Let’s talk Florida bass

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about Florida bass fishing. Some anglers are saying the bite isn’t as good as it once was while others lament that they wish it was like it was 40 years ago. (A guy actually said that to me the other day.)

Let me tell you something. I’ve been down here all winter. The fishing is great. I can’t say I fished here 40 years ago but I can say I fished here 30 years ago. I’ll take right now. The fishing is as good, or better, than it’s ever been. Don’t let anyone mislead you about the “good old days.”

I’ve caught fish every single day I was out, and a lot of them were big. I’m talking bass over 5 or 6 pounds. Now, maybe some guys don’t think that’s all that good. But Charlie Hartley is not one of them. I’ll take fish of that size anytime.

There’s no doubt that the fishing in California, Texas and Alabama is topnotch. Each of those states produces more than their share of quality bass. So does Florida.

While you’re thinking about all of this, keep a few things in mind. First, all the lakes in Florida are natural bodies of water. They aren’t reservoirs. They’re subject to the whims of Mother Nature much more than reservoirs. And they’re all shallow, grass-filled bodies of water.

The shallow thing is especially noteworthy. It’s often said that Florida bass are finicky, that they go off the bite with the smallest change in the weather. There’s some truth in that. Don’t forget, however, that they’re living in waist-deep water. It only makes sense that they would be sensitive to the elements.

Another thing is the effect of the weeds. Most of the lakes down here are choked with them. That offers the bass thousands (maybe millions) of acres of places to live, hide and ambush their prey. That’s a lot of water for an angler to cover, and it’s something most of the anglers from the rest of the country have no experience at. That includes me, by the way.

When I look at all of this, I realize how lucky I am not to be a Florida fisheries biologist. They have a tough job, one that I don’t think a lot of us think about enough. They’re at the mercy of everything, not just some things.

So, for what it’s worth, here’s how I see things. If you want to fish in the winter — and who wouldn’t considering the weather in most of the country over the past month or so — come to Florida. The weather’s mostly good and the fishing is extraordinary.

There’s something else we should think about. When another state wants to grow giant bass, where do they get their seed stock? Florida. They cross their bass with the Florida strain and, for the most part, it works out, especially for the first generation coming out.

Florida bass fishing is great! God willing, I’ll come back again next winter.

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