2011 Elite Series - Sunshine Showdown Harris Chain of Lakes - Tavares, FL, Mar 10 - 13, 2011

Elite Series Sunshine Showdown: Figuring the funky Florida bass

Grant Goldbeck
Grant Goldbeck

TAVARES, Fla. -- The first Elite Series event of 2011 is proving that there's nothing like fishing in Florida. More specifically, there's nothing that can be more frustrating. Boom and bust, feast and famine, whatever you want to call it, it abounds in Florida's natural lakes.

Despite the predictions of several pros, the sight fishing bite dominated Day Two. Those who stayed away from bedding bass thought that last night's cold front would knock the spawners back into deeper water, but sunshine proved to be an overriding factor for bedding bass. So goes fishing in the Florida; the fish are largely unpredictable.

Matt Herren fell victim to the balance shifting back to the sight fishermen. He had found fish in practice that were holding offshore, went all-in on those fish today and lost.

"I made a huge mistake today. I thought that the sight fish would be gone and they'd move out deep," he said. "That's what you get for trying to be smart. I guess I need to dumb up a bit."

Grant Goldbeck is a prime example of the off/on nature of this sight fishing game. During Day One he only managed one bass that weighed 1-1, and today he caught 27-1. He stayed in the same area and waited his fish out.

"The difference was being able to see them," Goldbeck said. "There would be a buck on a bed, and I wouldn't mess with it, but then I'd come back an hour later and there she'd be, the big female. That's how it goes here."

Dean Rojas reasons that the bass here are spoiled and therefore more finicky than most bass.

"They have nine or ten months of warm weather, so when it gets cold like this, they'll just take the day off," he said. "Plus, this is a completely different strain of fish than even further north in the state. They're wily, picky and more sensitive to the changes in the weather."

James Niggemeyer has a slightly more scientific -- but similar -- reason for Florida's unique brand of bass fishing. He says that the shallow, natural lakes such as the Harris Chain keep the bass more in tune with their surroundings.

"All of the influences that exist in the weather are ratcheted up a notch in Florida," he explains. "The fish are more focused on the conditions."

So if the fish act according to the weather (which can change hourly in Florida), how does one keep up with them?

"It's easy, but it's hard," explains Shaw Grigsby. "In reservoirs, they may move out of an area completely when the weather shifts. But it has to be a dramatic shift for them to move. In Florida, it doesn't take much. Plus, the bass may not move anywhere. They may just not bite.

"The best thing to do in this kind of situation is to keep doing what you're doing, but vary the speed of your approach. Maybe speed up or slow down."

Grant Goldbeck stuck to his guns today and caught 27 more pounds today than he did yesterday. He simply waited until the bass in his area showed themselves and then capitalized.

Florida fishing isn't for everyone -- Mike McClelland doesn't' care for it though he won an Elite Series event on Lake Toho in 2009 -- but much of the time persistence and a heaping dose of patience pay off.

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