Tips From The Pros
Florida Freshwater Fishing
Know Your Knots
Bobby Lane, Elite Pro Angler and Bassmaster Contender
When I’m fishing with SpiderWire braid, there are two main knots that I use depending on the cover that I’m fishing: the Snell knot and the double Palomar knot.
Use the Snell knot when flipping matted vegetation like hydrilla or milfoil. In grass, bass usually hit the bait aggressively and then quickly swim either towards the boat or to the side. Nine times out of 10, you won’t get a solid hook in the fish until you catch up to it with the reel. The Snell knot is tied around the shank, not just to the eyelet, so when the hook is set it rotates the hook to the roof of the bass’ mouth with very little pressure and forces the bait out of the bass’ mouth.
When fishing bushes or wood cover, try a double Palomar knot. In most instances, a bass in a bush isn’t going to swim very far after it bites, so pause a moment before setting the hook. The double Palomar knot is one of the best all-around knots and produces the best hookup percentage when you are able to use a strong, direct hookset.
Brian Coleman, FLW Pro, VexanFishing.com
Flipping is intended for pinpoint presentation to visible, thick cover between 10 and 25 feet away. I use a heavy-action Vexan, I prefer a 7’4″ H to 7’10” XH rod. Use 40- to 85-pound braided line, such as SpiderWire, for bait casting rods; downsize your line on spinning reels for smaller baits (like finesse baits) or during cold fronts. Let out about 7 feet of line. With your free hand, grasp the line between the reel and the first rod guide and straighten your arm to the side. There should now be about 7 feet of line past the front tip. Raise the rod to make the lure swing back close to your body. Lower the rod tip to make the lure swing forward. Use only your wrist, and roll the butt of the rod to the inside of your arm. As the lure moves past the rod tip, continue raising the rod as you feed line with your free hand. As the lure nears the water, lower the rod tip again and make the bait touch down precisely on target by stopping the bait just before it enters the water. Tighten your drag all the way for increased hookset ratios and when you think there’s a strike, reel down until your rod is in hookset position before setting the hook. One last tip from a pro, use scent when trying to penetrate thick cover — it acts as a lubricant to allow the bait to ease into the cover.
Largemouth on a Fly
Brian “Beastman” Eastman is a regular blog contributor, and author of a monthly newsletter for Bass Pro Shops Orlando, where he works in the White River Fly Shop.
Largemouth on a fly? Absolutely! Largemouth are plentiful in Florida, inhabiting just about every lake, pond, river, creek, spring, and mud puddle across the state. Their behavior is dictated by very basic instincts and a mouth capable of engulfing prey much larger than seems possible. So, like I tell people that wander into the shop, “If it swims, I’ll throw a fly at it,” making largemouth a large percentage of my yearly catches.
Due to their varied sizes and diets, largemouth can be pursued with fly tackle normally associated with freshwater trout, or up to rods that saltwater anglers reach for when targeting redfish or snook. Four and five weights are great fun on smaller fish with relatively light and easy to throw flies, but you better be digging out the big guns (eight to ten weights) if you plan on tackling giants over 12 pounds, throwing gigantic flies, or fishing heavy cover. A sweet casting 9′ six weight with a decent amount of backbone is my personal favorite, closely followed by a 7’11” eight weight when I need the bigger stick.
Seasonal variables like bait availability and water temperature determine where the fish hang out and how you should fish for them, but you’ll rarely go wrong with deer-hair, foam or cork poppers and divers for heart-stopping topwater strikes; or a well-presented streamer/baitfish pattern fished slow and deep. Catching largemouth on a fly isn’t rocket science and in many cases it’s a whole lot simpler and less costly than carrying a plethora of lures, hooks, and other paraphernalia associated with casting or spinning tackle.
So grab your fly rod and seek out one of Florida’s most plentiful and widespread gamefish. You’ll wish you’d tried it sooner!
Dippin’ the Pads for Big Florida Crappie
Ron Presley, Freelance writer and past president of Florida Outdoor Writers Association, with Bass Pro Shops Pro Fishing Team Don and Toni Collins.
Nothing is more fun than pulling big crappie out of the lily pads and grasses that are so abundant in Florida. The Bass Pro Shops Pro Fishing Team of Don and Toni Collins use the technique of dipping when crappie congregate under pads. Look for small groups of pads and start out in water that is 5- to 6-feet deep and shallows out to maybe 2 feet. You want to be able to reach far back with a 10-foot crappie rod, such as the Wally Marshall series.
Team Collins moves the boat right up to the pads to capitalize on groups of crappie once located. They are going to stay there, so you can go back each day for two or three weeks and probably find fish again, especially during late winter and early spring.
Start jigging on the outside pads. Fish from 2-feet deep and work it all the way down to the bottom, fishing one pad at a time. Pull the jig all the way up to the tip of the rod with your left hand (if you are right handed) holding the line. Place the tip on the top of the water where you want it to go and let it down. Raising and lowering the jig by hand will keep you from tangles and get you precisely where you want to fish.
A good rule of thumb on colors is light on a sunny day and dark on overcast days. I like the Pro-Series Road Runner jighead with a chartreuse Lake Fork plastic. The Lake Fork jigs have a little bit of scent that attracts fish and the Road Runner attraction is the noise and the flash it’s making.
When crappie are in cover it is up close and personal; once the fish hits, you feel the thump and set the hook. That’s why you hear us crappie anglers say, “We live for the thump!”
Note: Neither the FWC nor the State of Florida endorse any individual company or product.