Florida fishing is way different than anywhere else in the country. I haven’t fished in Florida much, but last year’s Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open on Kissimmee Chain taught me a bunch. Florida bass behave differently for some reason. The weather, water depth, and habitat all play big roles in how the fish behave down there.
I am here in the Sunshine State for the Bassmaster Southern Open, and I brought some valuable lessons that I learned last year with me. Location and boat control and positioning are the two most important lessons.
I am a run and gun fisherman: I love to have a pattern going and just run all over the lake catching fish off certain stuff. Examples of the patterns that I’m talking about are: flipping the first few bushes of every pocket or swimming a jig on docks that are positioned close to points. Florida is not the place you can run all over the lake and catch fish! Believe me – I wasted a bunch of time in practice doing that last year.
I learned that specific areas hold fish, while other areas that look just the same don’t. It’s weird, I know, but that is just how it is down there. My primary areas last year were areas where I only had a few bites in practice. If I caught a fish or two in practice on a spot, I marked them on my GPS and came back to them in tournament time and slowed way down and caught many more.
I learned the hard way last year. On Day Two of the tournament, I spooked a bunch of big females off of their beds that could have pushed my 30-pound bag over 40 pounds. And on Day Three, I couldn’t even stay in and fish my area because of the 30-mph winds. Power Poles and push poles are two things that you have to have when down in Florida.
Last year on Day Two, I had two small areas loaded with giants. I caught a 10, 8.5, and 7.5, but sadly spooked off several more in the 10-pound class with my trolling motor. I was fishing in shallow eel grass, and my trolling motor was making a lot of noise as it cut through the grass; at that time, I didn’t even own a push pole. I know I could have caught a few of those big ones that I spooked if I would have had a push pole. A push pole allows you to move through shallow water without making a noise, which is critical when fishing for those big girls because they are smart and sensitive to sound.
Day Three was a nightmare, because the wind blew at 30 mph and I literally could not even keep my boat in the areas that I had been fishing. I put my trolling motor on high speed and threw an anchor out, and neither worked. I just got blown around like a leaf. There is nowhere to get out of the wind in Florida because it is so flat everywhere. From that experience, I learned that a shallow water anchoring system is the only way to be able to fish effectively down there. Two Power Poles (one on each side of outboard motor) will stabilize a boat in the roughest winds and waves. If I would have had them last year, I could have had a much higher finish.
Florida is an awesome place to fish, if you know what you are doing. I love it because giants live down there. I will be down for 2 1/2 weeks, as I’m fishing the Bassmaster Open on the Harris Chain, and then pre-practicing for the St. Johns and Okeechobee Elites. The 2012 tournament season is officially under way, and many giants await me!
Remember to chase your dreams!