Fishing in Florida




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

Fellsmere in southeast “ Florida’s Stick Marsh",  contains propeller robbing submerged tree stumps. Slow and careful —  It is a 16,500-acre man-made impoundment. Near Vero Beach, most Florida fishing guides are familiar with its waters. “When it comes to big bass, this is as good as it gets. 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 “ Fishing 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.    Bait Casting and Spinning tackle are more suited for this kind of chaos, screaming and yelling common with Bass Fishermen. 

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 more take-able with bait and spinning rigs.  
It is all technique….  


🐟  Edward Medard Reservoir —  In addition to the saltwater Tampa Bay fishing hot spots mentioned, don't forget that there are freshwater hot spots in the Tampa Bay area as well. Don't pass up the chance to fish the Edward Medard Reservoir in Hillsborough County for largemouth bass and sunshine bass. Since the reservoir is a reclaimed phosphate mine, the bottom contours of the lake are irregular, with some areas reaching depths close to 33 feet. The depth changes and bottom irregularities make this one of the best spots to try freshwater fishing in Florida.


🐟  Lake Tarpon  —  If you want to know where to fish for trophy bass in the Tampa Bay area, consider Lake Tarpon. As far as good fishing spots in Tampa Bay for freshwater anglers, Lake Tarpon always ranks. In fact, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists rate the lake as one of the top 10 bass lakes in the state of Florida. Try fishing the points and offshore structure on Lake Tarpon during the warmest periods of the day throughout the summer months.

Since you now know about a few saltwater and freshwater Tampa Bay hot spots, be sure you have the right gear and tackle for the location and species you plan to target.


🐟   Bass Essentials  Well that means if you are over the top kind of bass tournament person, now you are adding a boat.  An expensive boat… Also you have determined to sponsor one type of fish species, to me,  just too limiting.  I like surprise fishing… you never know what can occur… and I am fortunate to be where i have both fresh and salt water fishing...

Financially a Rig for all those Florida lakes can add up…Boat, Motor, Electronics, Trailer 4WD pickup, sometimes a Guide for Bass Fishing moving into your home, And a big 4WD pickup, Ford or Ram, Four wheeler, for wet ramps when everyone else had the same idea, Black Paint of course, and jacked up with a lift kit for an additional forty thousand dollars,  Cost per pound of bass you release about five hundred and sixty dollars.

  • Boat, Motor, Trailer  — Adding a $28,000 dollar BASS boat Rig with 250 horses screaming across the two miles of water.  If the NAVY added torpedo tubes to some of these Bass boats, we could sink the entire Iranian Fleet…
  • Radar, Sonar, Fish Finder, Beer Cooler and Six Rods on the Fore deck — Another 3600 dollars
  • Besides to look good you will need an outfit befitting a Nascar racer with all kinds of emblems, decals, insignia and pins plus manufacturers baseball caps covering your ears to claim one decent fish. You gotta look good for the press when you land that ten pounder and stand there in that 100 degree heat.
  • As hyped up over your catch you will be, you also are about to be challenged to answer the question “ What kind of a lure did you use?”  Like Bass aggregate after you leave and compare notes… and pick the lure of your choice since you spent thousands on these weird painted lures.
  • Recent surveys answered that question worm and spinner bait rigs were the top two.


Sidebar Note  —   Same moron question I got for years as a journalist for a picture I took and published.  “ What kind of camera did you use? ”.  I used to have a small Kodak compact camera, worked about the size of a kids toy 2x3 inches and it was my key fob.  I showed them that” — 

  • And after realizing you're Nissan or Kia being towed out of the lake because it was only a two wheel drive and slid backwards on the wet ramp, you’ll need a huge black pickup costing forty seven plus almost fifty-thousand dollars.
  • I was at a Dodge dealership the other day and a new HD Dodge Custom Ram Dually with every toy imaginable hit 100,000 dollars.  I love Rams but in that range I want a baby MAC. 
  • 26–40 thousand dollar extras price tag … plus poor gas mileage, gasoline and maintenance, parking,  etc.   At my age, thats out… I liked my airplane… wife liked it too… under two hours we were in Key West. 
  • And I have been there too… I would think different if I were younger.   Florida is Florida and 98 degrees with enough humidity during the summer to cook your brain, I don’t need.  It gets hot on those lakes.  So I go early spring or calm winter fishing deeper.   Think of yourself as the Shrimp frying in the pan on the stove.  The ocean usually has onshore or offshore breeze and you can drift fish.  Dawn till ten was enough for me…
  • Oh I knew I forgot the solution, you can drive down for two days and hire a guide I know, we catch a ton of fish, have a great time and can still look in my checkbook and not cry… 


March 4, 2021  —  Suggested Tweet: The @MyFWC celebrates 12 years of out-of-season largemouth #bass spawning at Richloam Hatchery: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/FLFFWCC/bulletins/2c51cf9 #Florida #Fishing 


FWC celebrates 12 years of out-of-season largemouth bass spawning  —  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management has successfully spawned Florida largemouth bass out of season for the twelfth year in a row at Richloam Fish Hatchery in Webster. This practice allows biologists to produce twice as many largemouth bass per year than other state’s hatchery systems whose hatcheries produce spawn only once a year. The benefit to the FWC is the efficiency of producing more fish without the added expense of collecting additional broodstock.

Freshwater fisheries biologists collected a total of 41 individual spawns during October 2020 that yielded over 250,000 fry, which were stocked in hatchery ponds to grow. Spawning Florida largemouth bass out of season provides other advantages for fisheries managers because south Florida warms up sooner than central and north Florida. Because south Florida is warmer earlier in the year, spawning fish out of season at Richloam Hatchery provides game fish to this region at a time when the fry’s natural forage is available, thus increasing the chances the fish stocked from the hatchery will survive. The 2020 out-of-season year class will be stocked in Lake Trafford in the spring and in Orlando community fishing ponds in the summer of this year.

For more information about the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management, contact Laura Rambo Walthall at 850-488-0520 or Laura.Walthall@MyFWC.com.


October - December 2021

Our Purpose: To identify excellent Florida freshwater fishing opportunities and to provide anglers with relevant information that will enhance the quality of their outdoor experience.


TrophyCatch Tracker

It's official — TrophyCatch Season 9 has ended, and FWC's groundbreaking citizen-science program has entered its tenth year! We would like to thank all of our participants who have made TrophyCatch a success, and each of our partners who have made the program so rewarding.

Check TrophyCatch.com for the deadline to submit any catches caught through September 30 in order to qualify for prizing, as well as to get the 10 extra chances for the upcoming Phoenix Boats bass boat drawing!

Even with a little time left for final submissions, we already know that we are wrapping up a record-breaking Season 9 with the highest number of Hall of Fame catches weighing 13 pounds or more since the program's inception, at 25 amazing giants. This number is even more incredible when you consider that each of these bass would beat the state record in about half the country! Check the "Fisheries Biology" section below for some interesting insights into these monster catches. 


Featured Fish: American Eel

Size: The current State Record was an approximately 60-inch long male weighing about 16 pounds. Eels more commonly reach about two feet in length.

Identification and similar species: The American eel is also known as the pencil eel, yellow eel, black eel, silver eel, Boston eel, Atlantic eel or common eel. The body is extremely elongated (snakelike), with a very long dorsal fin that is confluent with the anal fin.  Pelvic fins are absent and tiny scales are embedded in the skin giving eels a smooth feel. The adult color is a yellow-brown with pale underbelly. It is a distinct species with no known subspecies. The similar swamp eel (a nonnative) lacks pectoral fins.

Angling qualities: Eels are not generally considered to be a sport fish in this country. They can be caught on hook and line (live worms provide a good bait) and are taken commercially.

Behavior: Spawning is still not well understood but fascinating. The adults migrate to the ocean during autumn. The fish head to a location near the Sargasso Sea where they spawn en masse and apparently die. The eggs hatch into leaf-shaped floating larvae that drift with the currents. When they come within range of a freshwater river, the larvae metamorphoses into a tiny semi-transparent "glass eel”. 

The glass eel then changes again into a pigmented pencil eel and continues its migration upstream to find a habitat to mature and await it's time to go spawn. American eels are considered carnivorous and eat a variety of food, including fish, frogs, and insects.

Edibility: This is a gourmet fish in the Asian markets and is often used in Sushi. It tends to be bony by American standards but is good smoked.

Where to find them: American eels are found throughout Florida. Eels are primarily riverine but access ponds, lakes, and canals. They orient to structure and flow.


Fisheries Biology: Hall of Fame 100 Survey

Not only has Season 9 beaten all previous TrophyCatch Hall of Fame (HOF) records, but the program reached a total of over 100 approved HOF submissions 13 pounds or larger this season as well! To celebrate this incredible achievement, our FWC biologists examined the HOF submission details and we asked the HOF anglers to participate in a survey to gather unique information about pursuing and catching Florida’s largest bass. Some extremely interesting — and surprising — results are provided below. 

When were they caught?  There was a distinct seasonal trend to HOF catches. Catches in February and March well exceeded catches during the rest of the year. In fact, these two months accounted for 60% of all HOF catches. It’s also interesting how much more seasonal the HOF catches are compared to overall tallies of TrophyCatch bass (which also includes Lunker and Trophy club catches). It almost goes without saying, but this springtime boom corresponds to peak bass spawning season in Florida. At that time, female bass will likely reach their greatest weight for the year, more of them will be in shallow habitats and likely more vulnerable to being caught, and knowing all this, anglers are on the water in greatest numbers.

 

What time were they caught?  How many of you set an alarm to wake up in the middle of the night to ensure that you are on the water and fishing at first light? How many stay on the water until the last hint of sunlight fades into night? No doubt these are great times to be on the water. However, when it comes to HOF bass, anglers caught the most during afternoon. Likely these times are reflective of when the most anglers are on the water. Also keep in mind that most of these HOF bass were also caught during the cooler months of the year when afternoons are not too hot.

 

Where were they caught? Anglers have submitted HOFs from all over Florida. Roughly one-third of Florida’s counties can claim at least one HOF bass, ranging as far as Lee County in the south to Holmes County in the western Panhandle. Even though the footprint of HOF bass in Florida is expansive, there are certainly some hot spots. Clay and Putnam counties top the list, accounting for 30% of all HOF catches. Starting there and moving south through the center of the Florida peninsula appears to be a trophy bass corridor as the contiguous counties of Alachua, Marion, Lake, Polk, and Highlands account for another 35% of HOF bass.

 Fishing Techniques: An Old Standby, the Plastic Worm

The more things change, the more they stay the same! One result from the TrophyCatch Hall of Fame 100 survey not shown above is that the plastic worm caught more HOF bass than any other lure! 

Despite newer lures and the fact that bass have been seeing plastic worms for over 150 years, the plastic worm is still a top bass producer. And for good reason.  First, worms are easily rigged weedless, letting you reach bass a crankbait can’t touch. They’re also fairly economical, so when you do sacrifice a worm to a brushpile it doesn’t break the bank. Finally, plastic worms are so soft that bass will often hang on to them long enough for even beginners to get a solid hookset.

Styles: There are too many worm variations to cover all of them here. However, most modern offerings will fall under either the “curly tail” or “no tail” category. The curly tail on a worm can vary from a simple crescent-moon curl to longer ribbon-tailed offerings. But you don’t need a tail to catch bass. “Do-nothing” or finesse worms put plenty of fish in the boat, too. These straight or “stick” worms can be rigged and fished in the same ways as more traditional worms and may be just the ticket when finicky bass become wary of more typical offerings. These worms are usually tapered like traditional worms, but without the tail.

A Texas rig (top) and Carolina rig (bottom). 

Rigging: The two best-known worm rigs are the Texas rig and the Carolina rig. Both work well, but the Texas rig is more popular. This involves a direct line connection to the worm hook, with a sliding worm or cone sinker in front of the worm. This is a great rig for most situations and will allow you to snake a worm in and out of vegetation, stickups, or other structure without hanging up. Use the minimum amount of weight to get the job done. In fact, when fishing floating or extremely shallow vegetation, anglers can forego the worm sinker entirely and fish the worm solo across the top of the vegetation, or just below the surface.

The Carolina rig is great for fishing a weedy or otherwise cluttered bottom. A two-to-three-foot leader is tied to the worm hook on one end and to a barrel swivel on the other. The swivel is tied to the main line, with an egg sinker ahead of it. When rigged with a floating worm, this setup will allow you to work the bottom while the worm hovers above the clutter to attract a bass’ attention. Some anglers claim superior strike detection over the Texas rig with this method.

Basic techniques: One of the best things about plastic worms for beginning bass anglers is that it’s practically impossible to fish a worm wrong. If there’s such a thing as an “average” worm retrieve, it is probably bumping the worm along the bottom or through likely-looking cover, while allowing the worm to drop or rest momentarily and throwing in occasional twitches. Varying the retrieve will draw more strikes. Plastic worms work well for flipping, too. Although worms are nearly always worked slowly compared to other lures, you should go even slower when especially hot or cold weather slow the fish down.

Colors: You don’t have room in your garage for all the worm colors out there. However, keeping it simple can still provide results. A great all-around color to start with is black. Popular second choices include red shad, watermelon, pumpkinseed, purple (grape) and motor oil. While bass definitely demonstrate color preferences, at least one of these time-tested hues will usually produce fish at any given time.

The strike: Pay attention, because a bass might hit a plastic worm at any time — while it's sinking to the desired depth, while sitting motionless on the bottom, or at any moment in between. Strikes can be hard or subtle, so keep the rod tip up and the line taut in order to best detect them. You can’t judge the size of the fish by the size of the strike; a friend who caught his biggest bass — a 12-pounder — on a worm barely felt the take. If you think you’re not detecting subtle strikes, examine your worm for tiny “prickle” marks on the main body indicating it was picked up by a bass (see illustration above). Thankfully, the typical worm strike is usually more noticeable. A sharp tap-tap-tap or your line visibly twitching or moving off to one side will tell you that you’ve got a customer. Lower the rod tip and then set the hook as soon as the slack is taken up by the fish. Don’t wait too long to set the hook, as bass will readily swallow plastic worms and may become deep-hooked.

There are many other techniques and topics related to plastic worms that could be covered here. However, this should be enough to get any angler started down the road to catching more bass with the venerable plastic worm!


Featured Site: Lake Apopka

Size: 30,000 acres   Location: Orange and Lake County

Description: Lake Apopka is the fourth largest lake in Florida at 30,000 acres and was considered one of the top bass fishing lakes in the world in the 1930s and 1940s. Numerous factors contributed to the degradation of the lake and resulted in a collapse of the fishery, negatively impacting sportfish populations and angling effort. The State of Florida has focused attention on restoring Lake Apopka through multiple agencies and legislative actions (1985 Lake Apopka Restoration Act, 1987 Surface Water Improvement and Management Act, and 1996 Lake Apopka Improvement and Management Act). The most significant action was the $190 million dollar purchase of farms that were former marsh land around the north shore. Many additional restoration projects totaling tens of millions of dollars have aimed at improving the water quality and habitat of Lake Apopka.

While restoration has been a gradual process and the lake is far from its glory days of the 1930s, sportfish populations have and are continuing to improve. Although some areas of the lake remain poor habitat for sportfish, approximately 40% of the lake shoreline now supports quality habitat resulting in high electrofishing catch rates for bass that are comparable to other Harris Chain lakes.

This bass hot spots map shows areas where there have been high catch rates of bass over 16 inches documented by FWC biologists.

To increase fishing effort at Lake Apopka in 2021, FWC partnered with the Friends of Lake Apopka (FOLA) to utilize a reward-based fishing contest called the “Lake Apopka Fish Tag Challenge.” During the Challenge anglers were rewarded for catching tagged largemouth bass, black crappie, or bluegill. The goal was to incentivize anglers to fish Lake Apopka and to promote all of the fisheries restoration work, management activities, and acquired sampling data so that anglers would continue to fish Lake Apopka years after the fishing challenge.

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This tagged "Jim Thomas" bass was named after the founder of FOLA and was worth a total of $5,000 during the Lake Apopka Fish Tag Challenge.

Out of the 500 tagged sportfish, 27 were caught and reported during the contest. Of these 27 tags caught 25 (92%) were largemouth bass and the other two tags were from black crappie.  During the MLF Toyota series event in March 2021, angler Christian Greico caught the prized "Jim Thomas" bass (named after the founder of FOLA and pictured above). Greico was awarded a $2,500 prize from FOLA and an additional $2,500 from Bass Pro Shops for his approval of the fish into TrophyCatch. During the contest, seven TrophyCatch submissions were approval into the program with this biggest weighing 11 lbs. 13 oz. Prior to the contest, only seven other TrophyCatch approvals had come from Lake Apopka since the start of the program in 2012. 

In January 2021 FWC partnered with the Town of Montverde, Shelley’s Environmental Systems, and the private owners of a now-defunct citrus grove to help refurbish 17 fish attractors in Lake Apopka. These sites were originally created in 2013 using natural brush, but with the passage of time the branches in those locations decayed and fell away. The newly-added orange trees (shown above) will provide ideal habitat for sportfish and great fishing opportunities for year to come.

There are 4 public boat ramps on Lake Apopka:

  1. McDonald Boat Ramp (A/B Canal: 24600 County Rd 448A, Mt Dora, FL 32757)
  2. Magnolia Boat Ramp (2929 S Binion Rd, Apopka, FL 32703)
  3. Newton Park Boat Ramp (31 W Garden Ave, Winter Garden, FL 34787)
  4. City of Montverde Boat Ramp (17201 Abrams Ave. Montverde, FL 34756).

Anglers can also access Lake Apopka through the lock on the A/B canal coming from Lake Beauclair.

GoOutdoorsFlorida.com gets a makeover

Need a recreational hunting or fishing license? Our agency licensing website and licensing app has a new look and feel, as well as improved customer service. Visit GoOutdoorsFlorida.com or the Fish | Hunt Florida app to check it out. Remember, GoOutdoorsFlorida.com is the only official FWC licensing app out there.


06/04/2021   aljacobsladder.com 

10/21/2021   aljacobsladder.com