Hunting hurricane hawgs

As I write this, Hurricane Matthew is grinding his way north up the Atlantic coastline. And I’m sure many of you living on or near the coast know firsthand how devastating storms like this can be.

They are not to be taken lightly.

Having been born and raised in Florida, I’ve seen my share. And interestingly, I’ve experienced some incredible fishing during several.

So long as the conditions aren’t life-threatening, I try to go.

A Lot on the Line

I recall one such storm that occurred during a tournament, very early in my career. It was the final event of the season for the Florida Draw Trail, and I was leading in the points. A lot was on the line, too.

The Angler of the Year (AOY) would win a brand new, fully rigged boat.

During the practice rounds, a hurricane was flanking Florida’s Gulf coast. Back then, storm tracking was in its infancy, so we had no idea when or where the storm might make landfall.

The tournament was on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, and most of the field was staying at the same hotel. With winds in excess of 30 mph and small craft warnings in effect, no one wanted to go out. I felt I had no choice.

Reluctantly, I launched my Ranger on the north shore of Lake Toho. I remember how choppy it was. Just securing the boat so that I could park my truck was a challenge.

Eventually I made it out and worked my way toward Goblet’s Cove — an area I knew would provide some protection from the wind and waves. The skies were ominous, and the rain was coming in sheets. Even on a lee shore, frequent gusts made boat control a struggle.

Starting in a field of scattered pads and maidencane, I decided to go with a noisy buzzbait and fish with the wind. In a matter of minutes, I scored my first fish — a giant weighing well over 8 pounds! Shortly after, another one weighing 6 pounds engulfed my buzzbait. I couldn’t believe it.

By the time I was forced off the water, I had put together a massive stringer of trophy bass — one of which exceeded 9 pounds.

As it turned out, the tournament was cancelled. The storm drew so near Tampa, the tournament director decided we should all go home and be with our families. That decision also gave me the AOY title.

I remember having mixed feelings about it. Although I was glad to have the victory, I felt somewhat empty not having the opportunity to play out that final event. I thought I could win the tournament and the AOY title outright.

Hurricane Havoc

This wasn’t the only time I experienced stellar fishing during a tropical cyclone. There were others. And each time it seemed that a noisy clacker-type buzzbait was the lure of choice.

I’m sure it had something to do with the blustery, low sky conditions, but more important perhaps was the barometric pressure dropping so low … low enough you could feel it in your ears.

However it triggers them, big bass become active during severe low-pressure storms. What’s even more interesting is that I’ve never caught numbers of small fish during those times — just big ones. And I’ve experienced it enough to know that it’s no coincidence.

Big bass react to extreme low-pressure situations, and they seem to be looking up when they feed. When they strike, it’s for keeps.

I’m not suggesting you rush out and try your luck in the next major storm. But if there’s a way that you’re not putting yourself or others at risk and you have a body of water offering some relief from the wind, you might want to try. I guarantee the bigger bass will be active.

Oh and by the way, that clacker-style buzzbait was eventually introduced as the “HeadBanger” by Hildebrandt.