By: Ly Nguyen
Hello from the Highlands! This is an exciting time of year in our area. Many of the local clubs are starting or have begun their new seasons. Over the next month, anglers will have the best opportunity to find and catch large bass.
Bass spawn in Florida from about late November through April, but the heaviest spawning activity takes place from mid-February into March. During this period, bass will lurk near the shallows especially in areas protected from the wind. Locally, the fish prefer areas with submerged grasses and a sandy bottom. Look around the shallows for circular depressions with fish holding in them. While smaller male bass will be more abundant around spawning beds, some beds will be holding females. Once you have found a spawning bed, back away and cast a tube, a fluke or a worm past the bed. Slowly retrieve the bait until its right in the middle of the bed. If the fish does not hit right away, slightly work the tip of your fishing rod to gently move the lure.
Repeat this process until the fish hits or your bait leaves the bed. In these situations you need to be more patient than the fish. It can be very frustrating but more often than not, persistence will pay off and she will bite. Keep in mind that the water clarity of the lake you are fishing is very important. The more stained the water is, the harder it will be to see and find the beds. The clearer the water the farther away you’ll see them, but they can also see you better and they will spook easily. This makes shallow water anchoring systems a big advantage in clear lakes like Lake Jackson, June, or Placid. If you’re drifting across bedding areas, having a shiner or two hanging out the back of your boat isn’t a bad ideal either so long as your reel is secured or set to a light drag so that as your boat drifts one way and the bass swims off with your bait in the opposite direction that your pole doesn’t go overboard and follow Mr. Bass
Generally in the colder months you may need to slow down your retrieve and in some cases downsize your baits. Slowing down your retrieve gives time to watch the area for any of those bass beds you should be targeting. During this time of year, it’s not uncommon for an angler to look down and see a bass mere feet from the boat, so always pay attention to the surroundings. These are the days of the year where the catch rate might be small but each bite could be a trophy.
Crappie reports have been very good and the height of the season is still coming. I personally watched a trio in a pontoon boat around Grassy Island on Lake Istokpoga catch a half dozen in 20 minutes and all were in the pound and a half class or bigger. Use jigs or live minnows. Don’t be afraid to try different colors and different depths until you find what works. Right now all the local Highlands lakes are producing so you should find plenty of action no matter which lake you choose.
This is the time of the year that I recommend re-spooling your reels and checking knots twice. No matter what your style of fishing is, remember this is spawning season in Florida. A big fish is just one cast away and I bet you know someone somewhere who lost a trophy fish due to line or knot fatigue.
Finally, the Highlands Bass Anglers Tournament Trail will still be accepting new members until March 3rd, feel free to contact us for questions or to sign-up at 863-381-2310. The last tournament was held on Lake Istokpoga and the team of Marty O’Hare and Adam Todd took 1st Place honors with a 3-fish limit bag weight of 12.0 lbs.
Until Next month – tight lines