Florida is considered one of the top destinations for bass fishing in the United States.
Florida is the go-to state for bass fishermen, especially when big fish are the goal. Its lakes and rivers are full of plant life, and the water stays warm throughout the year, allowing bass to continually put on weight. They also are the dominant game species in many of Florida’s waters, so anglers don’t have to search for a good bass hole. These attributes have made the waters of Florida the prime destinations for tournament and casual anglers alike.
Many lakes in Florida have bass in them, but some are particularly productive and well known. They are the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes (lakes Kissimmee, Toho, Cypress and Hatchineha), Lake George, Lake Istokpoga and Lake Okeechobee. The Kissimmee chain, located in central Florida, features vast beds of emergent and submerged vegetation that hold bass throughout the year. Bass roam the edges in the early morning and under low-light conditions, and move into the shade created by the vegetation when the sun shines. A good way to hook bass is to flip and pitch plastic worms and jigs into holes in the vegetation. Lake George, located in northern Florida, is the second largest lake in the state. The lake has a drop off that begins in six to eight feet of water, and anglers are wise to begin there. Cast along the drop off with lures like spinnerbaits and crankbaits, then slow down and fish a jig or plastic worm once fish are located. Lake Istokpoga is located in southern Florida. Islands dot the lake, and the grass that grows in the water around the islands is one of the best places to find bass. Fish the edges of the grass with topwater baits when the light is low, or pitch a plastic worm or jig into the vegetation when the sun is shining. Lake Okeechobee in central Florida is the most well-known bass lake in the state. Fish the huge expanses of vegetation, keying on the edges, holes, and places where two types of vegetation meet. Though many anglers focus exclusively on the vegetation, the lake features deep-water channels that also hold bass. Anglers who find and catch bass in deep water often find most success with a crankbait.
Florida heats up during the day, particularly during the summer. When the air gets warm, so, too, does the water. That is why bass in Florida lakes tend to feed most aggressively early in the day when the water is at its coolest point. Bass will feed along vegetation edges or in areas of moving water, and anglers should work topwater baits like poppers and buzzbaits if there is no wind. If the wind ripples the surface of the water, select lures like spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits. In general, the best bite occurs before 10 a.m, but the fishing has the ability to linger on throughout the day.
The boat docks that line Florida’s lakes provide year-round cover and shade, as well as ambush points for bass. The best docks are near deep water, and bass can be found on docks throughout the year. These docks are complex structures built over a sloping bottom. Anglers should work jigs and plastic worms around dock pilings, or tie on a tube jig and skip the lure as far underneath the dock as possible. The tube falls slowly through the water and attracts bites from bass that are not aggressively feeding.
Live Shiner Methods
One of the most well known and most productive methods for catching a monster bass in Florida is to use heavy tackle and a live shiner. The rod and reel should be heavy action and capable of handling big fish, and the fishing line should be at least 20-pound test. In areas of sparse vegetation, the shiner can be fished below a bobber. Where the vegetation is heavy enough that it makes fishing with a bobber difficult, the shiner can be hooked and allowed to swim freely. Some anglers prefer this method in all cases. The best areas to fish live shiners are shallow and full of vegetation.
Hydrilla is perhaps the most common type of vegetation in lakes in Florida, but many anglers avoid it because it grows so thick and can foul lures and become wrapped around trolling and boat motors. But it provides an abundance of shade, protection, and ambush opportunities for bass, so they use it. Anglers should first fish the edge of hydrilla beds with quick-moving lures like spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits, and topwater baits. If the edges fail to produce, tie on a jig or plastic worm and target the holes and openings in the hydrilla. Be prepared for a quick strike from a big bass.
Anglers are allowed to keep five bass per day from Florida waters, and only one of those fish can be 22 inches or longer. There are certain regional regulations like on Okeechobee, too. In south Florida, anglers may keep only one bass 14 inches or longer. In waters south and east of the Suwannee River, any bass less than 14 inches long must be released immediately. Finally, in waters north and west of the Suwannee River, in any creek, tributary, or stream of the Suwannee River, and the Suwannee River itself, any bass less than 12 inches long must be released immediately. See the regulations for a map, and for any lakes with special regulations.