It’s been a while since my first blog, and with the season wrapping up around the rest of the country I figure it’s time to talk about Florida fishing. The big national tournaments don’t come down here this time of year, but the fishing is pretty good. It’s pretty simple this time of year, too. You just need a couple of rods.
The Florida progression
To understand Florida fishing is to understand the Florida spawn. It pretty much starts in October and November on Okeechobee and gradually continues. Farther north, at Toho and the Harris Chain, it starts around December or the New Year. Early in the year, fishing is all about finding clean water and navigating the spawn.
As you move past the spawn it all becomes about the baitfish, which is pretty typical anywhere in the country. You just target them differently in Florida than you would other places.
My favorite time to fish down here is in late spring – March, April and on into June and July. That’s when the big weights really happen. You’ve got the tail end of the spawn happening, and the first wave of bluegills is spawning. It’s like the perfect storm for a few months.
We’re technically in fall right now, and fall is prespawn in Florida since the fish will be spawning in just a few months. Everywhere else, fall is really in October and November, but we’re enjoying the tail end of the summer bite here. They’re feeding now; they’re eating and fattening up and getting ready to start spawning again.
Where to start
In Florida we pretty much use the same stuff 12 months of the year. What changes is where they’re located. They move just like they do on the Tennessee River. They’ll be up shallow spawning, and then a month later they’ll move to the outside grass lines. They just live along the outside of the grass when they’re not up spawning.
There are some lakes, such as Toho and Harris Chain, where the fish will move offshore to shells or brush in the summer, but that’s not Okeechobee. I can’t say you couldn’t catch some fish off brush piles on Okeechobee, but the water stays too dirty off the grass line to make it really good.
Down here, when they move from the spawning grounds to their summer stuff, they’re on the far outside of whatever they can get around. There is hard stuff they can get on, but in Florida it’s usually grass. And they don’t move very far. The fish you catch in the summer may be only a quarter mile from where they spawned. For example, on the Harris Chain, if you swim a mile you’re on the other side of the lake and in stuff that looks the same as what you swam away from.
I love flipping round reeds this time of year. That’s my preference. If you could only pick one piece of cover to fish this time of year, that’s going to be it. The round reeds grow on hard bottom, and the bream are going to get around them. That’s on Okeechobee. As you move farther up the state the bite gets better around straight Kissimmee grass. The guys that do well on Toho this time of year will get on the outside edge of the Kissimmee grass and flip with their trolling motor on 100 for three miles. They’ll get two bites and then go three miles without a bite and then catch two more 7-pounders.
I’m going to have two rods on the deck. They’ll be rigged with a big Yo-Zuri Hydro Pencil and a 1 1/4-ounce jig. That’s really how you catch the big bags this time of year. I know a lot of guys just lock that topwater bait in their hand for the first two hours of the day, but for me it’s just for when one shows itself.
If you’re flipping that big jig and can get seven or eight bites and catch 25 pounds, and you see one of those 8- or 10-pounders come up chasing a giant bluegill, if you can put that Yo-Zuri bait on top of them they’ll eat it. That’s how you’re going to catch your biggest one. If you’re catching 7-pounders flipping a jig, and one comes up on a bluegill, if you can catch it that’s always going to be your biggest.
I use typical flipping stuff for the jig, and for the topwater I use a 7-2 or 7-3 rod that is heavy, but not quite as heavy as a flipping stick. I use a high-speed Shimano Curado K, and I throw it exclusively on 65-pound-test Gamma Torque Braid. You definitely want braided line. You want to be able to cast a long way to reach out and touch them and then turn them.
It’s hot out now, but it’s so much fun, man. Getting one of those big ones on a topwater is just out of this world. I wish we could have a Tour event down here this time of the year. It’s a lot more exciting than flipping.