Lake Okeechobee: Aug. 2021

By Capt. Nate Shellen Contributing Writer

Angelo and Tracy Aguilar came all the way from Wyoming with their son to catch these beauties!

In the past, we have experienced many great years of pan fishing. this year has provided some of the best summertime catches of shellcracker I can ever remember. Of course, the big bluegill are caught in the same areas as the shellcracker, but anyone that has eaten freshly caught and fried shellcracker filets know exactly what I am alluding to. The tremendous run of shellcracker started on the full moon in April and has continued each moon phase up through August. How long it will continue remains to be seen. With the water level in the 12 to 13-foot range, the panfish stay mostly to the outside edges of the vegetation, some even fanning spawning beds into the lake, where the water is still only 2 to 3 feet. The primary baits have been grass shrimp, red worms, and crickets. Many anglers target and catch large numbers of bluegill on a fly rod and popping bugs when they are in such shallow water.

Bass fishing tournament anglers have found that it takes 5 bass that weigh 25 to 30 pounds to win a tournament on the lake. The numbers of quality-sized bass in the 5 to 10-pound range caught this summer has been staggering, and these bass are growing each season getting bigger and fatter.

During the summer months, we try to get onto the water before sunup, to take advantage of schooling action that takes place along the outside grass lines. Bass can be seen and heard blasting baitfish, such as shad and shiners, in the cover and sometimes well out into the lake. When they are schooling on bait, a spinner tossed well back into the grass and worked toward the outside edge can present heart-stopping action. Some mornings we catch 8 to 12 bass, and the action ends quickly, other days we may catch 35 to 40 in the first couple of hours. The catching can end in a second and the rhyme or reason eludes me but the sun rising higher into the sky is certainly one reason. Once they quit eating the spinnerbait, we switch to soft plastics, flukes, speed worms, and Senkos being a key part of our arsenal. Those anglers who want to target only large bass very often will opt to flip and pitch matted vegetation or thick clumps of bulrush with creature-style baits. There are many styles, configurations, and colors of creature-style baits, some use a jig with a trailer others use a punch skirt and creature baits.

There really aren’t any secrets. The best anglers in the world are those who spend their time on the water consistently, dissecting depth and cover changes like a surgeon, taking advantage of every possible angle to get the most out of each area that may hold bass. Many amateurs, however, will stay in an area that is not producing for them, especially if they have caught bass there before; know when to move and be decisive about your game plan, are all keys to success.

Captain’s tip: As a rule, always use the lightest weight possible when fishing with plastics. It won’t inhibit the action built into the bait. As the water temperature has increased over the last month, we have found ourselves using heavier weights to get the bait right on the bottom in the face of the fish. We are also finding better success by using a slower presentation. Inch the bait along to keep it in the strike zone for as long as possible.

The water level has risen just enough that the outside grass lines are fishable. It requires shutting down the boat well offshore of the spot and idling into fish, but it is well worth the effort.

Capt. Nate Shellen

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