Winter Bass Fishing in Florida
Recent blog entries have focused much attention about catching bass in cold water. Deservedly so. Anglers deserve credit for finding and sharing ways of catching fish in cold temperatures. However, not all of the country is cold. So let’s dig in to how the warmer climates catch bass during the winter months. We begin with the Sunshine State: winter bass fishing in Florida.
Bass grow big in Florida. Because of the warmth, cold-blooded creatures can grow almost year round. According to bass guide Destin DeMarion, big equals big. “The big bass in Florida are lazy; they want meals that will fill them up and they’re not often willing to chase, so big baits do catch big bass.”
Winter Bass Fishing in Florida
Forget snow and forget ice – you won’t see them in Florida. DeMarion concurs, “Water temperatures in the 50’s is considered really cold! Normally during December and January, you find it in the 60’s.”
In fact, it is not uncommon to find bass spawning as the New Year rolls in. “Weather really dictates the patterns of fish,” DeMarion reveals. “60-degree water is the pre-spawn time. When water temp hits the 70’s, the spawn will get heavy, but that is dependent on the weather. If it is a gradual climb in temperature, the spawn comes slowly. But if it reaches the 70’s with an obvious warming trend, then the spawn kicks in real fast; especially if a full moon coincides.”
He insists that Florida is all over the board. According to DeMarion, during winter, some fish could be spawning, while most are in the pre-spawn phase. A few are already in the post-spawn. However, it all depends on the weather. If the weather warms the lakes, a big population might be spawning early, and then the post-spawn comes early. Weather can also have a vice versa effect. Generally speaking, though, January is a pre-spawn month.
DeMarion gives a direct reminder. “Keep this in mind. Cold weather slows down the bite, while warm weather makes the fish active.”
Winter Bass Fishing in Florida Lakes
Florida has a bunch of natural lakes, and they differ from most of the country. DeMarion explains some of the things you can expect to find specifically in Florida lakes. Most of the Florida lakes are shallow; so shallow that 10 feet is considered deep. Florida lakes are often loaded with weeds, and have a bunch of sand.
Bottom composition is key to finding productive fishing areas. Finding a hard bottom is tricky to find because they are constantly being silted over. However, accoring to DeMarion, that is also what makes them so special.
While 10 feet is considered deep on most Florida waters, five feet is midrange. That midrange is where DeMarion looks for key structure. He seeks out offshore grass flats at this depth, “Hydrilla is a common weed, but reeds, lily pads, pencil reeds, and cattails also hold fish.”
Anywhere there is an edge of either weeds and/or shell beds will attract fish. The edge can be a depth change, or just the edge of a weedbed.
Depth changes can also be great places, “Anywhere the bottom has been dredged can be a hot spot. The deeper water stabilizes, which is a big deal because so much of shallow water fluctuates. Fish can stack up here and hold all winter.”
He asserts that anglers should always check the mouths of canals, too. Bass spawn in the canals and will often gather in front of them before moving in.
Winter Bass Fishing in Florida Tips
For every trip on the water, DeMarion rigs up a host of baits. “Slowly dragging a worm, such as a ribbontail or speed worm, are consistent producers. But moving baits can cover more water and get reaction bites.”
Jerkbaits, bladed jigs, lipless crankbaits, and prop baits produce consistently as well. “Punching baits is one of my favorite ways to catch big bass, especially when they seem to be holding tight to the weeds,” he enthusiastically admits. “I use a 1 ½ ounce Reins tungsten weight, which has a smaller profile than lead. But it also breaks through and gets to the fish.”
One of the most consistent ways to catch bass in Florida is with live shiners under a bobber. “It is not my favorite way to fish, but it is super effective.” DeMarion recommends not placing any weight under the bobber to allow the shiner to move freely. Place it as close to the aforementioned cover as possible.
The sandy lakes in Florida can wear fiberglass and aluminum thin, so a keel protector is a must. When selecting one for the Sunshine State, research which one stands up the best against ultra violet rays. You’ll find the Megaware KeelGuard keeps its color and strength better than the competition. And of course you can find Megaware’s entire catalog of boat protection products online or at major retailers nation wide.