by Capt. Nathan M. Shellen, Contributing Writer
The water level in Lake Okeechobee is very high, 13- to 14-inches higher than at this time last year. The high-water seems to have affected the timing of the late fall bass bite that normally occurs in mid- to late-October and continues throughout the fall and winter seasons. The large trophy size bass did not show up in daily catches of local guides and other anglers until late November. As we approached December’s full moon, the large bass made their presence known, when anglers caught bass to 9.8-pounds along with numerous other fish in the 7- to 8-pound class. Catch rates rose dramatically as the full moon approached, with 40 to 60 bass per day being caught in addition to the trophy size bass. Shiners are the bait of choice for bass that have just moved into the shallow grass lines as they feed heavily on shad and shiners during this pre-spawn period. Several of the bass caught the first of December were very fat and their bellies were swollen with roe, whether they went ahead and completed spawning is anyone’s guess. In addition to largemouth, there were many one- to four-pound sunshine bass caught on shiners. These fish are great table fare though somewhat difficult to hook due to the size of their mouth, which is very small in relation to a largemouth. The large wild shiners we use to catch largemouth are difficult for them to inhale quickly. Patience is key if you suspect that sunshine is attempting to eat your bait. They have a tricky way of grabbing the bait and then swimming toward the open water as they attempt to turn and swallow the shiner.
The tackle used for shiner fishing is somewhat basic, although the advent of high quality spinning reels, rods and braided line have been a game changer for some. Most anglers are using 40- to 65-pound braided Power Pro loaded onto a spinning reel that looks more like a piece of fine jewelry than a fishing reel. Preferring a medium to large series reel that will hold 150- to 200-yards of premium braided line insures that bass do not break off in the weeds when they dive after the initial hook set. The fishing has been great and will continue to be very good as we move into the winter months. Now is the time to start planning those Okeechobee bass fishing trips for winter months when it is the coldest up north. The crappie “speck” bite should start picking up in January and we are looking forward to another awesome season. Don’t forget to take your kids/grandkids fishing and please take the time to thank a veteran by taking them fishing for a little stress relief. Until the next report good luck, tight lines, and Bucket Lips. I hope to see everyone on the water!
FORECAST BY: Capt. Nathan M. Shellen
Telephone: (772) 501-6886