Florida bassin’ helps warm up winter

It seems like half of the bass fishing world goes to Florida this time of year.

And why not? Most of the country is languishing in cold or unpredictable weather while Floridians complain if the temperature dips below 65 degrees.

More importantly, it’s a good place to catch a giant bass.

Of course, it’s tournament season in Florida and that attracts a lot of boats. There are a few big tournaments going on here in the winter.

But you don’t have to be a tournament angler to enjoy Florida fishing. It’s the bigger lakes that draw the larger events, but Florida is blessed with literally hundreds of lakes that have big bass.

I like south Florida and have gone to Okeechobee – the Big O – darn near every year since 1982. The lake has changed a lot in the past 10 years. If you haven’t been there in a while, you would be amazed at the difference. Nearly all of the submerged vegetation is gone. There’s hardly any eel grass, pepper grass or hydrilla.

I’m told it’s because they are spraying the grass every day. Due to dike repairs on the south end of the lake, the water level is held at 16 feet above sea level, which is higher than normal.

Despite that, fishing can still be good there, and it still takes big sacks to win. The problem is that the fish are congregated in about four or five areas around the lake.

There are smaller lakes north of there that produce good fishing. Stick Marsh is one, but Garcia, Kenansville and Headwaters lakes can be good too. Of course, there are many more – too many to mention – that don’t get much fishing pressure. However, I will warn you that to get to several of the ramps on these little lakes you must travel several miles down dirt roads. Be sure to cover your rig before making the trip and plan on washing it afterwards because it will get very dirty!

If you prefer fishing bigger, more prominent lakes, the Kissimmee Chain is about an hour and half north.

I plan to visit the Everglades south of the Big O and fish the backwaters and canals. That area can be very good for largemouth, but you stand a chance of catching a peacock bass there too. The peacocks don’t get as large there as they do in South America, but they are still fun to catch on bass tackle.

If you would like to fish Florida next winter, I would suggest you start researching lodging now. Motels can be quite pricey, but there are several affordable fish camps to be found on or near these waters. I like renting a house through VRBO which is more cost effective if going with a group of other anglers.

There also are several campgrounds, and if you’re on a really tight budget, some anglers sleep in the backs of their trucks at campsites.

If you don’t have a boat or don’t want to tow one to the Sunshine State, hire a guide. There are guides on just about all of the lakes, and they can save you a lot of time trying to find fish and figure out what they are doing.

December can be the best month because the weather tends to be more stable. January can be great but can produce more cold fronts that really shut down Florida bass. February and March also can be stable weather wise.

You’ll likely find bass in all phases of the spawn in December and January, but the bulk of the nesting occurs in late February and March.

There are not many places in the country that offer a better chance of catching your personal best than South Florida. But even if you don’t, you’ll be catching bass in better weather while your buddies are home being couch potatoes.