An early Christmas

I’m in Florida fishing Lake Okeechobee and I have to say I’m having the time of my life. The good reports you’ve been hearing are absolutely true. The water’s up. That pushes the fish back into the peppergrass. That makes them vulnerable to my favorite kind of bass fishing — topwater.

It’s true that there are ways to catch bass that are more productive and more efficient than throwing a plug on the surface. But I’m here to tell you that there’s no better (read: more fun) way to catch them. There just isn’t. Nothing in all of bass fishing compares to an explosive topwater strike. The act of actually seeing a bass bite your lure is something no angler forgets.

Take Monday, as an example. I was tossing a Heddon Torpedo prop bait around the grass when I saw something out of the corner of my eye surge out from behind a dock. It moved about 20 feet with part of its head out of the water. I thought it was a mudfish or maybe a baby alligator. I couldn’t imagine a bass doing something like that.

How wrong I was! I let my lure sit still for a few seconds and then twitched it ever so slightly. The water absolutely exploded. The water didn’t swirl down like it sometimes does. Instead, it pushed up like a gusher. Droplets landed 10 feet away. It was incredible, absolutely incredible. I’ve caught a lot of bass over the years but I’ve never experienced a more exciting strike.

The topwater bite continued for most of the afternoon. At one point I caught over 20 pounds — five fish — in less than an hour on the same Torpedo. It was fish after fish, nonstop. For an Ohio guy, that’s about as good as it gets. With the exception of up on Lake Erie how many times do we get the opportunity to cull 3- and 4-pound bass?

Action like that is why I’m such a big fan of Florida bass fishing. I know a lot of guys aren’t. They complain that most of the lakes are saucers and that the cold weather and wind really turn Florida largemouth off. There’s some truth to that, I’ll admit it.

On the other hand, when it’s on down here, it’s pretty much out of this world. And the great thing about it is that most of the fish can be caught shallow. That means they’re within the reach of ordinary, recreational anglers.

The whole thing has been a kind of early Christmas present. Later this week I’ll be heading south to Islamorada to fish my first sailfish tournament. I’m told that fishing’s hot, too. The guy I’m going with caught 19 recently, all in one day. That’s a hot bite by any standard. I’m hoping we can do the same thing.

Pack your shorts along with a couple of tubes of good sunblock and fish Florida this winter! 

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