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FRESH WATER FISHING
North port & Beyond


Wintertime Largemouth Florida Bass Tips 

Some of the toughest fishing you will ever find is in catching Florida Bass in the Winter. Largemouth bass become lethargic in cold water, as do many other freshwater fishes, seeking the shelter and warmth of the deep. Eating habits are true year round in that large bass eat generally in a 48 hour cycle, with the exception of wintertime where at the peak of this 48 hour window, they generally feed only an hour or two. Compared to the summer, where they may feed all day upon the opening of this window. Moving from pads near the center or floating grassmatts in a lake, stream or canal, bass in the winter tend to move into the covers of deep stumps, underwater trees and rocky outcrops, only coming into the warming shallow waters of the late afternoons to search for prey. The best tips in catching Florida Winter bass are:

  • Bass frequent underwater structure deeper in the wintertime

  • Fish the shallows only late in the afternoons

  • When retrieving any hardware, a slower than normal presentation is required

  • Subtle jerks are used in plastics, looking for slight twitches in the line to alert a bite

  • Angling just before a low-pressure (Cold front) produces the best bites

  • If on the water, the bite is slow to no, come back the next day in finding that window

  • Find that window of opportunity, mark it on a calendar and fish it all wintertime

I have an above the ground pool, in my backyard. More times than not, the water temperature of that 16 foot pool is within a degree of the areas I fish in my canoe, fresh to saltwater; with salt being usually a degree differences, as the freshwater is a match. Bass start their winter feed patterns as the water temperatures hit 62 degrees and fall into the extreme lower fifties. If the water, in Florida falls into the forties, a landing net is all that would be needed, if it were legal! Finding underwater structure in deeper water is the key in first finding wintertime Largemouth Florida Bass. Crank baits such as a lipped type lure, Bass Pro crayfish, in its red patterns retrieved in slow with periodic stops works well or Zoom four inch lizards on a wide gap weighted 1/8 ounce hook inserted weedless style, will entice all bass in the area as lizards are still everywhere right now. Remembering to use subtle jerks and watch your line for the same coming back; as this represents a strike. Do not wait, as you might in summer months, set that hook!

When planning an outing in search of wintertime Florida Largemouth Bass, watch the weather forecasts and if the front coming in, falls on the day it arrives or the day before, as you marked your calendar to that 48 hour window; you are one step closer to getting that Lunker! Remembering as the sun warms the shallow waters around your fishing, area, bait fishes like minnows to Panfishes will frequent. So too will hungry bass. In the shallows, try the use of topwaters. My two favorites are the Zoom Frog and the Bass Pro XLT in green. Hard pops, with longer than normal stops before a slow but steady retrieve. A rule of thumb in topwater pops is watch the rings disappear before your retrieve. Nine out of ten times a strike happens while those rings, which are area-specific, are rippling.

So if your into catching Wintertime Florida Largemouth Bass, remember to find that window of opportunity, fish the deep water in the beginning of the day around underwater structure and move into the shallows as the water warms with the afternoon sun and you too can be that champion of the water in conquering our wintertime Florida Largemouth Bass.

When the water reaches the low 40-degree range, it’s no secret that a jerkbait is incredibly effective. Instead of targeting suspended fish near break lines, I targets very shallow cover in hopes of fooling a giant killer.

“The killer jerkbait when you’re trying to catch shallow bass throughout the winter,” Lee said. “If I run through an area and catch a few stragglers on a crankbait, I’ll go right back through with a jerkbait and clean ‘em up. It lets the more inactive fish get a better look at the bait and keeps it in the strike zone.”

3 rods to cover your bases:

  • Jerkbait: 6-foot, 10-inch medium-action

  • Crankbait: 7-foot, 1-inch medium-action Omen Black Casting Rod

  • Jig, stick worm and spinnerbait: 7-foot, 3-inch medium-heavy Omen Black Casting Rod

The length of pause is totally dependent upon the mood of the fish. While some days require an eight to 10-second pause, other days call for a rapid retrieve.

If the water temperature is 40 degrees or below, sometimes you have to let it sit for as long as you can possibly stand it. You’re going to fish it the same way you would in deeper water, except making target-oriented casts to visible cover. Keep a close eye on it because you’ll see a lot of the strikes before you even feel them.”

If deep winter fishing isn’t your thing, don’t worry—you’re not alone. When the weather turns sour, you can have the day of a lifetime by targeting shallow cover. If you keep these baits nearby in the coming weeks and months, you’ll have a great chance at catching a lot of great bass.

NAVIGATIONAL NOTES
When paddling the Myakkahatchee Creek be aware that north of Price Blvd. the creek is constricted with varying water levels. There are also numerous portages that may be required depending on the water levels. Under the I-75 over-pass you may encounter rocky areas. Traveling south of Price Blvd. on Myakkahatchee Creek is suitable for novice paddlers.

 

SHORT TRIPS

Butler Park to Myakka State Forest
This trail provides a 6-mile loop to reach the section of the state forest that is northeast of the Myakka River. Approximately one mile into the journey you will have a portage around a dam.

 

LAUNCH POINTS

Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park
6968 Reistertown Road, North Port. From I-75 take exit 182, drive north on Sumter Blvd. until you reach Tropicaire Blvd. Turn left, then go right on Reistertown Road The park entrance is at the end of the road on the right

 

Butler Park
6205 West Price Blvd., North Port.




Good Luck and “FISH ON!”









Florida Winter Bass Tectonics

 

By Gary A Anderson

 

The Mentoring Angler

 

Geological features on the surface of the earth, to include the bottoms of lakes, rivers, streams and canals are considered tectonics, where our team of Ed and I are in search of that winter Lunker, a real slob hiding in ambush for an offering. Through Bass tectonics and lure presentation, we will catch those hard to bite, finicky eaters, and winter bass! The holy grail of winter bass fishing is the current edges along the sides and culverts emptying into these bodies of water. These are as important to finding bass in canals as structure is to finding bass in lakes. The canal bass will go into the current looking for food, then dart back into the slack water adjacent to the current to rest. The ideal time to fish for bass is when the water levels are low and there is good water clarity with stable water flow. Bass are very predictable when the water levels are stable and the water is clear. If you happen to be bass when the water is rising, due to an afternoon rain storm or the opening of a weir or dam at one end or the other, as the water rises or falls, the fish will often go into a feeding frenzy, because of all the worms and insects that are washed and exposed from the banks. Think of tectonics as changing structure or a moving bottom; in geological terms, it is movement in causing, or resulting from structural deformation of the earth's crust. I use the term loosely in this article as each time it rains, footings crumble, a bank or a cut can occur from wash outs, culverts moving water through them can cause underwater swelling through the grass growing on the bottom of the lake or body of water ; a movement of the earth has taken place, though small, causes and forms structural habitat to marine and aquatic creatures. It is an analogy or better yet a correlation of a tectonic event. By watching for and fishing these normally ignored occurrences in a flowing body of water, big bass can be caught and on a regular basis. Florida winter bass tectonics is all about fishing marine to man-made structure that holds fish.

 

Whether angling a urban canal in North Port or taking to the open water of Okeechobee, a basses metabolism becomes higher proportionally as the temperature gets higher. When in cold deeper waters, they show less active and need to eat less. Just as in winter angling, less eats mean more casts in provoking a strike, unlike the fall where dropping water temperatures cause a turn on to baits in filling up body fats and protein for the winter, when offerings can be slow and far between. Winter bass, like all other times of the year travel in schools of around the same size and are usually stacked around structure according to dominance. Culverts with fresh running waters into a canal are great bass attractors as when the water flows out it pushes mud up or over to the dominate side of the stream. This can cause mini-eddies along the banks to which cold water bass hang in wait for a floating morsel to eat. In winter fishing, bass are cold blooded so movement is at a minimal. Using too much energy in tracking a meal is just something a bass will not do in the winter, unless provoked.  To this end, one has to bring the baits to the bass in order to hook it up. In angling for winter bass, you have to take into account that they are predators but not active ones, as their favorite meal is not actually the one they will struggle for. The bass would rather wait patiently for its victim to come by and unexpectedly get in their way. Winter bass very often go for injured or less energetic prey even though this might not be part of their regular menu. A bass's menu in general is crawfish, minnows, worms, insects, frogs and even small birds, if it can get its mouth around it. For an experienced fisherman, knowledge of the eating habits is a must in angling for these fish anytime of the year. The old saying of match the hatch always applies when freshwater angling for Florida Largemouth Bass. Frogs, like bass and all the various minnows to Pan fishes are cold blooded, so if the water is cold, so too is the prey. Slowing down your retrieve and start, stop intervals if using a jig or worm are your best bets in a hook up.

Rocks to outcrops and floating vegetation provide fish a safe haven from birds of prey and others who to are out in search of a winter treat. Hydrillias, water lilies and dead floating debris are too ambush points where bass hang out. In catching winter bass, a toss of a Ringed worm out and hold on to your hat as the bait flutters down, there could be a fish on at any minute. A Ringed worm is a worm rig that has a great temptation to bass that are in a neutral or even negative feeding mood, as in winter angling. There’s something about a Ringed worm’s look and action that makes the bass turn on its bite.

        The Ringed worm is a Gulp Black worm that is hooked through the middle of a small “O” ring so the two ends droop down in an inverted U-shape. The O-ring rig is positioned at the worm’s mid-point, and then the hook is hooked through the O-ring instead of inserted through the worm. This rig is cast out and allowed to sink to bottom, twitching seductively up off bottom, then allowed to sink again. This type of angling is good around shoreline cover, docks, and weed lines. Tackle consists of a seven-foot rod and spinning tackle with six to ten pound test line. Hook sizes should range in the 1 to 2/0 range. Purchase your “O”-rings at a plumbing store and make sure they are small, as Gulp worms are not the biggest kids on the block and you want a tight fit. Insert your hook right through the O-ring and Not the worm! Ringed worms are in general fished with no weight but if need be, a small, no head; finishing nail can be inserted into one end or the other of the worm. Tossing your bait out in a flip motion of an underhanded cast towards the sides of the pads or floating debris and letting your Ringed worm slip down to the bottom. As it is sinking, watch for even the slightest twitch or bump, as this could be the presence of a bass coming to dinner. As you see the twitching line or feel pressure of any kind, raise the rod tip slightly even to you eye level and if any, slowly reel in your slack. Hook set is not needed as the point of your hook is already exposed through the ring and it its mouth, “FISH ON!”

        Bites in cold water are always subtle unless you are trying to provoke a strike. Bass will attack a bait if presented consistently, to the point where it pisses it off and it becomes provoked. This type of winter angling is best during the heat of the day or generally around two O'clock, anywhere. As the water column warms, baitfishes such as Bream to guppies will invade the shallows to soak up the warmer waters. Big Bass too move into these areas but generally hide under pads to overhangs in order to ambush any prey to which comes too close. Sometimes, unless you are a Pro-guide like Mike Shellen, who can throw up under the hand, without getting hung, you have to use an alternative approach and cast as close to the spot, over and over again, until you provoke a strike. Top water baits are best in achieving this method of fishing. The Bass Pro XTS is an excellent top water and is one of my favorites. I used the XTS in a provoke strike under a bridge, on a canal, in North Port Florida, by continually casting to the rocks edge where I had noticed a swirl of water from the tail of a good sized fish. I came up with a nice six pounder, which is about the average size of the big ones in North Port, that is until my son, Edwin, using a Baby Hedden Bomber hooked it up with a seven pound fish moments later. The ole' man got beat again!

Bass tectonics on a lake, like Okeechobee, in south Florida are vast in number as the bottom changes every year with water level movements, dams and locks opening to closing, cat tail patches vast and as far as the eye can see, to moving gator holes and floating docks above. Lake Okeechobee has 780-square-miles of water to find fish on. Spawning usually begins in October and can last through December. That puts the bass on this lake either in the shallows or heading to the shallows. The Big O is a shallow lake, which can make it dangerous during a winter chill or front. After the passing of a chill, the Bass head for deeper waters and at three to four feet, that is about it, unless you know of a gator hole or two, you best bet is to get a guide or fish the Rim Canal, which circumferences the lake for releases to feed the fruit trees and irrigation.  The northwest corner of the lake is generally the first spawn of the year. The bass migrate into the shallows, which hold eelgrass, peppergrass, lotus pads and bulrushes close to deeper water, spawning to ambush points in feeding. The outside edges of the hydrilla beds, in 6 to 10 feet of water, are the first significant areas of cover between the open lake waters and the spawning shallows. Find good spawning cover near a channel or sharp drop where hydrilla walls meet the shallows is best done if using a guide who knows the area and can put you on the fish of your dreams. Captain Mike Shellen, www.OkeechobeeBassFishing.com , enjoys the angling and will put the angler in you, as well trips with him produce more than just a bunch of bass, you will  “enjoy seeing all of the bird life and other creatures that is present on and around the lake. We have been seeing a lot of Manatees in the areas where we are fishing, and have enjoyed observing them as they eat water lettuce and other vegetation. We have been sighting Eagles almost daily as well; the return of healthy habitat has triggered a resurgence of these proud birds around the lake.” Captain Mike and when I say Big Bass, these guys can eat the ones Ed and I caught up in North Port, like candy. A trip to the Big O would not be the same without a trip with Capt Shellen! He suggested.

Buzz Baits to cover a lot of water in searching for concentrations of bass and triggering some of the bigger fish to bite. A single plain aluminum blade with a white and chartreuse skirt can be very good but if the bass just follow or strike short, try a shift to a darker color skirt, such as black. If the buzz baits show fish or are slow to no strikes, shift time to my favorites; the top water and if there are too many weeds in using the surface lures there are always the stand by’s; Carolina or Texas rigged worms in the eight to ten inch variety, or maybe just a Ringed worm will boil it up for a bite. For the biggest fish, the use of live shiners are your best bet, but I'll stick with the hardware in angling the tectonics of Florida Winter Bass.

“FISH ON!” ™

North Port Fl., Light Tackle Bass

Pulling into the boat ramp to unload the ‘Snapper’, our 16 foot tandem 1978 Mohawk canoe, there was an angler on the dock casting one of the larger Zebco casting reels in search of fish. I ask him what he was targeting and he replied fish, anything that will bite my hook. I then went onto explain that by targeting a particular species, he could improve his chances on bring home the bacon. He then exclaimed, his boat was in the shop, and he had some time on his hands, so he thought he would just go drown some hardware. Ed, by this time was giving me looks, as he knows I am never for a loss of words and if we were to catch some fish ourselves, we had to go! As we powered up, our 30 pound thrust Motor Guide Trolling motor, the gentleman noticed we had topwater lures on all of our rods. He blurted out,” I see you guys are going to use topwater gear, is this the best time too you them?” I quickly stated in an expanding voice, as we moved further to farther down the canal, to check out The Online Fisherman to get more for his money for free and just beyond hearing distance I screamed, “Anytime is the right time in catching topwater bass, it is topwater euphoria.”  Ed exclaimed to ask, “We goanna talk or fish?” Enough said!

"When bass fishing later in the morning, i.e. elevenish, don't forget about the grass beds in any canal, pond or lake for they give cover, overhead structure and a ambush site among the roots, not to mention ‘natural air-conditioning’ from warmer water abound.” As we trolled down the canal in a zigzag motion, as though we were evading the enemy below, hydrilla to sand points off the shoreline and culverts of overflowing rain water, we cast out our Bass Pro ‘XTS’ expert tournament series topwater lures with a drop to pop and sit until we passed, looking for that first strike to “fish on.” A swirling motion from a tail and a disappearing act right out of Kristen magic show, gave sign of our first fish on a slack line. I switched the motor into reverse as a slow down to off position and reeled up the slack off my four pound test Trilene line as the tension of the monster below proudly danced on its tail. A shake of the head and the lure landed firmly in my lap after rocketing backwards at umpteen zillion miles per hour. Wow, good thing you had shorts on, Ed laughed, as I again reeled up my slack. This is what one looks for when targeting shoreline bass that first hook it up to “Fish on, Fish Gone!” As the possibilities of stacked bass waiting in turn or fish in a ‘pecking order’, without this code in nature in all animals from broods’ of lions to stacked bass, they may eat each other, as is the case to those who do not follow in the rule.

I was flip to dipping my XTS on a lighter class rig than Edwin’s and knew if I could get a hog, it would be a blast on this lightest of tackle in angling for Largemouth Bass. I was welding a Shimano Magnumlite Graphite, attached to a Shakespeare CATEVA 6625 with Trilene four pound test line. It sounds crazy to tackle Largemouth in an area full of snags but it is all about controlling your fish and not the fish controlling you. You may lose many a fish and lure but in the long run it will improve your performance when angling in tournaments to friends and family in showing your professional attitude and strengths when fishing. A positive confidence builder in that you can do it and passing it down to others you are fishing with in a “Positive mentoring through fishing” approach to the sport. The hardest part in using the XTS lure is in picking out which color is the bite of the day. With ten varieties to choose from, best to buy two if you’re not fishing alone, for the other angler in your boat just might get fidgety. The stats on this dynamite lure are the each is the same except of color variations: at 3/8 oz. and 2 1/2" long body length makes them a light cast and that too is our reasoning for light tackle. The XTS design is horizontally oriented and cut to maximize the “spit” and “spray” during a digging retrieve, as well they have lifelike 3-D eyes and my favorite, the tinsel tail treble hook on the end of all the lures. Edwin takes off the front hook, causing it to become almost weed less and no suffering in hits to landing occur but I run them right out of the package and it’s fine with me. Speaking of fine, that is where we purchase all our live baits to terminal tackle in North Port, Florida; Fines Bait & Tackle.  If you’re looking for an all around topwater in ten different shades of holographic colors that catches fish and doesn’t empty your pocketbook, pick up a couple and know if they are slamming the top, you are hooking them up!

Starting on a natural drift and moving back upstream of the flow with paddles, we would map out our casts like that on a clock. I was allowed from three o’clock to six, as Ed in the bow was allowed twelve to three. He was using my favorite color of brilliant green with curly black stripes, imitating both a distressed minnow and a frog that plopped out just a little too far, while my colors were black on a silver holographic head. Edwin was getting at least six to my one hits in producing the most hook-ups but I was actually getting mine boat side. All were minors to be released and caught again maybe next week or year when they had grown just a bit more. Edwin was casting on a Shakespeare Ugly Spin reel, with Cajun six pound test line attached on Zebco medium action six foot model #C398 TDO. Flipping right into three o’clock, right under the culvert pipe dumping water at a very fast rate, his XTS shook with the ripples off the cascading water and drifted down about three feet as Ed lifted the rod tip and plunged it water ward as the lure gulped and disappeared with a screaming drag of smok’n proportions. This fish first ran under the amidships of the canoe outing the stern as I quickly got my lure stowed away, lifted the trolling motor from the water and paddled frantically to move the fish to open water, the middle of the channel. Weeds to rocks, this fish was on a quest to bust it loose and make a fast get away, as Edwin thumbed the spool, giving it more drag without actually making any adjustments. Like pushing a button, run it out, press, slow it down until, at last the head rose and we both were in awe. Measuring in at twenty-two inches in length and a girth of sixteen, this fish weighted out around 7.04 pounds, caught on a six pound test line and is being filed with the IGFA for a line class State of Florida Record. In estimating your bass catch, a standard calculation is used and is most useful if a certified weigh station is not near-by and you will need to know the new Freshwater Fishing Regulations 2010-11.

In all we caught and released some twenty odd small bass up to around three pounds. To our amazement, when working the muddy water runoff lines in the canals up into the lake, we caught a Pacu (artificial Piranha), a channel catfish, and a black and white crappie to which I do not understand why it hit this lure as the lure is twice the size of its mouth. How was it to eat it? Along with two Bass to take home and introduce to all the family as it is fish fry at our house tonight! In finding out the regulations for catching bass in your area of Florida, refer to the FWC map. There are also special rules on certain area lakes and ponds to pay attention too; Special Bag and Length Limits and as if this were not enough do not forget the General Regulations for Fish Management Areas but since we are in North Port, we only need to follow the FWC map’s rules and daily bag limits put out for general angling.

As Edwin and I were coming out of the water, back at the launch point, a young man who was angling with a telescopic “bamboo” fiberglass pole and a bag of bread on the dock, for some tasty Pan-fishes ask, “What you catch them on Mr.?” To which my son said, “Top waters, popped hard with a slow retrieve.”  “Yeah,” I said with a grin and a chuckle, “you popped and the bass plopped, as today was a totally awesome ride through the rain.” as I held up a stringer for dinner. A couple of nice largemouth bass, a Pacu, a pan-fish and a catfish, all in taking our artificial delights of topwater euphoria!

e in weeks, if not days ahead, “FISH ON”!
"FISH ON!"






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