Largemouth Bass Fishing in Florida
The topic of this article will be largemouth bass fishing in Florida. Florida has earned the nickname “the sport fishing capital of the world” for good reason. Anglers have a wide variety of options in both freshwater and saltwater. However, it would not be difficult to make the argument that the largemouth bass is the most sought-after fish species in the state.
Florida is the perfect environment for largemouth bass. The state is quite flat, which means that the majority of lakes are shallow with little relief on the bottom. Vegetation is usually abundant. These shallow, weedy lakes are very fertile. Forage species such as panfish, shiners, minnows, and shad feed and hide in this weed growth. This in turn attracts predator fish such as largemouth bass.
Special thanks to Stephanie for the pictures and technical assistance. Stephanie Hucheson is a successful tournament angler, basing out of Debary, Florida. She is sponsored by Gillz gear, Lowrance, Cal Coast fishing, Coolbaits and Woo Tungsten.
Florida largemouth bass habits and migrations
Largemouth bass spawn in Florida in the winter. In the southern part of the state, it starts in late December. In the Florida Panhandle and northern portion of the state, the spawning process starts a bit later, usually in late February. Normally, lakes are fairly low as this is the dry season. The result is that many anglers sight fish for trophy largemouth bass on the beds this time of year.
After the spawn, bass move off of the beds scatter about to feed. This can be an excellent time to catch them as it is not too warm yet and the bass have not eaten much in the last month or so. As it warms up, largemouth bass move into their summer patterns. Where available, bass will seek out deeper water in lakes that offer that. In shallow water, largemouth bass be found tight to cover such as boat docks and under the thickest mats of vegetation.
As fall arrives and the water temperature cools off, largemouth bass will disburse and feed fairly heavily. Once again, this is an excellent time to pursue them. Shad in particular become a top forage, especially in the back ends of coves and creeks. As the end of the year approaches, fish will begin their pre-spawn and spawning habits and up cycle starts all over again.
Florida bass fishing tackle
Anglers fishing for largemouth bass in Florida can be confused by the tackle options. Many serious and tournament bass anglers actually have a rod and reel for each specific technique; spinner bait fishing, worm fishing, plug fishing, etc. However, a couple of different outfits will really cover just about every bass fishing situation and angler will encounter.
Spinning rods used to be a rarity among anglers bass fishing in Florida, and all over the country. However, that has changed of late. One look at a bass fishing tournament on television will relay how popular spinning tackle is these days. This is mainly due to the advent of finesse fishing, in which spinning tackle is a better choice.
There are many options when it comes to choosing a good spinning rod and reel combination for bass fishing. While there is no one perfect outfit, a 7 foot medium action rod paired with a 3000 series reel and spooled up with 20 pound braided line is an excellent all round combination. This rod will allow anglers to cast fairly light lures and still have the muscle to handle a decent largemouth bass when hooked around cover.
Conventional, or bait casting, tackle still certainly has its place when fishing for largemouth bass. It is still the best choice for casting heavier plugs as well is for pitching and flipping soft plastic baits in and around heavy cover. A medium heavy bait asting rod that a 7 1/2 feet long with a matching reel and 40 pound to 50 pound braided line is a good all-around combination.
Florida largemouth bass fishing techniques
There are many different techniques that anglers fishing in Florida for largemouth bass can use successfully. There the same basic tactics used by bass anglers throughout the country. These include fishing with plugs, soft plastic baits, weedless spoons, jigs, spinner baits, chatterbaits, and frogs.
Plugs are very effective largemouth bass fishing lures. For the most part, they are designed to mimic a wounded bait fish. Some are long and slender, these are known as jerk baits. Others have a more round design and are most often called crank baits. For the most part, plugs that float on the surface and dive down a couple feet work best in the shallow Florida waters.
They are most effective in open water as they will hang up quickly on weeds and other vegetation. However, anglers can certainly use deep diving crank baits around the channel edges and submerged points in deeper lakes. Lipless crankbaits are very effective in areas where vegetation is not too dense.
Topwater plugs are quite effective and are very exciting to fish. As the name implies, top water plugs spend their entire time on the surface. Some have built-in fish attracting attributes like a concave face or a propeller, which creates a commotion on the surface of the water. Others are more subtle and a different action is used. They are mostly fish around submerged structure and weed line edges, particularly early, late, and on overcast days.
Soft plastic baits literally revolutionized bass fishing in the late 60s. The early models were quite stiff and not very enticing. That has certainly changed! Anglers can purchase soft plastic worms, creature baits, swim baits, crayfish, and more. While there are many different types of baits, they are fished relatively similar, especially in Florida.
Rigging soft plastic baits
Probably the most used combination is a plastic worm rigged Texas style. With this rig a conical sinker slides onto the line followed by a special worm hook. The worm is in threaded on to the hook spun around and the hook buried in the worm. This results in a very natural presentation which is virtually weedless. This allows a plastic worm to be fished and just about the thickest cover imaginable. Just about any soft plastic bait that is long enough can be rigged in this fashion. Anglers can also omit the weight and swim the worm through and around vegetation.
Another rig that is quite popular, though it looks a bit silly, is the wacky rig. With this rig the hook is simply inserted through the center of the worm. It is cast out and as it falls through the water column, it undulates very seductively. Most strikes occur as the worm falls in the bass picks it up and runs off with. This technique is easy for novice anglers to use as strikes are easy to detect.
The Carolina rig is not used quite as often by anglers bass fishing in Florida, as it is most effective in deeper water. It consists of a sliding egg sinker followed by a swivel. The swivel stops the sinker and allows for a leader to be tied on. A leader between 18 inches and 4 feet long is then attached to the swivel followed by a hook at the other end. A floating worm is Texas rigged to complete the rig. This is extremely effective when crawled over deeper submerge structure such as channel edges and deep points.
A drop shot is another very effective rig when fishing plastic worms and other soft plastic baits. It consists of a sinker at the bottom with a small light wire hook tide 18 inches or so above. When bounced on the bottom, this rig suspends the offering just above the bottom where suspended bass often feed. This works well in the shallow Florida waters as well as around deeper structure. This technique is often used with small finesse baits and works well when bass are finicky.
Finally, there are swim baits. These are soft plastic baits that generally look like bait fish. They have a bulky body and some type of tail, usually a paddle tail, that gives it great action. Anglers fish some quite large baits in search of trophy fish, however the 4 inch to 6 inch models usually work best. They can be fished on a swim bait hook or on a jig head.
More largemouth bass fishing lures
Weedless spoons are not as popular for bass anglers as they used to be, but this is perhaps a mistake. A weedless spoon is an excellent lure to use in patches of lily pads and dollar pads. It puts out both flash and vibration, is easy to cast, and the hookup ratio is good. Many anglers add some type of soft plastic trailer to add bulk and action.
Jigs are extremely effective largemouth bass fishing lures, particularly in the cooler months. They tend to catch larger fish, for whatever reason. While similar to jigs used in other freshwater and saltwater applications, there are some differences. Bass fishing jigs are usually bulky and have undulating rubber legs.
Most bass jigs also have a stout weed guard as they are fished around heavy structure. Many anglers add a soft plastic trailer to the jig to increase the action and the bulk. These are extremely effective lures when pitched around and through heavy vegetation. “Punching” a heavy jig through a matter vegetation and allowing it to fall produces some very large fish!
Spinnerbaits are also very effective bass fishing lures. They are an excellent choice for novice anglers as they have a lot of built in action, cast well, are relatively weedless, and the bite is easy to detect. A spinnerbait is basically a combination of a spinner and a jig in one unit. They work very well around weed edges and submerged and fallen trees. They will hang up in very heavy vegetation. A variation of a spinner bait is called a buzz bait and runs completely on the surface.
Frog fishing has become extremely popular in the last few years. It is a very exciting way to fish and works quite well in the shallow, weedy Florida lakes. The lure is plastic and weedless and is simply cast over top of matted weeds or other vegetation and worked along the surface. Fish will explode up out of the vegetation to take one. Fairly heavy tackle is usually required to get the fish out of the vegetation.
Chatterbaits are fairly recent to the bass fishing scene. They are also called bladed jigs. It is basically a jig with a blade at the front that adds vibration and flash. It is a shallow water bait that works very well in vegetation. It is a good search bait that allows anglers to cover a lot of water in a relatively short amount of time.
Using live bait for largemouth bass in Florida
The discussion of live bait fishing for largemouth bass in Florida begins and ends with shiners. Other live bait can be used, but shiners are by far the most popular and effective. Wild golden shiners in particular are extremely productive, especially on larger fish. Guides who specialize in trophy bass almost all use shiners exclusively. They are expensive and can be difficult to obtain. Shiners are fished under floats using heavy casting tackle, usually around vegetation.
Top 10 Florida largemouth bass fishing spots
- Lake Istokpoga
- Lake Okeechobee
- stick marsh Farm 13
- Rodman reservoir
- Lake Tohopekaliga
- Harris chain
- Lake Kissimmee
- Lake Talquin
- Tenerok and Mosaic management areas
- Lake George and the St Johns River
Lake Istokpoga is located in Sebring, Florida. It is highly regarded as both a trophy Lake and four numbers. This nearly 27,000 acre Lake is the fifth largest in the state of Florida. It is fed by Josephine Creek and Arbuckle Creek. It is a typical shallow bass lake with a variety of aquatic vegetation. Access is good with plenty of lodging in the Sebring area.
Lake Okeechobee had some down years but is now back again as water levels have stabilized. This huge body of water is the largest lake in the state of Florida and one of the largest in the United States. It is quite shallow with acres and acres of submerged and visible grass and other vegetation. The best spot for both access and accommodations is at Roland Martin’s resort in Clewiston at the south end of the lake.
The St. Johns Water Management Area, is better known to most anglers as the Farm 13 Stick Marsh. It covers 6,500 acres and is located in northwest Indian River County. It is shallow, with water depths averaging from 4 to 8 feet deep This can be a very dangerous place to navigate due to underwater obstructions. Anglers need to put safety first! It is catch and release and the fishing is terrific! Cover and vegetation are abundant. There is a concrete two lane boat ramp, air boat launch site, restroom and paved parking lot. Vero Beach is the closest town. Anglers need to purchase gas and supplies there, nothing is available at the lake.
Rodman Reservoir is located south of Palatka, Florida. Ir is a 9,500-acre lake that was formed in 1968 by a dam across the Ocklawaha River. It is nearly 20 miles long with many square miles of flooded timber in varying depths along with abundant vegetation. It does have some deeper areas due to the flooded river channel. It is fairly remote with several ramps at the north end and another at the south end of the lake.
Lake Tohopekaliga, or Lake Toho for short. Is the gem of the Kissimmee chain of Lakes. Recent draw downs and environmental enhancements have resulted in this like making a huge comeback. During the spawn, it takes a huge stringer of bass to win a competitive tournament. The lake offers both numbers and trophies. It is not quite as accessible as some lakes, and this may be one of the reasons that it is so productive. Launching and accommodations are found in the town of Kissimmee, at the north end of the lake.
The Harris Chain of Lakes are located 40 minutes northwest of Orlando. The interconnected lakes of the Harris Chain cover approximately 50,000 acres of water and together make up the second largest lake in the State of Florida. These lakes are extremely fertile and anglers will find a variety of conditions in each lake. The lakes are shallow with the familiar tannin stained waters. Leesburg and Tavares are the spots to launch and stay.
Lake Kissimmee is the southernmost of the lakes in the Kissimmee chain. Despite being only 40 miles south of Orlando, it is fairly remote with limited access. The best spots to launch are at the State Park as well as at the south end of the lake where there are several ramps. This is a very fertile lake with abundant varieties of aquatic vegetation.
Lake Talquin is located 20 miles west of Tallahassee. It has 8,800 acres and is probably beest known for crappie fishing. Lake Talquin is fairly deep for a Florida lake, averaging 15 feet and with a maximum depth of 40 feet. There are 7 public boat ramps on the Leon County side of the lake of of highway 20. There are 3 public boat ramps on the Gladson County side. Six fish camps surround the lake.
Tenerok and Mosaic Management areas
The Tenotok and Mosaic management areas are reclaimed strip pits. They are located close together in Polk County, Lakeland, Florida. After mining operations ceased, it was required that the lakes were reclaimed and returned back to as natural a state as possible. The difference is that many of the lakes in this system are deeper than the average Florida lakes due to the mining operations. The days that anglers can fish and the number of anglers are limited and many of them are idle speed only.
Lake George and the St. Johns River
This 310 mile long river and lake system flows from Jacksonville through almost the entire state. It includes several lakes, including Lake George, which is the second largest lake in Florida at 46,000 acres. It is a very diverse system, with quite deep water in spots, by Florida standards. Lily pads are plentiful, along with other vegetation, flooded timber, drop offs, and river channels. Access is very good all along it’s length.
In conclusion, this article on largemouth bass fishing in Florida will help anglers catch more fish, hopefully a trophy bass!