In early spring, I shift focus to bass and panfish fishing, mostly in the Everglades. I love to flyfish with popping bugs, and throw surface lures on plug gear. By April, shellcrackers and bluegills are on the bed, and when they’re not you find them along canal banks or the outside of vegetation lines in open lakes. Water levels are typically lower, so fish are concentrated. Best of all, water temps are warm enough throughout the state for bass to blast anything that resembles food. In April and May, especially on cloudy days, water temps remain just cool enough that fish will sometimes feed on top all day long. The morning and evening bites last all summer.
This is a great time to get kids hooked on fishing – maybe the best in terms of sheer action and building a foundation of fishing skills. Our parents started my sister and me out with ultra-light spinning gear, slinging Beetle Spins at shorelines. Once we got that tactic down, they put fly rods in our hands. Mom wanted panfish for fried fish dinners served with collard greens and cheese grits. Yum! But for sport we loved the acrobatic little schoolie bass that gang up in huge numbers this time of the year.
Hardcore trophy bass hunters score this time of the year, especially during the pre- and post-spawn when big sows badly need calories. Eight- through 10-weight flyfishing outfits can handle throwing big poppers and deerhair bugs, and turning big bass from cover. Conventional anglers can cover a lot of water with paddle-tailed plastic buzzbaits. Walking plugs work well, as do frog imitations. During the heat of the day, find deeper structure and switch to Texas- or Carolina-rigged plastic worms. Fish em’ sloooow, and hang on.