With daytime highs in the 80s, it may be hard to believe, but fall is finally here.
In Central Florida, we don’t track fall with a calendar but with a thermometer. It comes with the passage of the first real cold front of the year, and that happened just this week. We went from nighttime lows in the 70s to an evening or two that dipped into the low 50s.
And don’t think the bass didn’t notice. They did … in a big way.
I should start by saying that fall bass here in Florida are different from fall bass anywhere else in the country. If you’re accustomed to fishing in Texas or Alabama or Virginia, you can pretty much pick up a shad-patterned square-billed crankbait or white spinnerbait, point your boat to the backs of the creeks and start chunking and winding. If you see baitfish, you’ll find bass, and if you make enough casts you’ll catch them, too.
Here things are different.
One thing that fall bass fishing in other states has in common with Florida fishing is that it pays to cover a lot of water. Other places, you do that because the bass are scattered. You catch a few here … a few there. If you’re lucky, you put together a pretty good string by the end of the day.
Florida bass — and especially the bass on the Kissimmee Chain — congregate in the fall. They hold closer together than at other times. During the summer they were hanging out in the deep water grass, on grass edges, around brush piles and shell beds.
In the fall, the baitfish start to move. As the water cools, they begin looking for warmer water. Naturally, the bass follow. But since we don’t have many creeks in our natural lakes, the baitfish move to pockets and the mouths of large, shallow bays or to the mouths of canals with moving water.
When you find the bass (and you may have to fish several of these spots before you do; that’s why covering water is so important), you might feel like you’ve won the lottery. Instead of the schoolers you find other places that weigh a pound or two, these Florida bass schools can be full of 5-, 6- or 8-pound fish all fired up and smashing shad or shiners at the surface. They tend to school by size, so if you find a few little ones, that may be the only size there. But if you find a big one, you can just about bet there are more lunkers nearby.
The competition these fish have from one another being so close and feeding heavily can keep the surface activity going strong for a quite a while. Do what you can to prolong the action by staying back and making long casts.
Next time we’ll talk about the baits and outfits I like to use for fall Florida largemouths.