Fishing Tips from the Pros
Florida Freshwater Fishing
Basic Hook Selection for Bass Fishing
Thomas Wright, Teen Sportfishing angler
Making sure that you select the right hook for your setup and the cover you are fishing will make a huge difference in your success rate. You want to match your hook to your line, rod and the cover you are fishing as well as your plastic baits. For example, you don’t want braid matched with a light wire hook while fishing in heavy cover, because the result will usually be a hook that will straighten on the hookset.
There are multiple styles of hooks and sizes to choose from — round bend, EWG, light wire, heavy wire, straight, and offset. This can sound confusing but it’s not that bad — we will make it simple.
To get started in bass fishing, a good all-around hook is a 4/0 or 5/0 EWG (extra wide gap) heavy wire hook. This will work with just about any plastic worm, fluke, paddletail swimbait and soft body frog or other plastic bait of your choice. Keeping things simple will make your time fishing more enjoyable instead of over-thinking things and worrying about packing so much terminal tackle next time you go fishing.
So let’s talk about basic rigging with your hook. There are lots of ways to rig your baits: Texas rig, Carolina rig, Wacky rig, Neko rig and so on. A good simple method is a Texas rig. Just add a 1/8 – 1/4 oz. worm weight and put your plastic on to start fishing. There are plenty of videos online to explain the different ways to rig soft plastics, and the Texas rig is one of the simplest and easiest. Depending on type of cover and time of year, you can work any plastic lure slowly or “burn” it quickly to make those fish bite. Remember to have fun and keep it simple to get started, and you will have more time to fish and enjoy your time on the water. Keep a tight line and good luck on your next fishing trip!
Frog Fishing for Bass
Dave Sampson, Bassmaster Open Series pro, Bass Pro Shops ProStaff, and fishing guide at GoneFishinWithDave.com
Being born and raised in south Florida, I’ve had the opportunity to fish for trophy bass from Lake Okeechobee to my home lake of Istokpoga. I have fished lakes and canals and have learned many different techniques, but still always find myself going back to my old faithful: frog fishing! Regardless of temperature and weather, the frog can be very productive.
At any given time I have three rods set up with different frogs. My first is a floating hollow body frog on a 7’ medium-heavy rod with 30-pound braid. I like a natural color, or a darker brown for bright sunny days. I’ll throw this around water edges, varieties of cover and open water. I retrieve it slowly with small jerks, allowing it to sit for a few seconds in between each motion. When a bass strikes allow a two-second count before setting the hook—it seems like an eternity but it’s necessary.
The next two rods will be rigged with a “swimming frog”. Both will be hooked weightless on a 7’ medium-heavy rod. One rod with 30-pound braid works for areas with moderate to no cover, and I retrieve changing my cadence and speed between casts. The other rod with 50-pound braid allows me to attack those areas with very thick cover and gives me the confidence that I’ll be able to reel in that bass! It’s time now for you to go after your trophy!
Current Fishing in Florida
Mike Surman, FLW Pro Angler
Florida has an incredible number of lakes and canals. May through October is generally our “rainy” season and the water levels can get very high. However, we also deal with drought situations where the levels are low. Water flows between these two extremes and during these specific times you can use this information to catch the trophy fish of a lifetime! Largemouth bass are ambush feeders and often when the water is flowing it can create a fishing bonanza. Largemouth bass love to sit on mussel bars, current breaks, and weed edges and let their food come to them. My favorite technique is cranking a Yo-Zuri Square-Lip crankbait or Rattl’n Vibe Crankbait. I use a medium-heavy 6’10” rod and 20-pound fluorocarbon line. Cast up into the current and work your bait back with the flow. Usually there will be a specific spot where the bass will be sitting, in front of or behind the mussel bed or current break. It can be a stick, reed, rock, or even a large clump of mussels, that creates the key spot. I have caught a fish on every cast for over an hour, once I found the magic spot. When I find the exact location of a school, I try to Power Pole down, and make the same exact cast. This current fishing can be fast and furious—be prepared as you never know when that trophy will strike!
Shiners for Trophy Bass
Capt. Kenneth Walker, professional guide for Bassonline.com
Florida has some of the biggest bass in the nation, and FWC’s TrophyCatch program (TrophyCatch.com) rewards anglers for documenting and releasing these fish. A high percentage of these trophy bass are caught on live bait, and the wild shiner is the top choice year ‘round. My preferred technique includes a strong baitcast reel or stout spinning reel, medium-heavy or heavy fast-action Fitzgerald Rod, and Spiderwire 30-pound braid. I like a peg style oval float, Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp Kahle 3/0 hook, and Florida wild shiners 6-12 inches long.
Now you’re ready to fish for big bass! Hook the shiner through the nose and cast it to the edge of floating vegetation or into open water and let it start swimming. It’s extremely important to leave your reel out-of-gear, so the bass can swim away with your bait. When the cork goes under the water and stays down, allow the line to keep going out and start counting slowly to “10”. When you reach 10, put your rod tip down near the water and start reeling as fast as possible. Reel until the reel almost stops or you feel a heavy weight on the line, then jerk the rod upward as hard as possible, and keep reeling until your bass is beside the boat. A big net for landing the bass is a must. If the bass is 8 pounds or larger, weigh it and take a good photo of the entire fish on the scale with the weight clearly readable for submission to TrophyCatch, before releasing the fish. Make memories and tight lines!
Note: Neither the FWC nor the State of Florida endorse any individual company or product.