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Tips From the Pros

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Spring-Bass.psdIn 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.


Without a doubt the toughest thing about catching bass is finding them. I’d say 90 percent of the bass are in one percent of the water. Like a turkey hunter that seeks out where the birds are roosting before the season begins, a good angler should consider putting down his or her rod and reel and take up a notepad or fishing map of the water body. Cruise the shore mapping vegetation, look for structure like downed trees or piers and where water may be flowing in or out of a lake. See where the locals are fishing and talk to them. Check a contour map, or if you have a depth finder cruise the lake looking for sudden changes in depth that may provide refuges or ambush points for bass. If you want to catch the big bass, pay your dues, do the research, and work promising spots slowly and methodically. After 60 years of filming and chasing bass, I’m still fascinated and still learning. If you love the sport as much as I do, you’ll cherish every moment on the water and want to preserve the memories and the opportunities.


You’ve probably heard that old saying: Big Bait = Big Fish. Well if your goal is to boat a trophy bass, it’s advice you’d be wise to heed! Think about it like this: What do you think a 250-pound man would rather sit down to at dinner? Half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a 16-ounce steak? The answer is, of course, the steak, and that is the way giant female bass approach feeding. They would rather eat one large bait, for example an 8- or 9-inch wild shiner, and be done, than expend a bunch of energy chasing smaller baits. Going large requires heavy gear. Generally the tackle consists of 7-1/2 to 8-foot flippin’ sticks and stout baitcasting reels spooled with at least 20-pound mono. It also requires patience. Give your fishing holes more time than usual if you feel you’ve found a spot capable of producing a giant. They can take a little longer to entice. They didn’t get big by being easily fooled! This style of fishing can pay off, I mean pay off big!!


Angling enthusiasts travel from all over the world to South America to seek the beautiful and aggressive peacock bass that, thanks to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s foresightedness, we have right here in the canals of south Florida. After extensive research and discussion, peacock bass were stocked in box cut drainage canals of Miami-Dade and Broward counties in the early 1980’s, to help control smaller, less desirable non-native fishes and convert them into a sport fish that anglers can enjoy.

Myself and many other fishing guides, bait-and-tackle shops and local businesses have prospered as a result. Anglers wishing to fish for these and other exotics may want to seek the advice of a local fishing guide, but here are a few tips to get you started.

Peacock bass are different than most North American sport fish in that they are almost exclusively caught during the day. My favorite lure is a #9 floating Rapala, fished on a medium action rod, and using 6-pound monofilament. Another option is to toss a 3/8ths oz. jig with a curly tail. For jig fishing, I prefer a medium-heavy action rod, and load 15-pound braid, with two feet of 20-pound monofilament leader.

These rigs will not only capture peacocks, which I release, but often entice native bass or other non-native fish to strike. Jaquar guapote and Mayan cichlids, which should be placed on ice and taken home for a meal rather than being released, are now part of Florida’s Big Catch angler recognition program (see Page 29).


So you think “it sure would be nice to go fishing and get away from all my problems for a day.” Or, your children are playing computer games and watching TV too much and you want to get them outdoors and involved in a healthier interest. Even without owning a boat or fishing tackle, you can make it happen–consider hiring a fishing guide. With a guide, you may enjoy the trip more because you will often catch more fish, learn new tricks, have proper equipment, and less stress. It is relatively cheap when you consider all you get.

Before hiring a guide select a destination that interests you or one that complements your Florida vacation or business trip. For example, your family is planning a Disney vacation and you heard the fishing is great in Kissimmee. Start with an internet search. A slew of information will come up about the lakes, fishing trends and guide services. Talk to people about places they have fished and enjoyed, and guides they used.

Here are a few questions to ask your guide: What type of fishing do you specialize in and what will we be doing? How much experience do you have and where? Do you have the proper permits, license and insurance? What equipment will you provide and what should I bring? How many hours will we fish and when do we start and finish? What are typical weather conditions and what clothing should I bring? Will you teach me to become a better fisherperson? Do you practice catch and release? What kind of boat do you have and how many people can it fish comfortably? Do I need a fishing license? Do you have referrals? What does the trip cost and what is included for the price?

Ask these questions face-to-face or by telephone, to learn more about the guide and their personality. A lot of guides use live bait (a great way to catch trophy bass). However, if you want to use artificials, remember it is more work and requires more skill, so make sure the guide specializes in using artificial lures. Remember you will spend 4 to 8 hours with a person you do not know very well. Find the right guide to help create memories that will last a lifetime. – Great Fishing and remember your sunscreen!



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