Are you ready?
Are you excited about the upcoming spawn? I am! After all, it’s going to be great — it always is!
As I write this (Jan. 5), a major cold front has just passed through Central Florida with some record low temperatures. We all know what that can mean for Florida bass — very tough fishing — but that cold front also acts as a trigger. The colder weather and lengthening days tell the bass that the spawn is approaching. Pretty soon we’ll have some bass ready to “move up the hill.”
Believe it or not, we’ve already had some spawning activity in Lake Kissimmee. Quite a bit, actually. Some areas have significant fry pods and guarding bucks. We haven’t had a major wave of spawners, yet, but that time is getting near. And if you didn’t know this already, the biggest females spawn the earliest — not crazy early like November or December, but usually around the full moon in January.
The majority of the fish we’re catching right now are so full of roe that it would blow your mind. They’re ready to pop!
If you’re looking to target some big prespawn and spawning females, concentrate your efforts on protected areas on the northwest side of your lake. That’s true whether you’re looking for the early spawners in Central Florida right now or in northern Maine several months from now. Those northwest pockets are the ones that are best protected from cold north and west winds, and they get the most direct sunlight at this time of the year, so they warm the fastest. It’s nothing to see a five or eight degree difference between the northwest pockets and waters on the other end of your lake.
In fact, if your water is big enough, you can plan for prespawn fishing over the course of several months just by tracking the warming trends around the lake. The northwest pockets will hold the first spawners. The southeast part of the lake will warm last and hold the last spawners. By following the warming water around the lake, you can still be fishing for pre-spawners or bedding bass long after most of your buddies think the action is over.
For the best fishing in Central Florida at this time of the year, clear water is critical. I like to focus on the edges of vegetation with horizontal baits like swimbaits, lipless crankbaits, bladed jigs, topwater frogs and shallow-running crankbaits. I use these baits to cover water and zero-in on productive areas. Once I find an area that holds bass, I’ll slow down and scour it with slower, more vertical baits like Texas- and Carolina-rigged worms and lizards or weightless Senkos (on calm days).
Artificials will always be my favorite way to go, but when things get really tough I’m more than willing to go natural and fish with shiners. There’s a lot more to fishing with shiners than you might imagine. Lots of folks think you just impale one on a hook and throw him in the water, but it’s not that easy — not if you want to catch big bass, that is. More on that another time.
For now, what you need to know is that shiners can save your day or your vacation if you’re down here and not having any success with artificials. In the hands of a capable guide, shiners can turn a tough day into a 15-25 bass day very quickly, and it’s not unusual for the best of those fish to weigh 9 or 10 pounds or even more.
Right now, after the front, water temperatures are in the mid to upper 50s. Before the front, they were in the low 60s. Those few degrees can make a real difference. I like to think of this cold front as the calm before the spawn storm!
As always, I hope you’ll take my tips and insights and put them to work for you. Be sure to add your own touches, though, and change things up to suit your own style of fishing. That’s part of what makes our sport so great!
If you’re looking for the best waters in Central Florida right now, I’d recommend lakes Kissimmee and Cypress. They’ve not only been solid for numbers, but also for size. If you find yourself in the Orlando area I hope you find time to take advantage of the season and get out on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. If you need a guide, don’t hesitate to give me a call at (321) 402-1516 or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.